Public Sector Information to be discussed in Bruxelles

The European Thematic Network on Legal Aspects of Public Sector Information (LAPSI, coordinated by Politecnico, NEXA Research Center, Torino) is hosting its 2nd public conference in Bruxelles on January 23rd & 24th.

As the European Commission is presenting a proposal for a Directive amending the 2003 Directive on re-use of public sector information, the question is now about how to implement the proposed amendments in practice, with the purpose of enhancing innovation and genuine public access to open data. Since 2003, the technical and societal environment of public sector information has changed, while raising issues deserving an adapted legal framework, be it as regards IP rights, competition and the protection of private data and access to information. While the Commission representative addresses the EU “Open Data Strategy”, all the high level experts and academics gathered at the conference (Marco Ricolfi, Séverine Dusollier, Hanns Ullrich, Josef Drexl, Miram Bitton, Mireille van Eechoud…) seem to agree that the legal minefield might be difficult to avoid.

COMMUNIA’s Policy Paper on the Commission’s proposal of amendment to the PSI Directive is publicly presented at the conference on January 24th by Daniel Dietrich from the Open Knowledge Foundation. While COMMUNIA supports the need to amend the PSI Directive, and praises the widening of its scope to cultural heritage institutions (despite the amendments do not include all of them), the Association is suggesting several improvements to the proposed text, insisting on the fact that the Public Domain would deserve a more consistent policymaking at the European level.



COMMUNIA policy paper on proposed amendments to PSI Directive

Today the COMMUNIA International Association presents its second policy paper. The paper is a reaction to the European Commission’s proposal to amend the Directive on re-use of public sector information (2003/98/EC).

COMMUNIA is supportive of the Commission’s suggested changes to the PSI Directive — most notably the decision to include cultural heritage institutions into the scope of the amended Directive. Access to and re-use of public sector information (PSI) has been one of the issues that has featured prominently in the work of COMMUNIA. The EC proposal to amend the PSI Directive is aligned with one of COMMUNIA’s January 2011 policy recommendations (#13), which states, “The PSI Directive needs to be broadened, by increasing its scope to include publicly funded memory organisations – such as museums or galleries – and strengthened by mandating that Public Sector Information will be made freely available for all to use and re-use without restriction.”

The policy paper draws attention to two issues where the proposal to amend the Directive should be improved. The first one concerns the conditions for re-use of public sector information that falls within the scope of the Directive and the second one deals with public domain content that is held by libraries, museums and archives.

Conditions for re-use of public sector information 

From the perspective of COMMUNIA the way the amended Directive addresses licensing of public sector content remains underdeveloped and as such has the potential to create diverging and potentially incompatible implementations among the Member states. The article of the amended Directive dealing with licensing mentions “standard licenses,” but does not sufficiently clarify what should be considered to be a standard license, and encourages the development of open government licenses. Instead of recommending the use and creation of more licenses, COMMUNIA suggests that the Commission should consider advocating the use of a single open license that can be applied across the entire European Union. Such licenses (stewarded by the Open Knowledge Foundation and Creative Commons) already exist and are widely used by a broad spectrum of data and content providers.

Public Domain Content held by libraries, museums and archives

COMMUNIA supports the decision to include cultural heritage institutions under the purview of the PSI Directive, as such a move will improve citizens’ access to our shared knowledge and culture and should increase the amount of digitized cultural heritage that is available online. While the amended Directive makes it clear that documents held by cultural heritage institutions in which there are no third party intellectual property rights shall be re-usable for  commercial or noncommercial purposes, it does not address the largest category of works held by cultural heritage institutions — those that are not covered by intellectual property rights because they are in the public domain. COMMUNIA thinks that explicitly including public domain content held by libraries, museums and archives in the re-use obligation of the amended PSI Directive will strengthen the Commission’s position with regard to access and re-use of public domain content.

The full COMMUNIA association reaction to the EC’s proposal to amend Directive 2003/98/EC on re-use of public sector information can be downloaded here. For further information about the paper please contact the COMMUNIA Association at communia DOT association AT gmail DOT com.