EU's New 'Open By Default' Rules For Data Generated By Public Funding Subverted At The Last Minute
from the if-you-don't-like-the-rules,-don't-take-the-money dept
The EU’s awful Copyright Directive is rightly dominating the news at the moment, but there are other interesting laws being debated and passed in the European Union that have received far less attention. One of these is a revision of the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive. Here’s the background to the move:
The re-use of data generated by public sector bodies (e.g. legal, traffic, meteorological and financial etc.) for commercial and non-commercial purposes is currently governed by Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information, which was reviewed in 2013.
On 25 April 2018, the Commission adopted the 2018 Data Package, addressing for the first time different types of data (public, private, scientific) within a coherent policy framework, making use of different policy instruments. As part of this package, the review of the PSI Directive was the object of an extensive public consultation process.
The basic idea behind the revision, which was agreed on at the end of January by the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission, is sound:
All public sector content that can be accessed under national access to documents rules is in principle freely available for re-use. Public sector bodies will not be able to charge more than the marginal cost for the re-use of their data, except in very limited cases. This will allow more [small and medium enterprises] and start-ups to enter new markets in providing data-based products and services.
In December last year, the European Parliament proposed a version of the text that would require researchers in receipt of public funding to publish their data for anyone to re-use. However, some companies and academics were unhappy with this “open by default” approach. They issued a statement calling for research data to be “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”, which would include some carve-outs.
According to Science|Business, that view has prevailed in the final text, which is not yet publicly available. It is now apparently permissible for companies and academics to invoke “confidentiality” and “legitimate commercial interests” as reasons for not releasing publicly-funded data. Clearly, that’s a huge loophole that could easily be abused by organizations to hoard results. If companies and academic institutions aren’t willing to share the fruits of their research as open data, there’s a very simple solution: don’t take public money. Sadly, that fair and simple approach seems not to be a part of the otherwise welcome revised PSI Directive.