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  • Public data should be made available by default unless access is restricted
  • Charges for re-use of public data should be avoided or limited to marginal costs

Parliament today voted to stimulate the re-use of public data in the EU to the benefit of citizens and society.

MEPs today adopted a revision of the Re-use of public sector information directive, already agreed informally with EU member states in January, with 560 votes to 34, and 25 abstentions.

Addressing barriers to re-use of public sector data

The revised law will address barriers to more open data and the re-use of public information across the Union. Public data should be made available unless access is specifically restricted or excluded under national rules on access to documents.

Charges for reusing public sector data create market entry barriers for SMEs and start-ups. The new rules underline that charges for re-use of public sector information should be avoided and when necessary limited to marginal costs except in very restricted cases. This will make it easier for SMEs to use public data to create new products and services for commercial purposes.

Research data now also part of the scope

Member states will have to put in place national procedures for open access to research data that is retrieved with public funding and if made accessible via repositories publicly funded research data will also be covered by the updated harmonised rules.

Data held by public undertakings in the utilities sector (e.g. energy and transport) and research data, not covered by current legislation, is now included as these have tremendous reuse potential.

After a proposal of the European Parliament, a list of categories of high value datasets is included and the Commission is empowered to identify specific high value datasets further based on an assessment of their potential to generate significant social, economic, or environmental benefits.

Quote

After the vote, the rapporteur Neoklis Sylikiotis (GUE, Cyprus) said: “Open Data can promote more democratic and transparent governance. We managed to ensure that open data shall yield broad benefits for the society, for micro enterprises, SMEs and start-ups, and not only for large enterprises that have the ability to buy the data. It is underlined that public bodies should be financially supported in order to be able to implement this directive. A level playing field for public undertakings was also ensured. Finally, a list of thematic categories of high value datasets is established based on the assessment of their potential to generate significant social, economic, or environmental benefits.”

Next steps

The agreement will now have to be officially approved by EU ministers. The directive will then be published in the Official Journal of the EU and enter into force 20 days later. Member states will have 2 years to comply with this directive.

Background

Public sector information, such as legal, traffic, meteorological, economic and financial data, constitutes the largest information source in the EU. Allowing such data to be re-used for other purposes (i.e. GPS navigation and weather forecasting) has an enormous economic growth and innovation potential.

This is not least due to the increasing role of data, and with the developments in digital technologies and in the research sector, such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and advanced robotics.

There are considerable differences in the rules and practices in the Member States relating to the exploitation of public sector information resources, which constitute barriers to bringing out the full economic potential.

There will be no obligation to allow the re-use of documents produced by public undertakings. The decision whether or not to authorise re-use of any or all documents will remain with the public undertaking concerned. Only after the public undertaking has chosen to make a document available for re-use, should it observe the relevant obligations laid down in this legislation.