Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission
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A single European open data licence?

I've seen the online calls for a single European licence for open data. I think they deserve a response: here it is. You'll know that open data is a cause close to my heart, and I welcome your initiative. You'll be aware that back in December I put forward an ambitious legal proposal to unlock the goldmine and open up Europe's public sector, through a system that would be cheaper, easier to use and wider in scope than current rules. In legal terms, these take the form of amendments to the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive: that means they are proposed by the Commission, but then must be agreed by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers before becoming law – and indeed those bodies have already held initial discussions on this topic. My priority is, in the first instance, to secure those legal changes. But, in parallel to the legislative process, we will be working with stakeholders on guidelines for licensing open government data: and on a pan-European portal as a single point of access to all such data. There is strong convergence between the most recent open government data licences adopted in the UK, Denmark, France and Spain, which are already in line with the proposed amendments to the PSI Directive. Our guidelines will represent European best practice. They will be voluntary rather than mandatory, allowing flexibility and updates. Discussions are already starting on both licensing and the portal - and in due course there will be a public consultation on the licensing guidelines: all those interested will be given an opportunity to contribute, and I hope many of you will do so. In the meantime, I'm sure you will be very actively following the discussions on the PSI Directive amendments, as they go through the Council and European Parliament: rest assured that I and my services will be. I hope that we can open up Europe's public sector, and stimulate a market which could boost our economy and provide so much interesting content for web developers and users.


André Rebentisch's picture

There is already a single European Union open data license for software, the EUPL, reviewed in 27 languages. It makes me wonder why software is explicitly excluded from the recent EU Commission decision, and the answer is not overriding IPR because this already applies to all other open data items. Certainly the Commission should clarify with an additional decision the state of software re-use. We find very interesting document processing macros and specialised software in the Commission where re-use could be promoted. A classic high profile open data package is of course the European Union corpus for the field of computer linguistics. For this there must be open licensing available for ages.
Enric Uberta's picture

Dear Neelie As one of the many promoters of this initiative I would like to thank you for your response. We look forward to the consultation on licensing guidelines. However, I feel that now it is the time to be bold and ambitious. Now is the moment of avoiding the legal cacophony and resulting legal uncertainty which would result from tens or hundreds of different re-use conditions across the EU. Be bold and seize the opportunity of establishing a common open data license applicable by default across the EU! It need not be mandatory and not be the one and only possible license, but huge transaction costs will be saved for citizens, re-users and public administrations if there is one common license applicable by default - without the need of explicitly adopting one option. Future generations of citizens and re-users would remember this moment for decades. Otherwise, they will remember this time as another lost opportunity for building the Digital Single Market. Now it is the time for action: instruct your services to include a sufficient legal basis for this common open data license in the revised Directive! The opportunity is at hand - and mere guidelines are poor pieces of paper which are quickly gone with the wind! Regards Enric Uberta 
Ville Oksanen's picture

Hopefully the license development process could work together with the forthcoming privacy regulation update. One of the biggest challenges of opening the data is how to handle the situation with personal information - especially in those circumstances without explicit consent from the individuals.
awbMaven's picture

I support a pan-European portal for PSI. My worries stem from data security. I envisage a pan-European portal utilizing the Cloud, and I fret that European data leaving EU jurisdiction will not, as is require, meet 'adequacy' protection requirements at least up to a level data held within the EU is covered by EU acquis. Data flows out of the EU a lot and there are many EU acquis and Treaties which are in the process of being modified or written which will effect this data. PSI is one if the Cloud is used (and these Cloud services do not 'black-box' data solely within EU jurisdiction), the EU-US Passenger Data Agreement (PNR) is another and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has similar concerns to me about extra-EU authorities' [lack of] protections of our EU data. Unlocking the goldmine at the cost of our fundamental rights to privacy is a price too high, and a price I don't think we have to pay.  We must ensure that either extra-EU authorities treat EU data at the same high level as we do ourselves, or we must block EU data from leaving the EU to these sub-standard extra-EU jurisdictions and create our own under-EU-acquis Cloud & other IT services to meet the needs of our privacy and opening-the-goldmine aims and acquis.
Marc Garriga's picture

Dear Neelie, We are many people that support this initiative. There are people from OpenData Community, but also people from another areas: political area, cultural area, journalists, etc. In the following article (in Spanish) there is a list of distinguished people that have already signed the initiative (currently, more than 530 people have supported it): It is worth mentioning the signature of Patxi López (current president of the Basque Government) or Jordi Sevilla (former Spanish minister of Public Administration). As you know, the availability of a common European license will provide legal security for the enterprises (and citizens) that reuse public data, a security that doesn't exist at the moment (every Open Data portal has its own regulation which makes it really difficult to generate services that feed from different portals' data). I agree with Enric, we now need to be ambitious. Now it is the time for action, and this action is an European scope. Now it's time to create a real European digital market, now it's time to think about future. And this future must be a European future. Thank you for your time and patience while reading this. Regards, Marc Garriga
Paul Keller's picture

As one of the supporters of the call and one of the drafters of the COMMUNIA policy paper that makes the same recommendation I fully agree with Enric Uberta reaction above. Now is indeed the time to be bold and ambitious. Years of working with open licenses (as part of the Creative Commons project) have taught me that license fragmentation is a real but often underestimated problem, and that it can be incredibly hard to fix once different licensing arrangements are well-established. Given this I would really urge you and all other stakeholders to consider using a single open data license for open data from public services. One hopeful example comes from Europeana (your own front yard so to speak): Europeana is in the process of re-licensing all of its metadata that has been contributed by hundreds of cultural heritage institutions from all over Europe under the Creative Commons Zero Public Domain Dedication. This effectively places this data into the public domain and ensures that all of this data can be used by anyone for any purpose without any restrictions whatsoever, thereby almost entirely removing transaction costs for users of this metadata. If agreeing on a single standardized open data license is possible within this very diverse sector, it should also be a realistic objective for organizations producing other types of Public Sector data. the COMMUNIA policy paper mentioned above can be found here:
Roberto Santos's picture

Dear Neelie As one of the many promoters of this initiative I would like to thank you for your response. My proposed patch to the EUPL to achieve a standard single públic license (or all that knowledge that citizens pay). I hope your legal technicians and we achieve the improved among all Regards,

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