UK Ministry Releases Code on Handling Datasets

19 July 2013

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice July 16 published Code of Practice (Datasets) to implement the new dataset provisions in the Freedom of Information Act.

The code quickly drew criticism from the open data community.

UK public authorities are required to provide datasets in a re-usable format and with a licence for re-use, where reasonably practicable.

Owen Boswarva, an open data activist who has followed the issue closely, said the code
“is not only unhelpful but actively hostile to open data interests.” He continued:

“It is impossible to reconcile with either support for open data in civil society or with the broader transparency agenda espoused by the Cabinet Office. Compared to the status quo under existing FOI (which is silent on licensing of data for re-use), the new provisions are likely to encourage more charging for public data — and seem calculated to do so.

Boswarva has prepared an analysis pointing to a number of deficiencies, saying the ministry:

  1. removed the presumption that the Open Government Licence will apply in all but exceptional circumstances;
  2. replaced a statement that public authorities may charge a fee for re-use in exceptional cases with advice that they have the power to charge and should consider doing so;
  3. diluted or removed references to the Public Data Principles, the Five Star ranking system and the provision of metadata; and
  4. warned about third-party intellectual property rights in a manner that may make public authorities wary of licensing discussions.
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