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The road of privatisation of government assets is littered with the debris of mishaps and oversights. One clear illustration is the history and effect of the sale of the Government Printing Office (GPO) in 1990. Within the sale process there was a failure to ensure adequate consideration of the policy implications from an important perspective, namely the effect of privatising the means of promulgation of the normative materials of the State. Furthermore, there was no enquiry into the dubious assumptions made as to Crown Copyright in legislation.

Intellectual property rights in primary legal materials create a dilemma for policy makers. Should the State’s normative materials be subject to reproduction restrictions? Is the basis of unsubstantiated economic benefit for the administration and the claimed preservation of the integrity of the materials sufficient ground? Perhaps third parties should be encouraged to reproduce and disseminate such materials, or even the State could take responsibility for large scale dissemination. This article examines issues surrounding the privatisation of the GPO. This requires inquiry into the history of Crown Copyright, the sale of GPO, and the influence of privatisation on the passage of the Copyright Bill 1994.

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