Licensing & Copyright

This page contains information about obtaining permission (a licence) to exploit our hydrographic material. It also covers the general conditions found in our licences.

Do you wish to access our material?

If you wish to access our published products, you should contact one of our chart agents.

If you wish to access our bathymetric or other hydrographic material that has not been published, you will need to contact us to discuss your request and ascertain if we have material that is suitable for your intended purpose. We will usually make unclassified unpublished hydrographic material available under licence and fees will be charged.

Do you wish to exploit our material?

By exploiting our material we mean copying or reproducing or modifying our material, or distributing or selling or offering any of the results of copying, reproducing or modifying our material to anyone else.

If you wish to exploit our material you will need to obtain a license and you will be required to pay fees and possibly royalties. You should read the general licensing information that follows.

Do you wish to make facsimile copies of our material?

By facsimile copying we mean making direct copies of our material, for example as electronically scanned images or, where our material is an electronic file, making a copy of some or all of that electronic file. Facsimile Reproduction also includes making copies where modifications are minimal and only cosmetic or non-substantive changes or additions have been made to our material.

If you wish to make facsimile copies of our material, you will need to obtain a license and you will be required to pay fees and substantial royalties. Only in exceptional circumstances will we grant a licence to make facsimile reproductions of our material and we reserve the right to refuse any application to do this. You should also read the general licensing information that follows.

Do you wish to modify our material?

By modifying our material we mean altering it in any way. This includes changing a computer format or converting our material into a computer format, any redevelopment or modification of our material, any generalisation or selective editing of our material or any merger of our material with other material, or creating a computer program, intended to be accessed or operated in conjunction with our material.

If you wish to modify our material, you will need to obtain a license and you will be required to pay fees and possibly royalties. You should read the general licensing information that follows.

Do you wish to establish a data exchange agreement?

The Australian Hydrographic Service maintains a number of data exchange agreements with other organisations. If you are interested in establishing an exchange agreement you should contact the Licensing Manager.

1. General Licensing Information

The Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) is Australia's national hydrographic authority and is responsible for publishing the country's official navigation charts. The AHO is also the custodian of the Australian hydrographic archive and maintains the most extensive and comprehensive single collection of current hydrographic material covering Australia's waters.

2. Infringement of Copyright

While we want to encourage the development and further use of our hydrographic information, you must have the Commonwealth's written permission (a licence) before you can reproduce or publish any of our material.

All AHO publications and material in whatever form or media are protected under the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. For example, under the provisions of the Act, the Commonwealth's copyright will be infringed if any person or organisation reproduces or publishes AHO material without having our written permission in advance.

The Commonwealth's copyright will also be infringed if any material is imported or sold or distributed in Australia, where that material would infringe copyright if it had actually been made in Australia.

If you do anything which infringes the Commonwealth's copyright you will have stolen the results of our work and we will take legal action. Under the Copyright Act the Commonwealth may have the right to obtain injunctions, and an account of profits or damages. You may also be required to hand over any infringing copies.

Copyright will be infringed whether reproduction:

  • is by hand or by any mechanical or electronic means, or
  • is based directly or indirectly on the Commonwealth's material, or
  • is from a chart or a document or an electronic file.

Copyright will not be infringed when reproduction constitutes a "fair dealing" for the purpose of research or private study, or for the purpose of criticism or review or for the purpose of reporting news. However, the "fair dealing" provisions are strictly limited.

Copyright will not be infringed when the reproduction is done for the purpose of a judicial proceeding or for a report of a judicial proceeding.

The Copyright Act may permit you to make a backup copy necessary for safeguarding electronic data, as long as the copy is kept and used only for that purpose.

3. Legal Advice

You should get your own legal advice to find out if any proposed project in relation to using our hydrographic material will or may infringe Commonwealth copyright if it is done without permission.

4. Licence Terms and Conditions

The Commonwealth has prepared standard terms and conditions for granting access to its material. These terms and conditions control the way you may exploit the material.

Your licence will set out exactly how you may exploit our material. The licence will state what material you will be allowed to use and how it must be treated.

Our licences cannot be used by or transferred to anyone else. However, we may give you permission to engage someone else to assist you in your work.

Where your use of our material is intended to create a derived product that will assist navigation, we will only allow you to use our officially published charts and documents.

If you do not comply with the terms and conditions it will result in the termination of your licence.

5. Obtaining a Licence

Applications for a licence must be made by the person or organisation wanting to exploit our material. We prefer licensees to be based in Australia. Depending on your financial or business circumstances or location, we may ask you to provide a bank or other business guarantees before we give you a licence.

Our application procedure is as follows:

  • You send us an application form. It will tell us about:
    • your proposed use of our material,
    • your technical capabilities and previous experience,
    • your business circumstances, (where applicable).
  • We will assess your application.
  • We may ask you for additional information and we may ask to see examples of your work.
  • Finally, when we are satisfied that you can meet all our conditions, we may grant you a Licence.

Application Form (MS Word) MS Word
Appliction Form (PDF) PDF

The Commonwealth reserves the right to refuse any application for a licence at its complete discretion.

6. Licence

When issued, your licence will permit you to modify and reproduce the material covered by the licence. It may also allow you to distribute or even sell a derived product or service based on our material, if this is appropriate.

If you already have a licence from us, you can ask to have other material or additional uses added to it.

7. Duration of Licences

Our licences usually operate for up to three years at a time. Some licences may be for longer periods depending on the circumstances.

8. Updating

We are constantly revising and updating our charts to ensure that they contain the latest information that we have available.

If you pay an update fee we will supply you with the relevant chart updates. Your licence will then permit you to use these updates in your proposed work if you want to.

9. Security

We will ask you to take measures to protect our material from unauthorised copying, misuse, unauthorised viewing or access. If you are making derived products or distributing the results of your work you might use warning notices, data encryption, hardware locks (dongles) or some other methods to do this. We will also expect your employees, colleagues and premises to be subject to appropriate security arrangements. We will want to be sure that your security methods are adequate before we grant you a licence.

We apply security methods such as data fingerprinting so we will always be able to tell which of our sources you have used in your work.

10. Advertising and Promotion

We will not allow you to make any advertisements or publicity which implies that we endorse any of the results of your work. You must also seek our permission before you can use or associate our name or anything else which identifies us in any of your advertising or promotion.

11. Acknowledgments and Cautions

Depending on the nature of the results of using our material, you will be required to show acknowledgments clearly on any packaging, screen displays, printouts or documentation. They will be similar to the following example:

Certain hydrographic information in this product is © Commonwealth of Australia; and is used under licence with the permission of The Australian Hydrographic Office. All rights reserved.

Apart from the uses permitted to the licensee under the licence agreement, the information may not be copied, reproduced, translated, or reduced to any electronic medium or machine readable form, in whole or part, without the prior written consent of the Australian Hydrographic Office.

The results of using our material will also require a prominent and unambiguous warning to be displayed on them. It will be similar to one of the following examples:

WARNING: The Australian Hydrographic Office does not check the information in this product and the Commonwealth accepts no liability for the accuracy of copying or for any modifications that may have been made to the material which it has supplied. Furthermore, the Commonwealth does not warrant that this product meets any regulations as an appropriate product for navigation or that it contains the latest hydrographic information available.


The Australian Hydrographic Office does not check the information in this product and the Commonwealth accepts no liability for the accuracy of copying or for any modifications that may have been made to the information which it has supplied. Furthermore, the Commonwealth does not warrant that this product contains the latest hydrographic information available.

The precise display details and the form of words for these notices will be decided by us on a case by case basis.

12. Fees, Charges and Royalties

We have some fixed fees, some charges to cover our costs in preparing the material for supply and we also charge royalties when our material is reproduced. Our licenses give us the right to revise our charges and fees from time to time.

Click here for a brief description of our charges and fees.

In some cases we will charge a Licence establishment fee which is to pay for our administration costs in processing your application and your licence. The price you pay to obtain access to our material and for updates depends upon the type of material you wish to access. This could be from our survey records, our paper charts or from our digital data files.

If you sell or distribute derived products or any other outcome from exploiting our material, we will charge you a royalty on each derived product or outcome that you supply. This includes any charges you make for supplying updated products or material to customers. Where your derived products or services are distributed for in-house use (rather than sold to customers) royalties may still be payable.

The royalty will be a fixed percentage of the net selling price of every derived product or outcome which you sell or distribute. In certain circumstances, we may charge you a fixed amount for every copy of a derived product, instead of charging you a percentage royalty. If we decide to do this, the amount we charge will depend on the kind of product and how much of our material you have used.

We will want you to send us regular progress reports during the term of your licence including your audited sales and production figures.

Our licenses provide us with the right to levy penalty interest on amounts that are outstanding.

13. Waiver or Reduction of Fees

Some organisations or individuals may not have to pay all of our fees and charges. Reductions or waivers may be granted to the following kinds of applicants:

  • some Commonwealth and State organisations (such as AMSA, the EPA or State mapping organisations),
  • academic research,
  • some educational publications (such as school text books or examination papers),
  • organisations who provide significant material to us without charge.

If you think that you might qualify for a waiver please contact us. You will also need to explain your reasons in full on your application form.

14. Audit and Inspection

The licence conditions allow us to check that you are keeping to the terms of your licence. We may want to visit your premises at any reasonable time to inspect your operations or ask auditors to look at your records. We will normally pay our costs for these inspections. If we find significant discrepancies then we will charge you for the inspection and auditing.

15. Other Limitations

Your licence from us only gives you permission to exploit our material. You do not have the right to include any material in your products, services or work which, if published or reproduced, or otherwise used, would contravene the rights of other persons or be an offence under the Crimes Act 1914.

16. Contact us

If you need further information about licensing or the use of our material please contact:

Licensing Manager
Australian Hydrographic Office
Locked Bag 8801
NSW 2500 Australia

Fax: +61 (0) 2 4223 6597