The new Open Data Directive? What will it mean for public bodies?

10 November 2020

Did you know that a new Open Data and Re Use of Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive was agreed at EU level in 2019?  The full text of the the Directive is available here.

The objective of the recast of the Directive is to strengthen the EU’s data-economy by increasing the amount of publicly held and publicly funded data available for re-use. 

The main changes are framed so as to allow full exploitation of the potential of public sector information.  The Directive introduces an obligation for public bodies to publish available data unless access is restricted or excluded.  It brings public undertakings such as public utilities under the PSI and it proposes using Implementing Acts to set out lists of high value datasets which must be made available by public bodies. 

The new Directive is due to be transposed into Irish law by July 2021 and a summary of the main changes to the 2003 Directive are as follows:  

Change of title: to ‘Open Data and the re-use of public sector information’

The inclusion of ‘Open Data’ in the title provides clarity and strengthens the requirement for public bodies to publish data in open formats. 

Dynamic Data and use of APIsPublic bodies will be required to make data available for reuse where possible in open and machine readable formats.   Dynamic data should be made available via APIs and bulk download where relevant. 

Introduction of Implementing Acts to improve access to high-value datasets:  The Directive introduces the concept of high value datasets (HDVs), which is defined as data the re-use of which is associated with important benefits for the society and economy.  Certain lists of high value datasets will have to be made available by public bodies and public undertakings for free in machine readable format, be accessible via APIs and be free to re-use. 

The Commission will adopt lists of specific high value datasets under each of six themes set out in an Annex to the Directive (Geospatial, Earth observation and environment, Meteorological, Statistics, Companies and company ownership and Mobility) by way of an implementing act which is due to be published in early 2021.  This will have particular impact on public bodies who currently charge for their data.  

Scope expanded to include public undertakingsThe scope of the Directive will be expanded to include public undertakings.  This refers to entities entrusted with the provision of public services (water, energy, transport, postal services, public transport services by rail and road, air carriers or marine transport services) which are funded or governed by public bodies.  These organisations will retain the discretion to make data available for re-use except where requested in an Implementing Act.  Information outside the scope of the public service is excluded.

Scope extended to include Research Data:  Publicly funded research data will now come under the Directive and national policies will be required aimed at making this research openly available.  This data should be made available through online repositories provided by the research body and accessible APIs.

Amendment to charging principlesAmendments have been made to the charging stipulations, the directive proposes that data should be made free of charge or charges limited to marginal cost recovery.  In the interests of transparency where public bodies are required to generate income to enable them to perform their functions they must be included on a published list of such bodies.

Prohibition of exclusive arrangements:  The Directive encourages transparency and openness. Where exclusive arrangements are entered into after the Directive comes into force the terms of those arrangements must be made publicly available online

Queries on the new Directive can be emailed to