The Availability of Spatial and Environmental Data in the EU. At the Crossroads between Public and Economic Interests
Because the original and essential value of spatial data – data that refer to specific geographical locations or areas – lies in environmental decision-making, such data mostly originate in the public sector and are made available to people, companies, and public bodies according to rules of access, re-use and sharing. In the European Union, a complex system is in place by which public provision of spatial data is determined according to a tripartite distinction: sharing among public bodies for environmental policy purposes; public information or access upon request; and re-use for commercial or non-commercial purposes based upon the economic value of the data. How well does this distinction hold up against actual demands? It is the contention of this important book that these three categories overlap in practice, and that the rules that emerge from this distinction – and govern use of the data – are rendered ineffective by the character of the public task, which remains contingent, evolving, and political.
In the first study to treat the subject in depth, Katleen Janssen analyses the concepts that determine the application of the EU legal framework for the availability of spatial data. Drawing on a wide range of relevant sources – the fundamental EC directives (including the evolution towards these texts in earlier initiatives and preparatory documents), other European legislation, cases at several levels, and literature from economics and social and political science – she clearly exposes the impact of the lack of effective distinction between the applicable rules.
In the course of the analysis, several major issues and topics arise, including the following: ;
- public bodies’ use of the data for extra revenue;
- the public task debate and competition law;
- charging for public sector spatial data: cost recovery vs. open access;
- typologies of data, data providers and users, and data usage
The author also offers numerous perspectives on various relevant initiatives by United Nations agencies, the Council of Europe (including case law of the European Court of Human Rights), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as implications embodied in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Aarhus Convention.
It would be difficult to overestimate the significance of this incisive work in the development of European environmental law. In its detailed analysis of the goals for which spatial data are provided, the level of processing the data undergo before they are made available, and the type of data that are requested, it gives policymakers, practitioners and academics in the field a rich depository of information, commentary, guidance, and insight.
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