Proposal to amend European directive

Re-use of Public Sector Information

On the 12 December 2011 the European Commission announced  a  proposal  to  amend the European Directive on the re-use of Public Sector Information:
The aim of the proposal is to boost research, development and industry across Europe by removing barriers to the re-use of information held by public sector bodies in new information products and services developed by third parties. 

Who is covered

Public sector archives,  libraries (including university libraries)  and museums are being brought within the scope of the Directive for the first time. The proposal is that services which form part of broadcasting or performing arts organisations will generally not be brought within scope, but some private or voluntary sector services may be, depending upon the levels of public funding they receive, or the nature of any regulatory regime to which they are subject.

What is Covered

The great majority of archives, libraries and museums already permit a wide variety of commercial and non-commercial re-use of information by third parties, for example by licensing reproduction of images from their collections. The increasing scale of digitisation activity in particular is providing an important route for both public access and income generation to support services, but re-use in its widest sense is nothing new for the cultural sector: it has always been an important part of what we do.

What the Directive Does

The Directive aims to provide a transparent, fair and consistent legal framework to encourage this activity. The Directive contains provisions on non-discrimination between re-users, limits on exclusive arrangements and charging, transparency, licensing, and practical tools to facilitate re-use, such as guides and catalogues of what information is available..

How it Affects Archives, Libraries and Museums

The majority of archives, libraries and museums are already likely to meet the requirements as a matter of good practice, but the Directive will introduce an element of external regulation, and services will be legally required to comply.

The proposals do recognise the particular circumstances of cultural institutions. Most importantly, they  will have much greater freedom in setting levels of charging than other parts of the public sector, and  will not be required to permit the re-use of information from their collections in  which the copyright is owned by a third party.  


Once the proposed Directive is agreed and comes into force it is anticipated that member states will have eighteen months in which to  implement it in national legislation.

What Next?

As the National Archives has the UK policy lead on public sector information and will have the joint lead, with the Cabinet Office, on negotiating the final terms of the Directive and the UK law implementing it, TNA staff will work with colleagues at national and European level to ensure that the Directive encourages and supports re-use and can be implemented effectively by the whole sector.   As part of that process TNA will consult widely with public sector stakeholders, including the wider archival and cultural sectors and continue to provide updates and details of developments.