November 29, 2020

EU Negotiators Agree on New Rules for Sharing and Re-Use of Public Sector Data

From the European Commission:

Negotiators from the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the Commission have reached an agreement on a revised directive that will facilitate the availability and re-use of public sector data.

Data is the fuel that drives the growth of many digital products and services. Making sure that high-quality, high-value data from publicly funded services is widely and freely available is a key factor in accelerating European innovation in highly competitive fields such as artificial intelligence requiring access to vast amounts of high-quality data.

In full compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation, the new Directive on Open Data and Public Sector Information (PSI) – which can be for example anything from anonymised personal data on household energy use to general information about national education or literacy levels – updates the framework setting out the conditions under which public sector data should be made available for re-use, with a particular focus on the increasing amounts of high-value data that is now available.

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As part of the EU Open Data policy, rules are in place to encourage Member States to facilitate the re-use of data from the public sector with minimal or no legal, technical and financial constraints. But the digital world has changed dramatically since they were first introduced in 2003.

What do the new rules cover?

  • All public sector content that can be accessed under national access to documents rules is in principle freely available for re-use. Public sector bodies will not be able to charge more than the marginal cost for the re-use of their data, except in very limited cases. This will allow more SMEs and start-ups to enter new markets in providing data-based products and services.
  • A particular focus will be placed on high-value datasets such as statistics or geospatial data. These datasets have a high commercial potential, and can speed up the emergence of a wide variety of value-added information products and services.
  • Public service companies in the transport and utilities sector generate valuable data. The decision on whether or not their data has to be made available is covered by different national or European rules, but when their data is available for re-use, they will now be covered by the Open Data and Public Sector Information Directive. This means they will have to comply with the principles of the Directive and ensure the use of appropriate data formats and dissemination methods, while still being able to set reasonable charges to recover related costs.
  • Some public bodies strike complex data deals with private companies, which can potentially lead to public sector information being ‘locked in’. Safeguards will therefore be put in place to reinforce transparency and to limit the conclusion of agreements which could lead to exclusive re-use of public sector data by private partners.
  • More real-time data, available via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), will allow companies, especially start-ups, to develop innovative products and services, e.g. mobility apps. Publicly-funded research data is also being brought into the scope of the directive: Member States will be required to develop policies for open access to publicly funded research data while harmonised rules on re-use will be applied to all publicly-funded research data which is made accessible via repositories.

Next Steps

The European Parliament and the Council of the EU will now need to formally adopt the revised rules.  Member States will then have to implement them within two years before they become effective. The Commission will start working with the Member States on the identification of the high-value datasets which will be set out in an implementing act.

Read the Complete Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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