Today, Communia feedback to the European Commission on its proposal to amend the Directive on the re-use of public sector information. This is the second time the Commission has proposed to update the legal framework for access to and re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI) since the Directive was adopted in 2003. The most important changes from the previous amendment (2013) was the introduction of a genuine right to re-use by making all content that can be accessed under national access to documents laws reusable, and expanding the scope of the Directive to cover libraries, museums, and archives.
This time, the European Commission has proposed to make more research data available, extends the scope to public undertakings (including transportation data), and further limits the scenarios in which public entities may charge for data. This proposal was preceded by public consultations (see COMMUNIA’s response).
We support the proposal to amend Directive, but at the same time we want to draw attention to some issues where the proposal should be improved. Below are our recommendations.
Re-use of research data held by educational and research establishments
We fully support the extension of the scope of the directive to “certain research data, a specific category of documents produced as part of scientific research, namely results of the scientific fact-finding process (experiments, surveys and similar) that are at the basis of the scientific process”. However, the extension of the scope of the directive in this respect should be combined with making them available under permissive open licenses (such as CC BY), or even put into the worldwide public domain using a tool like the CC0 Public Domain Dedication.
At the same time, the proposal excludes publications in scientific journals from its scope. The Horizon 2020 programme Model Grant Agreement already requires that grantees must ensure open access to all peer-reviewed scientific publications — meaning that “any scientific peer-reviewed publications can be read online, downloaded and printed.” It should go further to require that re-use rights be granted to both publications and associated datasets, by requiring that permissive open licenses be applied at the time of publication. For this reason, we urge the Commission to ensure that policy efforts to improve access to publicly funded scientific research (including the upcoming Horizon Europe framework) are complementary — and not in conflict with — each other.
As Member States will be obliged to develop policies for open access to research data resulting from publicly funded research while keeping flexibility in implementation, we urge the Commission to prepare guidelines in this area.
Open licensing as standard mechanism for sharing PSI
Unfortunately, the new proposal doesn’t go far enough in requiring open licensing for PSI. Instead, it only relies on the 2014 guidelines. The 2014 guidelines provided recommendations for standard licences, datasets and charging for re-use of documents, and put a lot of emphasis on the use of standard open licenses. Therefore we recommend the Commission codify their earlier guidelines on recommended standard licences for PSI, and also ensure accurate licensing metadata across PSI and open data portals that reflects these licensing options.