Charges to the public for reuse of public sector information

Julian Todd made this Freedom of Information request to Rother District Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Sir or Madam,

In a 10 July reply to an on-line Freedom of Information Request, the Interim Solicitor for Rother District Council stated that:

"Any application for consent to re-use information will be considered under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, but if consent is given a charge may be made to you."

The power to charge for allowing re-use is detailed in Section 15 of the aforementioned Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005. In particular:

"(5) Where a public sector body charges for re-use, so far as is reasonably practicable, it shall establish standard charges."

"(7) Where a standard charge for re-use has not been established, the public sector body shall specify in writing the factors that will be taken into account in calculating the charge if requested to do so by an applicant."

May I have a copy of:

* all established standard charges so far in existence for the re-use of Rother District Council's Public Sector Information, under Subsection 15(5).

* the list of factors that will be taken into account when calculating the charge for re-use of information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, under Subsection 15(7).

I hope it is clear that this minimal information needs to be available to the market so that people know what's on offer and at what price, and are then able to contribute to the Council's costs of collection, production, reproduction and dissemination of documents, as well as its reasonable return on investment.

It is not in anyone's interest for the public to hold an unfounded suspicion that a charging regime is being applied to frustrate the re-use of public sector information, rather than to raise revenue.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Todd.

Lynda Crawford, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Todd
Mr Edwards is on leave this week and I will therefore place your request before him on his return.

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David Edwards, Rother District Council

I am now out of the office - I hope to be back Monday 21 July.

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Lynda Crawford, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Todd

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

I rerfer to your request received on 14 July 2008 about Re-Use of Public
Section Information.

Under section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, a request for
information must comply with three requirements. It must:

(a) be in writing,
(b) state the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence, and
(c) describes the information requested.
After initial consideration, this request appears to comply with
requirements (a) and (c) but it does not comply with requirement (b)
because you do not provide an address for correspondence. We are entitled
to this even if the request is made by e-mail and you ask us for a reply
by e-mail, and we are able to comply.

Under section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we are not obliged
to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious, and
where we have previously complied with a request for information which was
made by any person, we are not obliged to comply with a subsequent
identical or substantially similar request from that person unless a
reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous
request and the making of the current request. The Information
Commissioner has advised that a request may be regarded as vexatious if
it:

o clearly does not have any serious purpose or value;
o is designed to cause disruption or annoyance;
o has the effect of harassing the public authority; or
o can otherwise fairly be characterised as obsessive or manifestly
unreasonable.
Unless we knew your real name and real address it would be more difficult
for us to determine whether your request was vexatious or repeated. For
instance, unless you are a professional journalist or researcher, your
request would be less likely to have any serious purpose or value if you
do not live in this District.

At the bottom of your e-mail you say that any reply will be published on
the Internet. With reference to that, would you please note that the Act
does not require us to consent to such publication and therefore, when you
have supplied your address for correspondence, any response would be
personal to yourself and no consent to publish it, for instance on a web
site, is given. Any application for consent to re-use information will be
considered under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005,
but if consent is given a charge may be made to you. Please feel free,
however, to display this response on your website.

Since the coming into force of the Act we have processed over 400 separate
direct requests from people who wrote letters, sent e-mails (with their
name and address) to [Rother District Council request email] <[1]mailto:[Rother District Council request email]> or
used our website. In the majority of these cases we have been able to
supply the information requested within the statutory time limit. We take
seriously our obligation to provide advice and assistance to people who
make genuine requests for information. If your request is not vexatious or
repeated, then I would invite you to make your request to us direct,
complying with section 8 of the Act. I assure you that having regard to
the Data Protection Act 1998 we do not divulge the names or addresses of
people who make requests for information.

You may use our internal complaints procedure if you are dissatisfied. If
you are still dissatisfied you may appeal to the Information
Commissioner. Please contact Anne Bruin, Customer Services Manager, if
you wish to complain.

David Edwards
Interim Solictor
01424 787840
www.rother.gov.uk

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References

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1. mailto:[Rother District Council request email]

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am notifying you of an unsatisfactory response on 23 July 2008 from Mr David Edwards (Interim Solicitor) regarding an FOI request I made about charges to the public for re-use of public sector information.

Please consider this email under paragraph 38 of the "Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs' Code of Practice on the discharge of public authorities' functions under Part I of the Freedom of Information Act 2000" which says:

"38. Any written reply from the applicant (including one transmitted by electronic means) expressing dissatisfaction with an authority's response to a request for information should be treated as a complaint, as should any written communication from a person who considers that the authority is not complying with its publication scheme. These communications should be handled in accordance with the authority's complaints procedure, even if, in the case of a request for information under the general rights of access, the applicant does not expressly state his or her desire for the authority to review its decision or its handling of the application."

The reply I received also breached Section 15(7) of the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 because I requested the factors that will be taken into account in calculating charges for reuse of information disclosed under FOI, and none were forthcoming.

Accordingly, my complaints are:

* I believe I have complied with Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act (subsections (1) AND (2)) whereby a request may be transmitted by electronic means. It is widely understood that an email constitutes "an address for correspondence". I have clearly described the information requested. My real name is Julian Todd.

* I believe my request is not "vexatious or repeated" (Section 14 of FOI). It cannot be repeated, since this is my first request to the Council. Nor could it be vexatious, unless there are any similar requests of this nature that the Council has attempted in good faith to satisfy, and I have been unreasonable in not accepting them.

* The Council has routinely threatened to levy charges under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005. These regulations provide a detailed framework for how these charges can be applied. I requested details about any established standard charges by the Council for the re-use of public sector information under the regulations; and factors that will be take into account in calculating such a charges for FOI requests where no standard charges have been established.

* Under the Act, you do not need to know the reasons I am applying for this information. However, there is clearly a wider public interest in the fact that if Rother District Council succeeds in establishing the precedent that it can threaten charges under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 to FOI requests without adhering to the duties set out in the regulations, then there is a substantial risk that many other Councils across the country will adopt the same practice.

I would like to be informed of when I can expect the internal complaints procedure to be completed.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Todd.

Lynda Crawford, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Todd

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

With reference to your request received on 14 July 2008 about Re-Use of
Public Section Information, I attach a link to the web site of the Office
for Public Sector Information about

Links Between Access and Re-use.
[1]http://www.opsi.gov.uk/advice/psi-regula...

This makes it clear that although access to most public sector information
is provided by the Freedom of Information Acts and by the Environmental
Information Regulations, provision of information under this access
legislation does not mean that the recipient has an automatic right to
re-use it, for example to publish it, or adapt it in some way. Most
information supplied in response to an access request will be protected by
copyright and permission to re-use it will be required.

Information about the Re-use of Rother's Information is given on our web
site, please see: [2]http://www.rother.gov.uk/index.cfm?artic... .

You say that "The Council has routinely threatened to levy charges under
the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005". I have to say
that that is not correct; we only drew attention to the need for a licence
to re-use such information for which we might levy charges. The point
being made was that saying at the bottom of your e-mail "Disclaimer: This
message and any reply that you make will be published on the internet"
does not amount to a request for a licence and grant thereof. As the
Council is under a legal obligation to respond to a request under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000, a response cannot be construed as a
consent to publish it on the Internet even if the issue is not addressed.

Actually, the guidance from the Office for Public Sector Information
suggests standard wording; "...You are free to use any information
supplied for your own non-commercial research or private study purposes.
The information may also be used for any other purpose allowed by a
limitation or exception in copyright law, such as news reporting. However,
any other type of re-use, for example by publishing the information in
analogue or digital form, including on the internet, will require the
permission of the copyright owner..." I accept that the wording we used
was different; but the intention was exactly the same.

No standard charges for licences under the Public Sector Information
Regulations 2005 have been adopted by this Council. Regulation 15(7) says
"Where a standard charge for re-use has not been established, the public
sector body shall specify in writing the factors that will be taken into
account in calculating the charge if requested to do so by an applicant".
Actually, no one (including yourself) has ever asked for a licence and
therefore it has never been necessary to address this issue. Were it to
arise, we would probably have regard, amongst other things such as our
administrative costs, to the purpose of the re-use, which would be
unpredictable. Whilst "whatdotheyknow" appears to be not-for-profit
itself, information could still be picked up from the site and used
commercially. I disagree with your implication that the Regulations
require us to publish either standard charges or the factors to which we
would have regard when setting a charge.

You may use our internal complaints procedure if you are dissatisfied. If
you are still dissatisfied you may appeal to the Information
Commissioner. Please contact Anne Bruin, Team Leader - Customer Services,
if you wish to complain.

David Edwards
Interim Solicitor
www.rother.gov.uk

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References

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1. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/advice/psi-regula...
2. http://www.rother.gov.uk/index.cfm?artic...

Carole Curley, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Todd,

I understand from Mr Edwards that he has, today, responded to your request
for information of 14th July.

In view of this can you please advise me whether or not you wish to
proceed with your complaint of 23rd July.

Thank you.

Carole Curley
Rother District Council
Administrative Officer
01424 787853 Ext 7853
[1][email address]

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References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Dear Carole Curley,

I have read David Edwards' reply to my request about the application of the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 to information disclosed under the FOI Act and find his response satisfactory -- as are the Council web pages he linked to on the matter. I cannot tell when these pages went on-line, but if they existed earlier it would have been convenient to have linked to them in any correspondence citing the Regulations.

He has confirmed that no licenses have been sought or granted from the Council under these Regulations -- which is important data in the functioning of them. He suggested that were any applications to be made for reuse of Public Sector Information obtained under FOI "administrative costs" might be taken into account. How this meshes with the coverage of administrative costs under FOI in the first place is an argument for another time.

I am therefore withdrawing my complaint.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Todd.

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

Julian's blog post about this request:

http://www.freesteel.co.uk/wpblog/2008/0...

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