Frequently asked questions: "psi guidelines" Why there is a need for the guidelines when there is already a directive?

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European Commission


Brussels, 17 July 2014

Frequently asked questions: "PSI guidelines"

Why there is a need for the guidelines when there is already a directive?

Following the transposition of the original PSI Directive 2003/98/EC, many public bodies in various European countries have put in place arrangements and procedures that 'translate' the provisions of the Directive into daily administrative practice. However, the administrative practices diverge not only across the EU but even within the same Member State. The guidelines can therefore act as reference material for all institutions in all EU countries, in order to align their practices and make them more transparent and predictable for potential re-users. In addition, many Member States have therefore asked the Commission to issue guidelines.

What is the difference between a notice and a licence? When do you use one and not the other?

A notice is a short statement, visually often presented as a pop-up box or a visible link, which spells out in clear terms the status of the documents published on the website (e.g. "All official documents on this portal are within the public domain. Use and re-use is permitted without limitations").

A licence is usually a longer document with several terms and conditions, drafted in a language which may be difficult for a layman to understand. The Guidelines suggest using notices whenever possible – this is also consistent with the preference for allowing re-use under as few conditions as possible.

What is the Creative Commons licence? Is it open for everyone to use? Who created it?

Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization headquartered in California, United States, devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses free of charge to the public.

The CC licences are being used more and more by content creators (scientists, artists, etc.) and are slowly becoming a 'de facto' standard for the publishing of PSI in Europe as well. National governments and sub-national authorities are increasingly using Creative Commons licences directly or are basing their national licences on CC.  For instance, the Dutch and Austrian open data portals are entirely based on CC, as are the documents of various Polish ministries. The UK Open Government Licence 2.0 was redrafted to be expressly compatible with CC-BY 4.0.

Another advantage of Creative Commons is that it provides machine readable versions of the licenses that software systems and search engines can understand. Creative Commons licenses are ‘ready to use’, automated and standardised; public sector bodies do not need to draw up their own licenses but can download them or refer to them via a link.

What is the attribution requirement?

The attribution requirement allows for PSI to be re-used under the condition that the re-user acknowledges the original source of the documents (i.e. public sector body) by including a suitable attribution statement, preferably with a link.

How much public sector re-use happens currently in the EU? Are there areas of the EU where this happens more/less?

Studies conducted in the context of the preparation for the revision of the PSI Directive estimated the overall re-use market in the EU to reach tens of billions of euros. Re-use is happening more dynamically in those countries that have put in place Open Data policies and that have encouraged re-use by reaching out to the private sector, facilitating administrative procedures and lowering prices for re-use. A good picture of the current state of re-use in Europe is given by the PSI Scoreboard.

You give a list of top priorities, but in the consultation, what data came back as the most common request for re-use?

In fact, there were very small differences in the replies with regard to different types of datasets – the general feedback was that all the categories of datasets that the Commission put forward as examples should be released as quickly as possible. However, the five groups mentioned in the guidelines were slightly in the lead.

Is there a rising trend for this re-use, or is the Commission simply trying to encourage this now?

There is a rising trend but it is difficult to quantify. It can be witnessed nevertheless by the fact that more and more institutions on national and regional/local levels are opening up their data for re-use via dedicated Open Data portals across Europe. Also, local initiatives are springing up among the re-users, such as the recent Erasmus for Open Data. Nevertheless, the Commission needs to encourage and support the re-use culture because putting in place the necessary framework conditions comes at an initial cost (building of open data portals, ensuring proper data formats, reducing revenue previously collected via charging for re-use) which will be largely offset by benefits to the economy later on.

What is the current split between re-use that is digital and non-digital?

It is fair to say that the overwhelming majority of re-use is digital. However, some Member States are concerned that many small and local public institutions may not be fully prepared to allow for electronic re-use of their documents and therefore the PSI Directive needs to continue to apply to both formats.

Have all Member States successfully transposed the directive into their national laws, or is that why the Commission is making these guidelines, because they are struggling?

The 2003 Directive is transposed in all EU countries. The guidelines are in fact mostly aimed at those MS who are only now starting to re-use PSI on a larger scale. In addition, the revised Directive brought about some important changes with regard to charging, the right to re-use, exclusive arrangements and other topics – the guidelines can therefore serve as a 'best practice guide' to transposition.

Can you explain the figures from the Spanish study? What does it mean "Spain could reach a business volume of €900 million"? How will PSI re-use really boost the economy?

Spain is conducting a PSI study on an annual basis. The study counts the companies whose main business activities are based on PSI re-use and measure their impact on the economy (the so called 'infomediary sector'). The business volume of all these companies combined is roughly 900 million and they employ 10.000 employees. PSI re-use will not by itself boost the economy but can contribute to growth - it is a fact that a lot of information held by public institutions has a big business potential (weather data, statistics, satellite images, public procurement data, etc). There are companies that could come up with innovative solutions for the market if they only had access to such data under open licencing terms and free of charge or at least very cheaply. In the US, where free provision of PSI has always been the rule, multi-billion dollar companies that re-use this data have emerged: The Weather Channel, Weather Underground, Garmin, etc.

See also - IP/14/840


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