Friday, March 17, 2006

INSPIRE fencing off the commons in geospatial data

Yet another effort at locking up publicly funded data behind pay walls is quietly sneaking its way through the European Commission. INSPIRE is the Proposed European Commission Directive on European Spatial Data Infrastucture. In January the EU Council of Ministers decided that geographic data collected by national mapping agencies all over Europe should be owned by such agencies and not by the public. This is nothing new to the UK, (or indeed most other EU countries) as the Guardian, interestingly enough, has pointed out in recent weeks, with its Free Our Data campaign. So why should we be concerned about it? Well precisely because it brings the weight of an EU directive behind the practice of monopolising public data. There may well, of course, be questions to be asked about how the national mapping agencies sustain their work, with the significant drop in income that this loss of monopoly would bring; but the proposals deserve closer scrutiny than they have henceforth been getting.

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