On 18 July 2015, the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/1415) (‘the New Regulations’) came into force, replacing the 2005 Regulations of the same name (SI 2005/1515).
The New Regulations permit individuals and businesses to apply to public authorities to re‑use public sector information (‘PSI’) that was previously generated for a different purpose. As the New Regulations implement a 2013 Directive (2013/37/EU), EU Member States have had two years in which to prepare for this change.
Among its provisions, the New Regulations:
- Impose a general duty on public sector organisations to permit re-use and provide guidelines as to how re-use requests should be treated, charged for, and responded to, thus making it easier for PSI to be re-used
- Introduce shorter time limits (20 working days) for public bodies to respond to requests
- Expand the reach of the rules to include libraries, museums and archives
- Allow public sector organisations to introduce conditions on re-use where they feel it is appropriate to do so, such as administration costs. Organisations will, however, still be prevented from imposing conditions which discriminate between applicants who seek re-use for comparable purposes.
- Amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘FOIA’) when dealing with requests for specific information in certain datasets. As a result, re-use of those datasets will be subject to the New Regulations, rather than the FOIA.
The New Regulations are designed to free-up information held by the public sector and make it easier for individuals to re-use such information. Making the re-use of PSI mandatory could provide many wider benefits, as it may stimulate economic activity and increase the efficiency and transparency of public functions.
The National Archives has published three separate guidance notes on the New Regulations – one for each of the public sector, the cultural sector and information re-users. Separately, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has published its own guidance, outlining its approach to complaints about how public sector bodies have dealt with requests to re-use information.