The EU is making it easier to re-use data held by the public sector. Today, member states’ ambassadors agreed on the Council’s negotiating position on reforms which are part of wider EU efforts to increase the supply of data to support the economy and to make sure that more data is used for the benefit of everyone. The new rules will encourage the development and uptake of new data-based services and technologies, such as artificial intelligence. They are also a major step towards making open data more widely available in the EU.

Today’s agreement shows that the public sector is leading the way on data sharing. Smaller firms and start-ups can’t always afford to buy public sector data, so increased availability and lower costs can help enable ground-breaking innovation from which we all stand to benefit.

Margarete Schramböck, Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs of Austria

Under the existing directive on the re-use of public sector information (PSI), any content publicly available under national legislation on access to documents is, in principle, re-usable for any purpose, including commercial purposes.

The reforms would extend the scope of the rules beyond public sector bodies to include public undertakings in the transport and utilities sectors. There would be no obligation on these sectors to make data available unless required at national level, but if they were to release data, they would have to respect the same principles as public sector bodies, including on transparency, non-discrimination and exclusive arrangements.

The rules would also be extended to include publicly-funded research data that is already available in public repositories. Such data would need to be made re-usable, for example by specifying appropriate licensing conditions. Member states would also have to establish national open access policies to support the availability of research data.

The draft rules encourage the dissemination of dynamic data, such as real-time transport or weather data coming from sensors or satellites. Public bodies would have to make such data available via application programming interfaces (API).

The agreed text stipulates that high-value datasets (datasets of high socio-economic importance) would be identified as a second step after the adoption of the directive. These datasets would need to be made available for free in the entire EU, and should be machine-readable and automatically transferable through an API. The Commission would draw up a list of specific types of high-value datasets in a separate implementing act, which would apply to both public bodies and public undertakings.

Overall, public sector data will become cheaper. It will normally be available either for free or at marginal cost. However, the rules take into account the need for some public sector bodies to generate revenue, and therefore allow limited charges for data in certain situations.

The Council text also reinforces the concept of open data as meaning data in open formats that can be freely used and shared for any purpose. It has added the notion of open data to the title of the proposal to reflect this.

Following entry into force of the directive, member states would have two years to adopt national provisions to put it into practice. Member states would be able to go beyond the minimum standards laid down in the directive.

The proposal under discussion is a key component of the ‘data package’ published by the Commission in April 2018 under the digital single market strategy. It is also part of the Commission’s regulatory fitness (REFIT) review.

Today’s agreement in the Permanent Representatives Committee constitutes a mandate for the presidency to start talks with the European Parliament with a view to reaching agreement on the final text. The Parliament has not yet agreed on its position.

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