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Guidance issued to help bolster re-use of public sector information

Out-Law News | 24 Jul 2014 | 4:53 pm | 1 min. read

Public sector bodies are being recommended to loosen licensing restrictions on the re-use of data that they hold.

The European Commission has issued new guidelines on recommended standard licences, datasets and charging for the re-use of documents held by public sector organisations (10-page / 414KB PDF). In the guide it recommended that public bodies curtail licensing restrictions on the re-use of that information. The guidelines do not relate to documents held by public sector bodies in which third party copyright or database rights are contained.

"In order to proactively promote the re-use of the licenced material, it is advisable that the licensor grants worldwide (to the extent allowed under national law), perpetual, royalty-free, irrevocable (to the extent allowed under national law) and non-exclusive rights to use the information covered by the licence," the Commission's guidelines said.

"It is advisable that rights not covered by the licence be set out explicitly and the types of right granted (copyright, database right, and related rights) be defined broadly," it said. "The broadest possible wording could be used to refer to what can be done with the data covered by the licence (terms such as: use, re-use, share can be further described by an indicative list of examples)."

The guidance advises public bodies of how to ensure that compliance with data protection rules is observed when licensing the re-use of documents containing personal data. One option available to public bodies is to make personal data protection a contractual obligation under the terms of the re-use licence, the Commission said.

The guidance particularly encouraged EU countries to make geospatial data, information on earth observation and the environment, transport data, national, regional and local statistical data and information from company registers available for re-use. It said these types of data are "in highest demand" among re-users of data within the EU.

The Commission recommended that the data be "published online in their original, unmodified form to ensure timely release" and in "machine-readable and open formats" to enhance accessibility. It said public bodies should consider making the data available for re-use for free or at only marginal cost to re-users.

"Opening up public sector information (PSI) for re-use brings major socioeconomic benefits," the Commission's guidelines said. "Data generated by the public sector can be used as raw material for innovative value-added services and products which boost the economy by creating new jobs and encouraging investment in data-driven sectors. They also play a role in increasing government accountability and transparency."

European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes said: "This guidance will help all of us benefit from the wealth of information public bodies hold. Opening and re-using this data will lead to many new businesses and convenient services."