In February, 23 partners kicked off the LAPSI 2.0 thematic network on the legal aspects of public sector information in Leuven, Belgium. The network, consisting of academic institutions and stakeholders from 15 countries, will continue where the previous LAPSI network left off, and look at the remaining legal barriers hindering the full and open availability of public sector information in Europe. The network will enable knowledge exchange between stakeholders; showcase good practice on how Member States and public bodies deal with PSI issues; and provide policy recommendations on how the European legal framework can support open data.

This European legal framework is currently being challenged by the emerging open data ecosystem. PSI is gradually being replaced by open data in people’s minds, throwing up a lot of new questions. For instance, over the years, many efforts have been made by national policy makers and public authorities to create more transparency in licensing procedures and to develop standard licences (although more transparency would still be very welcome!). However, this has led – somewhat counter-productively – to a proliferation of licence models, even among the open licences. Therefore, the LAPSI 2.0 network is focusing its attention in the first year of activities on the ‘legal interoperability’ of licences. What strategies can help to prevent conflicting (open) standardised licensing models from arising, and how can existing problems due to a lack of interoperability be addressed?

Another layer of complication with licenses comes from the shift from the provision of data via bulk downloads to the creation of web services, requiring the combination of a data approach with what is traditionally known as terms of service or service level agreements. Moreover, the one-source, one-way delivery of information from the public sector to the users is increasingly being replaced by participatory data sharing, the introduction of feedback loops and the integration of PSI with user generated content. It is questionable if the current legal framework is ready for this.

The LAPSI 2.0 network will also be working hard to embed PSI and open data in the institutional culture of the public sector, and – if this does not work – on the enforcement of the rules on PSI and open data through efficient and effective redress mechanisms. While many public bodies have embraced open data, there are still many more that need to be convinced about the benefits for economic growth, participation and accountability.

Whatever LAPSI 2.0 recommends, it will have to function against the background of the new Directive on re-use of PSI, which is due this summer. While the new directive is definitely a step in the right direction, its exact impact can currently only be guessed at by the rumours that are seeping through about the trialogue process. We anxiously await the final version of the directive, and look forward to playing a role in the translation of the text into Member States’ domestic law.

Over the next two years, LAPSI 2.0, in cooperation with other projects and initiatives, will organise two conferences and a number of workshops on the legal aspects of PSI and open data. Our first conference is already planned: on October 24th, we hope to see you in Ljubljana for a great day on “The new PSI directive: what’s next?”. We are also planning workshops at the Samos Summit in July and you can find us at all the important open data events, including the OKCon in Geneva.

If you are interested in knowing more about the network and our activities, check out our website or register for the stakeholders newsletter.