Our legal context
Just to point out that the Open Energy Modelling Initiative (“openmod”) is currently not incorporated under law, nor is it engaged in “economic activity” as defined by European Union jurisprudence. In which case, the openmod collectively faces few, if any, legal obligations or liabilities.
Rather, the openmod can be seen as a collection of internet services — primarily a mailing list, wiki, and forum — all publicly visible and each managed by their respective owners and usually a few less privileged helpers. Alongside this, periodic workshops are held, each usually organized and hosted by an academic institution. This structure (if you like) is not dissimilar from that used by many non-transacting open source software projects.
Should people wish, the openmod could become more formal, perhaps an “eingetragener Verein” (e.V.) under German law (something like a United Kingdom charity?). But there has been little to no interest in heading down that track to date.
Therefore, and in the absence of the openmod being a legal entity, I presume any financial support for participating in openmod activities (such as a workshop) would need to be sought by and provided to individuals under their own name.
I am personally open to a discussion on the openmod adopting a legal structure. But what we should not do is inadvertently act such that we become an “enterprise” under EU law (see appendix). That would create the worst of both worlds: new liabilities but without legal shelter. For instance, if we sought income from donations or from banner advertising we might well cross that line.
The preceding discussion (as I understand it) would involve the openmod applying for some kind of travel assistance on behalf of workshop participants from some kind of scientific funding body. I don’t think that can happen without the openmod forming an e.V. (or similar) first. Aside from my concerns, I don’t suppose a funder would deal with an unincorporated entity like the openmod at present? Or have I missed something.
Finally, my thanks to @Christian.winzer for raising this topic and thinking about access to our workshops. What do other people think, both on this question and how the openmod should develop more generally? HTH, Robbie
The definition of an “enterprise” in contained in European Commission (2003) article 1 as follows:
An enterprise is considered to be any entity engaged in an economic activity, irrespective of its legal form. This includes, in particular, self-employed persons and family businesses engaged in craft or other activities, and partnerships or associations regularly engaged in an economic activity.
My lay reading is that economic activity requires both “agreement” and “remuneration”, but that some future commercial expectation is sufficient for the latter criteria. The term “regular” in the definition above relates to the formation of an implicit partnership by engaging in a pattern of activity. For more information, see Wehlander (2016).
An enterprise carries additional responsibilities and liabilities. For example, an enterprise is explicitly bound by the GDPR.
European Commission (20 May 2003). “Commission recommendation of 6 May 2003 concerning the definition of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises — Notified under document number C (2003) 1422 (text with EEA relevance)”. Official Journal of the European Union. L 124: 36–41.
Wehlander, Caroline (2016). Chapter 2 “Economic activity”: criteria and relevance in the fields of EU internal market law, competition law and procurement law. In Services of general economic interest as a constitutional concept of EU Law. The Hague, Netherlands: TMC Asser Press. pp 35–65. ISBN 978-94-6265-116-6. doi:10.1007/978-94-6265-117-3_2.