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 This is the first of a series of posts where we will examine the methods and practices used to make requests for re-use in the Member States. The example of France.

Under the regulations an applicant may make a request to re-use, but what exactly means “re-use” and what is the subject of the re-use?

According to the PSI Directive definition, re-use means:

the use by a person or a legal entity of a document held by a public sector body for a purpose other than the initial purpose within that public sector body’s public task for which the document was produced    

Well, we now know that re-use is referred to “documents”. Are they pieces of paper or their definition is broader?

Again, the  PSI Directive help us. “Document” means:

any content whatever its medium (written on paper or stored in electronic form or as a sound, visual or audiovisual recording) or any part of such content. 

Ok, we can condensate the above saying that a request for re-use is:

A request for a content produced by a public sector body for a purpose different from the one that justified the creation of that content. 

But, how to practically apply a request for re-use to a public sector body?

Different Member States use different approaches. In this post we examine the French situation.

 

How to make a re-use request to a French public sector body

In France the main reference on the topic is the CADA, i.e. the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (http://www.cada.fr ). It is an independent administrative and advisory body responsible for ensuring the freedom of access to administrative documents.
 

Its role is mainly to advise on the refusal by the public sector body to requests for communication from individuals, companies or associations. In case you are denied access to a document or you do not receive a response within a month, you can refer to the CADA that examines the request and expresses an opinion which constitutes a pre-litigation remedy. CADA’s opinion is mandatory before any litigation.

How to identify the right person or department of a French public sector body to whom address a request?

Public sector bodies above certain dimensions are subject to the obligation of designation of a PRADA (Personne Responsable de l’Accès aux Documents Administratifs et des questions relatives à la réutilisation des informations publiques) as required by the Code des relations entre le public et l’administration – articles L330-1 et R.330-2 et suivants.

Hence, the first thing to do is to find the PRADA contact of the public sector body you want to make the request. You can refer to the official list of PRADA contacts available on the CADA website.

Is there any template or standardized module to fill in a re-use request?

Normally not. You should at least respect some general provisions:

  • the request should not be too general ( opinion n ° 20071121 of March 22nd, 2007);
  • the documents must be precisely enumerated ( opinion no. 20071121 of 22 March 2007 and opinion no. ° 20081703 of May 6, 2008);
  • the documents requested should not be too numerous or represent an exorbitant volume, likely to cause material problems (for example: all the supporting documents for the accounts of a local authority: opinion n ° 19993707 of October 28th, 1999).

Sometimes you can find an on line form on the public sector body website, some examples here:

 

If there is no a dedicated online form, you should address your request to the PRADA contact, if available.

A possible incipit for the request may be the following, as suggested here:

Madame, Monsieur,
Au titre du droit d’accès aux documents administratifs consacré par la loi CADA, je souhaite obtenir la communication [du rapport bidule, du code source de tel logiciel, etc.].

En vous remerciant par avance,

Votre nom (agrémenté dans l’idéal de vos coordonnées). 

 

“Public sector information” and “open government data” may at first sight appear as synonyms and thus refer to the same thing. After all, the words “public” and “government” suggest the same origin. This is also the case for the terms "information" and "data".

However, there is a magic word, "open", which makes a big difference. But let's go back a little and see what is the universally recognised definition of "public sector information".

Public Sector Information (PSI) is the wide range of information that the public sector collects, produces, reproduces, publishes and disseminates in many areas of activity while accomplishing their institutional task. In some cases , there are also private sector suppliers of data and information that can be considered substitutes for public sector information.

There is no evidence to the term “open” in the definition of the public sector information.

On the other side, “open government data” is defined as material that is:

  • Produced or commissioned by government or government controlled entities.
  • “Open” as defined by this site’s Open Definition– in essence material (data) is open if it can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone

In view of the above it is obvious that “open government data” are a subset of the “public sector information”; in particular they are the “open” portion of the “public sector information”.

An image is worth a thousand words, so if we draw the two definitions on a Venn diagram the difference looks evident.

We are proud to announce that the PSI Monitor web site is up and running: a publicly accessible database of requests for the re-use of public sector information (PSI). The underlying legal framework is the Directive on the re-use of public sector information, the so called 'PSI Directive' (2003/98/EC1), amended by Directive 2013/37/EU.


The PSI Directive encourages the Member States to make as much information available for re-use as possibile. As a result in the last few years a number of open data portals at national level are born. Nevertheless the re-use of a significant number of commercially relevant datasets still remains subject to charges and conditions which require a submission of individual requests for re-use, addressed to public sector bodies of the Member States.

The PSI Monitor collects and catalogs these individual requests for re-use on a voluntary basis; therefore all those who have made a request for reuse, whether individual or legal entities, are invited to enter the main information regarding their request into the database.

There is a big buzz around open data today, but for the non-experts it remains an abstract concept.
Let us try to clarify the things by referring to the most universally recognised definition. The home page of the Open Definition project (managed by the Open Knowledge Foundation) contains the following:

“Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).”

The site exposes also a full definition for those who want to know more about that.

And what about open government data? Open Definition is once again helping us:


“Open”” as defined above, in essence material (data) is open if it can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone, produced or commissioned by government or government controlled entities.


As we can see, open government data are a subset of open data.

 

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