Re-use of public sector information


#1

Submission on the re-use of public sector information : with an emphasis on energy system datasets

In late-2017 the European Commission consulted publicly on the effectiveness of directives 2003/98/EC and 2013/37/EU which cover the re-use of public sector information (PSI). The definition of PSI includes privately held information of public interest. Submissions closed on 12 December 2017.

A number of participants active in the Open Energy Modelling Initiative, together with researchers working in allied fields, developed a written submission. This document was presented in the name of the submitters as a collection of individuals and not in the name of the Open Energy Modelling Initiative.

The submission is quite general and deals at length with the background legal issues.

The citation for the written submission is:

Morrison, Robbie, Tom Brown, and Matteo De Felice (10 December 2017). Submission on the re-use of public sector information: with an emphasis on energy system datasets — Release 09. Berlin, Germany. CC BY 4.0 license.

General points include:

  • it is probable but not certain that lawfully obtained copyright-protected digital datasets are not able to be machine processed without breach of copyright — this is a question that should be clarified by the European Commission
  • the above does not apply to datasets made public under transparency mandates, including the ENTSO-E electricity market transparency platform
  • copyright overreach, claiming copyright protection for datasets that fail to meet the threshold of copyrightability, is probably widespread within our domain — therefore the European Commission should issue guidelines on what kinds of energy sector datasets are copyrightable
  • copyright law should be reformed to provide positive PSI re-use rights as a matter of urgency and that the use of open licensing is a second best solution
  • in the interim, public sector information, including privately held information of public interest, should be released under either a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 open license or a CC0 1.0 public domain dedication
  • European database rights, which limit the amount of data that users can downloaded, should be waived by PSI providers

The submission also deals at some length with the ENTSO-E electricity market transparency platform.

Downloads:


Collaborative writing with Overleaf
#2

Public hearing on 19 January 2018

The European Commission held a public hearing in Brussels on Friday 19 January 2018. Robbie Morrison presented on behalf of the submitters (distinct from the Open Energy Modelling Initiative). This post summarizes the event.

Introduction

The hearing was hosted by the Data Policy and Innovation unit from the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG Connect). Nineteen organizations gave oral evidence.

The PSI re-use directive includes privately held information obtained and made public by public sector agencies (and not third parties) for reasons of public interest. The original 2003 directive sought to promote competition, but the 2013 update extended this brief to open data.

The PSI re-use consultation does not cover research data. The access and preservation of scientific information is being handled under a separate European Commission workflow (see references section). Business-to-business (B2B) data sharing is also being dealt with elsewhere.

It was a much longer day than I intended, due to storm Friederike playing havoc with transport connections.

Specifics

Most speakers focused on privately held information of public interest. They were split equally on support for the current direction towards openness or concerned that revealed data would degrade their competitive status. A few commented on the PSI directive in detail, but most confined themselves to generalities.

Deutsche Telekom was an outlier, forcefully expressing the view that contractual autonomy was paramount, that access to privately held data must only be voluntary, that market failure was not evident, and that firms should be free to charge for information over and above cost recovery.

Public transport bodies were cautious about being forced to publish data (not just routing and fares, but passenger volumes and delays in near real-time). They repeatedly expressed concerns over the unfair competition (for instance, from Uber) that might result.

But one manufacturer of agricultural machinery had fitted instrumentation and telemetry on its products and was actively exploring the benefits of that data to the vehicle owner, the company, and society at large.

Statistics Netherlands took strong exception to the Telekom world view and argued that access to privately held data was vital for national statistics. And particularly so for rapidly changing societies.

The Open Knowledge Foundation Germany and Wikimedia Deutschland naturally flew the flag for open data. OKFN suggested that serendipitous developments can happen spontaneously and rapidly, once the data was available and free to use.

The center-right Konrad Adenauer Foundation also pushed the benefits of fully open data. KAF examined the role of the directive and found it lacked ambition.

My presentation asked the Commission to investigate the specific issues of copyrightability and of machine-processing. ENTSO–E had two representative observing and I spoke briefly to them. A researcher (Patrick) from Projektträger Jülich was also present.

The European Language Resources Association was the only body similar to the openmod. ELRA represents computational linguists and their concerns are identical to ours.

Request

The European Commission would like to learn of examples of where European sui generis database rights have impacted negatively on the reuse of public sector information. Could you contact me please if you have a potential or concrete example?

Audio track

My delivery, captured from the webcast audio, can be downloaded as an MP3 file. A remark on it being unlawful to machine process datasets from the ENTSO-E transparency platform is wrong and a statement correcting this comment is appended to the original track. Any web-browser should play an MP3 file. Download:

Webcast

The event was live streamed and archived. My presentation starts just after 10:28:23.

References

European Commission (17 July 2012). Commission recommendation of 17.7.2012 on access to and preservation of scientific information — C(2012) 4890 final. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission.

European Commission (17 July 2012). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions towards better access to scientific information: boosting the benefits of public investments in research — COM(2012) 401 final. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission.


#3

Thanks for this effort and clear and concise overview! Just saw this tweet of ENTSO-E passing by, might link with ongoing debate: https://twitter.com/laurentschmitt/status/956886525765193728


#4

and https://consultations.entsoe.eu/entso-e-general/stakeholder-satisfaction-survey-2017/


#5

European Commission open data guidelines

Another document worth adding to this thread.

The European Commission (2014) licensing guidelines for public documents are worth studying. Section 2.2 rather unusually defines public domain dedications as a subset of open licenses (other authors, Ball (2014) for example, regard dedications and licenses as disjoint). The guidelines suggest open licenses should be used wherever possible and that public domain dedications (CC0 1.0) should be preferred. Otherwise permissive licenses (CC BY 4.0) offer a suitable fallback. Section 3.1 lists the kinds of datasets that official sources should prioritize for public release, these include:

  • geospatial data (postcodes and maps)
  • earth observation and environment (from space and in-situ monitoring)
  • transport data (all modes)
  • official statistics

Nothing specifically about energy sector data though. Section 3.2 makes a series of recommendations regarding data that no one on this list would disagree with. The section is worth quoting en-masse. Specifically, that datasets be (direct quote with emphasis added):

  • published online in their original, unmodified form to ensure timely release
  • published and updated at the highest possible level of granularity to ensure completeness
  • published and maintained at a stable location, preferably on the highest organisational level within the administration, to ensure easy access and long-term availability
  • published in machine-readable and open formats (CSV, JSON, XML, RDF, etc) to enhance accessibility
  • described in rich metadata formats and classified according to standard vocabularies (DCAT, EURO VOC, ADMS, etc) to facilitate searching and interoperability
  • accessible as data dumps (massive outputs of data) as well as through application programming interfaces (APIs) to facilitate automatic processing
  • accompanied by explanatory documents on the metadata and controlled vocabularies used, to promote the interoperability of databases
  • subject to regular feedback from re-users (public consultations, comments box, blogs, automated reporting, etc) to maintain quality over time and promote public involvement

References

European Commission (24 July 2014). “Commission notice: guidelines on recommended standard licences, datasets and charging for the reuse of documents”. Official Journal of the European Union. C 240: 1–10.


#6

A one page follow-up detailing potential problems with European database rights was later forwarded to the European Commission for their consideration:

Morrison, Robbie and Lion Hirth (19 February 2018). Follow-up to the public consultation on the re-use of public sector information: issues surrounding sui generis database rights — Release 03. Berlin, Germany. (61.2 KB)


#7

European Commission releases proposed reforms in April 2018

On 25 April 2018, the European Commission adopted proposal COM/2018/234 to reform directive 2013/37/EU covering the re-use of public sector information (PSI) within the European Union.

This posting is a summary of a longer posting by me on the Open Knowledge International (OKI) forum. Key points:

  • these proposed reforms have not yet progressed to law
  • the issue of open licensing has been completely sidestepped: in doing so, the Commission effectively excludes the right to redistribute from its rubric on public sector information “re-use”
  • the matter of sui generis database rights and public sector information has been clarified: public sector bodies should not invoke this right
  • not surprisingly, privately held data of public interest continues to remain outside the reach of the PSI directive
  • but research data is now included but only in so much that open access should apply: open access includes publication under full copyright and is substantially weaker than community approved definitions for open data
  • the issue of copyrightability was not traversed: the view that much of the public sector data under discussion is protected remains implicit throughout the proposal (for instance when discussing cost recovery options)

In summary, these proposed revisions represent a lost opportunity to make public sector information within Europe genuinely open and reusable. Robbie.

Primary references

European Commission (2018). Proposal for a revision of the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive. Digital Single Market. Brussels, Belgium. Web page.

European Commission (25 April 2018). Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the re-use of public sector information (recast) — COM (2018) 234 final. Brussels, Belgium: Council of the European Union.

European Commission (24 July 2014). “Commission notice: guidelines on recommended standard licences, datasets and charging for the reuse of documents”. Official Journal of the European Union. C 240: 1–10.

Wilkinson, Mark D et al (15 March 2016). “The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship — Comment”. Scientific Data. 3: 160018. doi:10.1038/sdata.2016.18.

Secondary references

Unknown (25 April 2018). Consultation on PSI directive review (also known as the synopsis report on the PSI directive). Brussels, Belgium: European Commission.

European Commission (25 April 2018). Commission staff working document — Evaluation — Accompanying the document: Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the re-use of public sector information — SWD (2018) 145 final. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission.

European Commission (25 April 2018). Commission staff working document — Impact assessment — Accompanying the document: Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the re-use of public sector information — SWD (2018) 127 final. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission.

European Commission Regulatory Scrutiny Board (14 February 2018). Impact Assessment / Re-use of Public Sector Information — Opinion — Ares (2018). Brussels, Belgium: European Commission.

European Commission (28 March 2014). “Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing directive 2004/18/EC (text with EEA relevance)”. Official Journal of the European Union. L 94: 65–242.

European Commission (27 June 2013). “Directive 2013/37/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 amending Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information (text with EEA relevance)”. Official Journal of the European Union. L 175: 1—8.

European Commission (15 June 2013). “Commission Regulation (EU) No 543/2013 of 14 June 2013 on submission and publication of data in electricity markets and amending Annex~I to Regulation (EC) No 714/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council”. Official Journal of the European Union. L 163: 1–12.