Recycling maps, statistics and other public data could save EU firms billions

EU firms could save billions of euros thanks to draft EU rules that would enable them to re-use public data instead of producing them from scratch. These rules, approved by the Parliament on Thursday, would apply to public information such as maps, statistics and weather data. MEPs ensured that any fees will be low and that firms will find it cheap and easy to complain if access is denied.

“This is not just a cost-saving issue – it is also about opening up access to a hidden treasure of accurate and updated data, collected by public bodies for their own use. Private firms and citizens, who all pay taxes, have a legitimate right to this information” said Ivailo Kalfin (S&D, BG) who led Parliament’s negotiating team.

The EU Commission estimates that the overall economic gains from savings and creating new goods and services could amount to €40 billion a year in the EU.

Keeping costs down
The new rules will enable companies or persons to get access to data such as maps, statistics, weather data, infrastructure listings, data from publicly funded research projects, and digitised books from libraries, which they can then use to develop their businesses. For instance, a software application company could use existing public data to develop new products, such as real-time public transport schedules, mapping services, or data bases on commercial activity and infrastructure planning in the region.

“This could be used to create new services and applications that save time and money and boost the economy. This would be particularly useful for small and medium-sized firms which lack the resources to gather these data themselves”, Ivailo Kalfin commented.

MEPs amended the proposal to ensure that companies can access data for free, or for a minimal charge, other than in a few clearly-defined cases.

They also ensured that if an authority denies access to public information or imposes abusive charges, it will be possible to appeal against its decision quickly and cheaply or at no cost.

Limiting exclusive access to data
MEPs set clear limits on the scope and duration of contracts whereby the authorities assign companies exclusive rights to digitise and manage public data.

The law was approved by 486 votes to 62, with 10 abstentions and endorsed an informal deal approved last week by the Council.

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