INSPIRE Directive heading towards UK law

INSPIRE, the directive establishing a spatial data infrastructure for environmental information in Europe,
is heading into UK law at last. DEFRA is doing a consultation on the transposition of the law and OKFN will hopefully co-submit a response by 26th May with the Open Rights Group, a summary of the responses is on the okfn-discuss mailing list.

In short it is fairly good news for those of you who are tiring of having requests for information about data holdings from the likes of Ordnance Survey, Transport for London, refused under FOI on the grounds of commercial confidence. Public authorities affected by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 Schedule 1 will be obliged to make the metadata for their geodata holdings available to the public free of cost, from 24th December 2010 (okay, so it’s still a bit of a wait). Additionally, “view services” complying with the Web Map Service spec will have to be available in just over 2 years time, for which there will be a “presumption of public access”.

So we will see Ordnance Survey’s MasterMap available in full via WMS (if still restricted for commercial use) or there will be a very good reason why it is not. What will happen to searches for data sets contained in MasterMap – will they come back as “here is the metadata for MasterMap as a whole, here is where to license it?”

I wrote about the metadata issue for Terradue a lot, the model contains 30-plus fields that must be completed, many of which don’t have a direct bearing on data search. But it will be mandatory, and it will be free of cost to all, and that will be a great improvement on where we are now. There will also have to be changes in how data licensing is managed online, as any data that is “restricted” for download must be made available through an e-commerce service – in the case of bodies like TfL this will mean a lot of data that has never surfaced publicly before. I am looking forward to it!

There is some uncertainty over what will happen to the information held by Trading Funds if they are fully privatised and thus no longer meet the definition of “public authority”, and I am trying not to worry about that.