On 18th July 2015 the new Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (ROPSI) came into force, replacing the 2005 version. They contain some important changes to the UK public sector information re use regime.
The new Regulations implement Directive 2013/37/EU, which amends Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information (the 2003 Directive). The aim of the latter was to remove obstacles that stood in the way of re-using public sector information. Key obligations for public authorities (including the health, local government and central government sectors) include:
being transparent and open about the terms and fees for re-use of information they hold
where licences are required to re use information, standard terms and conditions should be offered
having accurate notices and statements on documents and websites
producing an Asset List so that potential re-users of information know what is available
having a complaints process
A full article on the 2005 Regulations can be downloaded here. Key changes made by the new Regulations include:
Adding the previously excluded cultural sector (libraries, museums and archives) to the scope of the Regulations
Making it an obligation to allow re-use of most public sector information. Previously this was optional.
Extending the scope of the information available for re use to not just that which is accessible but anything produced held or disseminated with a public authority’s public task (unless restricted or excluded).
Marginal cost pricing is the default (subject to some exceptions) when it comes to charging for re use. Previously a profit could be made.
For the first time the UK re use regime will have teeth similar to FOI. Once the public sector body’s internal complaints procedures have been exhausted, a complainant may turn to the Information Commissioner, who can make a binding decision. A further appeal can be made to the First-Tier Tribunal.
How will the new Regulations overlap with the new dataset obligations under the FOI? As a result of amendments made by the new Regulations, the requirements relating to datasets under FOI are now as follows.
If you are a public authority making a dataset available in response to an FOI request, you must, so far as is reasonably practicable, make it available in a re-usable, electronic form. You must also make requested datasets available in your publication scheme in a re-usable form unless you are satisfied that it is not appropriate to do so.
However, if the dataset falls under ROPSI, for example because it is produced as part of your “public task”, then you must calculate any charges for allowing re-use and deal with any licences under ROPSI and not FOI. This applies to providing the dataset in response to a request and making it available in the publication scheme.
So, for an FOI public authority, for any dataset that is covered by ROPSI, FOI applies to the format in which it is made available, but ROPSI applies to the charges and licences for re-use.
If the dataset does not fall under ROPSI because you are an FOI public authority but not a public sector body for the purposes of ROPSI, then the provisions in FOI regarding charges and licences for re-use will apply to it. Read the Information Commissioner’s Guide here. Expect lots of appeals to the ICO over these provisions.
The National Archives is the UK policy lead on public sector information. Its website contains useful resources on this topic. All public sector organisations need to carefully consider the new Regulations and how they will impact on the information they produce and disclose.
Want to know more? Ibrahim Hasan will explain the new Regulations in detail our live one-hour web seminar.
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