On July 17th, 2014, the European Commission published guidelines for the re-use of public sector information ("PSI"). These guidelines shall support the EU Member States in the transposition of the 2013 revision of the so called "PSI Directive", and to encourage the re-use of public sector information especially in the digital market.
The PSI Directive was adopted in 2003 to make public sector information, such as weather data, traffic data, property asset data or maps, more easily accessible to third parties. Public sector information can be used for innovative value-added services and products, such as mobile apps, by using the data as basis for the services and/or products. This can lead to significant economy growth and is capable of increasing the accountability and transparency of the administrative and governmental practice.
Even after the PSI Directive came into force, interested parties faced difficulties in gaining access to and use PSI. Reasons were the fragmentation of the original PSI Directive's transposition into national law and ambiguities affecting its interpretation and a certain hesitation of public sector authorities to disclose PSI. Against this background, the PSI Directive was revised in 2013. The now published guidelines shall provide non-binding guidance on three topics: recommended standard licenses, datasets and charging.
Recommended Standard Licenses
- For licensing PSI, the usage of simple standard licenses in digital format is recommended. Preference should be given to the use of open licenses such as “Creative Commons” instead of individual licenses.
- When using individual licenses, limiting the amount and content of any provisions restricting the re-use of PSI as far as reasonably practicable is recommended. For instance, naming the source of PSI is supposed to be an acceptable restriction in licensing terms pursuant to the guidelines.
- If public sector information contains personal information, it is advised to make re-users aware of the rules on the processing of such information.
- To enhance the use of PSI in the public domain, simple notices indicating the legal status are recommended (e.g. the Creative Commons public domain mark).
- Five dataset categories of high priority are identified, namely geospatial data (postcodes, national and local maps), earth observation and environmental data (weather, land and water quality, energy consumption, emission levels), transport data (public transport timetables, road works and traffic information), statistical data (GDP, age, health, unemployment, income and education) and selected company data (company and business registers).
- To promote the use of the prioritized datasets, the European Commission encourages the relevant owner of the data to assure availability, quality, usability and interoperability of the respective PSI.
- Regarding the costs of providing PSI to third parties, the guidelines favor, at least for digital documents which can be downloaded, a no-cost policy. In any case, the relevant owner should carefully evaluate the potential costs compared to the benefits of a zero-cost or marginal cost approach.
- In any case of cost-recovery, the guidelines recommend a "net cost" approach, covering the entire collection, (re-)production and dissemination procedure. When collecting or producing documents, any income generated should be subtracted from the total costs incurred. Public sector bodies are advised to regularly conduct cost and demand assessments and adjust charges accordingly to have a process of calculating charges guided by a set of objective, transparent and verifiable criteria.
It will be interesting to follow the further development of PSI re-use. Any re-use could lead to higher quality standards of value-added services, mobile apps and other data-driven businesses. The fact that several companies successfully use PSI as a key factor in their businesses could promote the re-use of PSI.