Commercial exploitation of public sector information

The Commission wants to establish a European
framework for the commercial exploitation of public-sector
information. This minimum harmonisation should provide a degree
of legal certainty for the market players while leaving Member
States free to choose how to adapt the provisions to local
circumstances. Main issues in the debate are the level of
harmonisation (obligation versus encouraging the re-use of the
information, the charging principles (for free or at costs
price), and issues of intellectual property. With this
proposal, the Commission wants to stimulate the development of
a European market for digital content products and wireless
content services.

Background

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The potential of public sector information is not realised
today due to a number of legal and practical barriers.
Different rules and practices in the Member States
concerning charges, response times, exclusive arrangements
and the general availability of information for re-use make
it extremely difficult for companies to create Europe-wide
products. Legislative activities at national level are
under way in a number of Member States, but the differences
between them in speed and direction may result in further
restrictions.

In January 1999 the Commission published
a Green Paper on Public Sector Information. Building on
this, the Commission on 23 October 2001 adopted a
Communication on the re-use and the commercial exploitation
of public sector information: "eEurope 2002: Creating a EU
Framework for the Exploitation of Public Sector
Information". This Communication outlined the basic
orientations of the Commission on the issue and promised a
Directive to achieve a minimum harmonisation. On 5 June
2002, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive on
the re-use and commercial exploitation of public sector
information (co-decision procedure).

 

Issues

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The issues surrounding the discussion on public sector
information can be summarised as follows:

  • the economic value of public sector information;
  • the current fragmented EU market in this field;
  • the choice of a legal instrument concerning the
    re-use of public sector information;
  • transparency and equal access conditions;

 

Positions

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The
Telecoms Council of 27 March 2003

reached a political agreement on the draft Directive.

The
Federation of European Direct Marketing
(FEDMA)

states access to public sector information is essential for
direct marketers, not only to obtain personal data to
promote goods and services, but also to comply with the
essential data protection principle of keeping personal
data in an accurate manner. It has, however, some comments
on the Commission's proposal regarding its definitions, its
scope, its conditions for re-use and its relationship to
fair trade.

The
International Communications Round Table
(ICRT)

states access to public sector information is "essential
for content providers in the Information Society for
furnishing services to the professional market as well as
to private individuals". The ICRT adds though that
"contrary to the United States (where the government has
relinquished its copyright on public sector information),
content providers in the EU Member States are still faced
with different barriers to access and different costs for
similar types of information, which it states is a major
competitive handicap".

 

Next steps

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  • The Parliament's plenary session is expected to have
    it second reading on 24 September
  • Parliament rapporteur W. Van Velzen will continue
    negotiations with the Council to prevent conciliation
    over the draft directive.
  • Member States will likely have to implement the
    Directive by 31 December 2004 (depending on date of final
    adoption of draft Directive - not yet clear)
  • The Directive will be subject to a review within
    three years of its entry into force.

 

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