Public Sector Information and Open Data

EU Public Sector Information Directive

On 18th July 2015, the EU PSI Directive was extended to cover “public museums, libraries (including university libraries) and archives” in the UK. The Directive means that under certain circumstances museums will be required to make some information available to other users for re-use. This is information produced by the museum as part of their “public task” - the stated purposes of the organisation derived from common administrative practice or Statute - and only where that information has already been made available to another user.

The PSI Directive is not intended to disrupt operating models where a museum, archive or library earns income from the licensing of material in which it owns the intellectual property rights (IPR) or where the creation of those documents has required substantial investment. Similarly, it is not intended to disrupt the museum’s pursuit of their public task. However, it is intended to require museums to be transparent about what information can be re-used, the pricing of it, and the terms and conditions on which that re-use can take place.

NMDC's briefing about the EU PSI Directive for museums is here.

Which museums does this apply to?

The NMDC Decision Tree may help establish whether or not a museum may be subject to the Directive. Please note that the Decision Tree should be used for guidance only and The National Archives should be contacted for clarification.

However, a museum is likely to be subject to the Directive if:

  • It is wholly or mainly financed by another public sector body (including central and local government); or
  • It is financed mainly or wholly by a university AND part of a university library; or
  • It is subject to the management supervision of another public sector body; or
  • More than half of the Board of Trustees (or equivalent) is appointed by one or more public sector bodies.

The Directive applies to all UK national museums. It does not apply to university museums, or independent museums that have no financial, management or governance relationship with a public body.

 What is public sector information?

Public sector information is data, documents, images and electronic files created by a public body during the course of its core business. In a museum context this may include statistical information, documents, collections management records, or images in which the museum owns the IPR.

Public Task

Each museum’s public task will be different. It should be a clear statement of what
the purpose of the museum is and what it does. It should be defensible and
reflect what the Government/Local Authority and the public would reasonably
expect the museum to be and do. Further guidance on how to write a Public Task is available from The National Archives.

Exceptions for museums

The Directive includes a number of exceptions for public museums, libraries and archives.

  • Museums can apply a degree of discretion to what they make available: re-use is not mandatory.
  • Museums (and libraries and archives) are able to charge “beyond minimal costs” for re-use to re-coup the costs of producing the document and make a reasonable return on investment.
  • Museums, libraries and archives will still be able to enter into time-limited exclusive arrangements (up to 10 years) with third parties if this provides the only realistic way in which material may be digitised and made available to the public.

Charging for re-use

As licensing of information is a significant income stream for museums, they
will be able to charge “beyond minimal cost” – market value – for the
information. However, they will not be able to charge different fees to
different users for the same piece of information where it is being used for a
similar purpose.

Museum trading subsidiaries

Museum trading companies are independent of the museum and are wholly
commercial in nature. Therefore, the PSI Directive does not apply to them and
they will be considered as a user meaning museums may not be able to give their
trading companies preferential access to information.

Further information

More detailed information and guidance about the EU PSI Directive is available from The National Archives, including Guidance for Cultural Bodies and further information on drafting a Public Task. They have also produced a glossary of terms used.