UK – Freedom of Information – the next generation

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on August 12, 2013

By Steve Wood : “The evolution of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will reach a key milestone on 1st September, as the new open data rights come into force. Changes to the law not only give new rights to request data in a form that means it can be re-used, but also give users the right to re-use that data, even commercially. It is a welcome upgrade for FOIA. The strong foundation we have in the current legislation is being enhanced by additional rights. Put simply, the more usable the data, the greater the potential to enhance accountability, transparency and economic growth. The ICO (Independent Commissioner’sOffice) is keen to play its part in the process. We’ve published new guidance on the changes, as well as an at-a-glance list of what public authorities can do to get ready for the changes. We’ve also highlighted a couple of possible pitfalls in providing the information. The changes are all about datasets, something defined in the new legislation. Section 102 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 has amended sections 11 and 19 of the Freedom of Information Act, giving new rights to receive datasets in a form capable of re-use (e.g. CSV). For the first time, the Act now gives users the right to re-use datasets, under the terms of a specified licence – in most cases likely to be the Open Government Licence (OGL). The amendments also require public authorities to publish any requested datasets as part of their publication scheme, if appropriate.  It is important to note that the changes do not give new rights of access – they are concerned with format and the ability to re-use datasets, once the public authority has decided that no exemptions or other provisions (e.g. costs, vexatious) in the legislation apply. The new Freedom of Information (Release of Datasets for Re-use) (Fees) Regulations 2013 have also been published today. These new regulations set out how a public authority can charge for making a certain datasets available for re-use – the costs they can recover and a reasonable return on investment.”

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