EU to water down data law

July 5, 2002

A draft European Union directive that would have forced universities to release research data for immediate free commercial exploitation has been toned down after critics pointed out that it would have deprived institutions of funds.

The original idea was designed to boost competitiveness in the EU economy. But Michael Cashman, a Labour MEP for the West Midlands, expressed relief that the idea had been abandoned. "Universities should be able to control the use of the material and respect for copyright is vital. Otherwise, all the finances that went into getting to that point of research will be lost."

The revised proposal will allow universities to make a "reasonable" profit on their research data, rather than being limited to releasing information and charging companies their costs only, as in the earlier draft. It will also give EU member states more freedom to decide what kind of data should be released.

"It recognises that some public bodies rely on income generated by the sale of information," said the European Commission's directorate general for research.

Nonetheless, the new draft cites US studies that have concluded that the lower the price for reusing public-sector information, the higher the economic impact.

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