New Law on the re-use of Public Sector Information ("PSI") | Fieldfisher
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New Law on the re-use of Public Sector Information ("PSI")

Paul Barton
This week saw the publication of the new Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations which will come into force on 18 July 2015. There are some significant new changes in the 2015 Regulations This week saw the publication of the new Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations which will come into force on 18 July 2015. There are some significant new changes in the 2015 Regulations which public sector bodies, certain cultural sector bodies and those interested in re-using PSI need to be aware of.

The new Regulations implement an EU Directive (Council Directive 2013/37/EU) on the re-use of PSI.

A legislative framework covering the re-use of public sector information is not in itself new, there being a previous 2003 EU Directive which had been implemented in the UK by the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005.

However, the legislative framework has now been updated to take into account the increased amount of data available and the technological changes that have taken place since the 2003 Directive.

It is recognised that core benefits like stimulating economic activity and increasing the efficiency and transparency of public functions are at the heart of permitting re-use of PSI. Consequently, the new law increases the rights of re-users by making re-use mandatory for most pubic authorities, setting a default charging mechanism of marginal cost recovery in most circumstances and bringing public sector museums, libraries (including university libraries) and archives within the regime for the first time.

So what's new ?

The information below summarises the key changes that are introduced by the 2015 Regulations.

2005 Regulations2015 Regulations
Regulations apply to public sector bodies, including local government 

Application has been extended to include cultural sector: libraries (including university libraries), museums and archives
Only accessible information is re-usable 

Information produced, held or disseminated within a public sector body's public task must be re-usable (unless restricted or excluded)
Make information available 

Make information available through open licences and machine-readable and electronic formats whenever possible
No obligation to allow re-use 

Obligation to allow re-use of information unless restricted or excluded, or from a cultural sector body
Standard licences encouraged 

Open, non-restrictive licences encouraged
Permits charging for re-use 

Marginal cost pricing is the default, in most cases this will be nil for online or digital information.

Certain public sector bodies such as information providers/traders, and libraries, museums and archives may charge higher than marginal cost
Prohibits exclusive licences 

Some cultural and other public sector bodies can use exclusive licensing
Complaints process established 

Complaint may be escalated to the ICO who can make binding decisions on most issues, with appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal

So what does this mean in practice ?

Public Sector bodies

Accessible information which is produced, held or disseminated by the public sector body must be made available for re-use (unless it is otherwise restricted or excluded).

A marginal cost pricing model should be used. For many public sector bodies this will mean they are unable to raise a charge for making information available for re-use. Such bodies will be required to justify any charges in excess for marginal cost pricing.

Public Sector bodies should clearly identify what is there public task as this determines what information falls within the scope of the 2015 Regulations.

Public Sector bodies are under no obligation to release information for re-use if intellectual property rights within the relevant documents are owned by others.

Libraries, Museums & Archives

Many of the UK's cultural sector bodies are in practice already complying with the 2015 Regulations as the approach they have adopted in relation to the production, holding or dissemination of their information is consistent with the approach required under the 2015 Regulations. For those that are not they now need to make their information re-useable.

Libraries, museums and archives will be able to charge re-users to cover the costs of collection, production, reproduction, dissemination, preservation and rights clearance of their material, and include an amount to cover a reasonable return on their investment.

Making information available under open licensing (through the Open Government Licence) is encouraged but some exclusive licensing will be permitted especially where the library, museum or archive is working with the partner on a digital access project, as this in itself increases the potential for the re-use of their information. Libraries, museums and archives have the right to decline requests for re-use although such decisions may be challenged.

Re-users of PSI

For re-users, the 2015 Regulations should make it easier to re-use public sector information. In general, any information that is accessible either because it has been published or because it has been released under UK information access legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act, should be available for re-users under an open licence.

For most re-use, charges should be at marginal cost which in many cases will equate to a nil charge.

There is no substitute for getting in to the detail of the new Regulations but do let me know if you require any assistance in assessing the impact of the new Regulations on your organisation.

Paul Barton

Partner, Public Sector Information specialist

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