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Harmonising Open Licences in the European Union: ‘Been There. Done That. What’s Next?’ ?

Bastiaan van Loenen

(Submission #214)


Both the Directive establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE) and the Directive on re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive) are key to the re-use of public sector information, also known as the open data debate. Nowadays, there is a range of laws and regulations at the disposal of re-users of public sector geographic information, some more directed towards the legal and financial attainability (PSI Directive) and another more towards the ease of discovery, physical attainability and usability levels (INSPIRE Directive). INSPIRE measures should ensure that the infrastructures for spatial information created by the Member States are compatible and usable in a Community and transboundary context (recital 5 INSPIRE Directive). The PSI Directive should provide minimum harmonisation of national rules and practices on the re-use of public sector documents if “the differences in national regulations and practices or the absence of clarity hinder the smooth functioning of the internal market and the proper development of the information society in the Community” (recital 6 PSI Directive). In order to arrive at a preferred situation from a re-users perspective, not only technical standards are necessary, but also agreements establishing legal interoperability of spatial datasets. Such interoperability involves, for example, ensuring the compatibility of licensing conditions for the use of spatial data, so that data from different sources can be seamlessly combined. Non‐transparent and inconsistent licenses have often been identified as a major barrier to the sharing of data across the geospatial community and a clear need for harmonisation is increasingly being recognized. In 2011 we concluded that “it is very difficult to readily assess and directly access geographic data and geographic information services, within one jurisdiction and particularly for cross‐border and international use” (Janssen et al. 2011). But we also acknowledged that “attention for legal interoperability and a standard for geo‐information are starting to emerge, also influenced by the growing interest of the policy makers and public bodies in open data“ (Janssen et al. 2011).
In this paper, we will explore whether the harmonisation process of licences for spatial data has arrived at the next level. Is the harmonisation a true international effort or limited to the national boundaries? Are bodies still reticent to move away from their existing licensing policy, their national legislation and their sectoral focus? And what should be the next steps to move towards the ideal licensing situation in the EU?


Topic Area:  [3.3] Alignment with national, EU and international policies/initiatives
Abstract Type:  Oral Presentation

Additional Fields

Comments:   Licences, harmonisation

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