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Europeans have the right to re-use and exploit public information

Posted by Nick Prag at 17 July 2014, 17:05 CET |
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Europeans have a genuine right to re-use open public information. And this week the Commission issued a set of guidelines to help Member States take advantage of the revised Directive on re-use of public sector information.

Since the revision, there should be no complex licensing restrictions, nor high costs, or indeed any costs, for access to data on weather, traffic, property assets and maps, for example.

The Commission guidelines give guidance on how to pick the data for release, on licensing, on charging, and more.

It is also issuing a call for tender for a new pan-European data infrastructure, which will be open till 8 September.

Why is this important?

An independent report carried out by the consultants McKinsey in 2013 claimed that open data re-use could provide a huge boost to the global economy; while a 2013 Spanish study found that commercial re-users in Spain could employ around 10,000 people and reach a business volume of EUR 900 million.

Part of the Commission strategy is the promotion of the 'Creative Commons' licence. CC licenses allow re-use, particularly with proper attribution, and are free of charge to the public. They are gradually becoming a 'de facto' standard for the publishing of PSI in Europe.

There is a way to go, however. While some countries have embraced Open Data policies, others remain reluctant.

As Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes said this week, what is needed is not just laws and portals. It needs "a mindset change from every public administration. From the Rijksmuseum to the Norwegian weather service - bodies all over Europe are starting to get it. Starting to realise that being as open is, quite simply, part of their function as a public body. "

Public bodies hold a wealth of information, mostly paid for by us. Hopefully opening and re-using this data will lead to new businesses and convenient services, and encourage investment in data-driven sectors.

Member States now have a year to pass the rules into national law. These guidelines should help them do that.

Guidelines on the re-use of public sector information
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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of EUbusiness.com. Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.