New UK rules finalised on the re-use of public sector information

Out-Law News | 30 Jun 2015 | 9:51 am | 1 min. read

Public bodies in the UK must make it easier for businesses to re-use the information they hold from the middle of next month, under new regulations that have been passed by parliament. 

The new Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations (16-page / 105KB PDF) come into force on 18 July.

Under the new regulations, people and organisations can apply to public bodies for the right to re-use documents they have previously produced for different purposes for which they have been produced.

Public bodies must respond "promptly" to requests and at the latest within 20 working days. When making a document available for re-use, they must ensure it is disclosed in "the format and language in which it is held on the date of the request for re-use" and, if possible and appropriate, "in open format and machine-readable format together with its metadata". The documents must also be made available for re-use "by electronic means" if possible and appropriate.

When making documents available for re-use, public bodies can impose conditions on that re-use, providing they do not "unnecessarily restrict" competition or the way the document can be re-used.

Under the new regime, public bodies are generally prohibited from entering into exclusive arrangements with companies over the re-use of public sector information. However, exclusive re-use arrangements are allowed where it is "necessary for the provision of a service in the public interest" or where re-use is in the context of the digitisation of "cultural resources".

Charging for the re-use of information is permitted under the rules, although in many cases fees will have to be restricted to cover "the marginal costs incurred in respect of the reproduction, provision and dissemination of documents". Greater fees can be imposed by libraries, museums and archives or if public bodies are "required to generate revenue to cover a substantial part of its costs relating to the performance of its public task".

If the documents public bodies are charging for re-use of are "required to generate sufficient revenue to cover a substantial part of the costs relating to their collection, production, reproduction or dissemination" then greater charges can also be imposed for their re-use.

Public bodies are under no obligation to release documents for re-use if intellectual property rights within the documents are owned by others.

The regulations implement an EU directive finalised in 2013 which contains measures aimed at freeing up information held by public sector bodies for re-use.