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Europe begins revamp of rules on re-use of public info

Asks for views on Public Sector Information Directive

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The European Commission is revising the rules governing the sale and use of public information in a bid to encourage the use of mapping, weather, legal and statistical information as the basis of information services.

The current Commission pledged to revise the rules governing such use as part of its 'digital agenda' plan of actions. It has now asked for views and recommendations on its plans as part of its review of the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive.

That Directive regulates the way in which public sector bodies make sets of data available for re-use and was an attempt to encourage the re-use of data.

"The Directive has helped to remove some of the barriers to re-use, such as monopoly positions of public sector bodies or lack of transparency in the market for re-usable public data," said a Commission statement. "The 2003 Directive had a positive impact in several fields such as geographical and meteorological sectors. However, the Commission also warned that to realise the full potential of PSI for the EU economy, EU Member States must remove remaining barriers to re-use."

A review last year of the Directive highlighted the areas that needed to change.

"These include discrimination between potential users, excessive charges for public sector information re-use and complex licensing policies," said the Commission. "[The review] also pointed to practical problems such as lack of awareness of what public sector information is available, and public sector bodies failing to realise the economic potential of their data."

The Commission is seeking the public's view on the scope of the current Directive, the fees that are charged for PSI, and on issues such as formatting and promotion of information.

"Better and more use of public sector information has great potential to generate new businesses and jobs and to provide consumers with more choice and more value for money," said Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes. "The mobile apps market, partly based on PSI-generated data, could grow to €15bn by 2013."

"However, much of Europe's PSI is insufficiently or even sometimes not exploited. We cannot lose out on this opportunity. We need to consider whether and how the EU rules on re-use of PSI should be amended to fully unlock PSI's economic potential," she said.

A 2006 study showed that services that re-used PSI generated revenues of €27bn a year. The consultation closes on 30 November.

Past campaigns have sought to convince UK governments to make data available that was generated by government or publicly-owned bodies. Unsuccessful campaigns have demanded free access to the postcode database operated by the Post Office and mapping information owned by Ordnance Survey.

Some Ordnance Survey map data was release for re-use earlier this year.

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