New opportunities and increased accountability: public sector re-use rules come into force

shutterstock_103173653The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 came into force on 18 July 2015. These Regulations require public sector bodies to make information that they produce as part of their ‘public task’ available for re-use, unless it’s restricted or excluded (for example personal data). The previous Regulations, issued in 2005, encouraged re-use but didn’t require it.

 The previous Regulations specifically excluded libraries, museums and archives. These bodies are now covered by the new Regulations but they only have to consider making information available for re-use, (unlike other public sector bodies where re-use will be mandatory). Educational and research establishments are not subject to the Regulations.

 In most cases public sector bodies will only be able to charge marginal costs for allowing re-use. Charges above that level are permitted in some circumstances: if the public sector body is required to generate revenue to cover a substantial part of the costs in relation to its public task or of specific documents, or if it is a library, museum or archive. The Regulations set out the criteria for calculating charges in those situations.

 Some questions public sector bodies will need to start asking:

  • Does my public sector body have a statement about our public task?
  • Do we have a policy on licencing and charging?
  • Are we familiar with the Open Government Licence? Will we use it by default?
  • Do we have a policy on when information will be made available in machine-readable formats (e.g. csv)?
  • Do we have an information asset list?

 If someone who wants to re-use information is not satisfied with the public sector body’s response, and has exhausted their internal complaints procedure, they can complain to the ICO which has a range of powers that will enable it to investigate complaints and has the power to issue information notices on public sector bodies to obtain details about the position they are taking in relation to the re-use of information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *