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INSPIRE Knowledge Base

Data and service sharing

Access to spatial data sets and services

Access to spatial data and services constitutes an important basis for environmental policies for all public authorities and is therefore a central aspect of the Infrastructure for spatial information in the European Community. Since the Community institutions and bodies in most cases have to integrate and assess spatial information from all the Member States, INSPIRE recognises the need to be able to gain access to and use spatial data and spatial data services in accordance with an agreed set of harmonised conditions.The INSPIRE Directive lays down a number of rights and obligations regarding the sharing of spatial data sets and services between all levels of government (public authorities).

According to Art(4), the arrangements apply to all spatial data sets which relate to one or more of the 34 data themes listed in the INSPIRE annexes I to III, are in electronic format, and refer to an area where a Member State has and/or exercises jurisdictional rights. The arrangements apply to public authorities and/or entities/organisations managing or requiring the spatial data or services on their behalf.

Implementing rules on data and service sharing

Article 17(8) of INSPIRE Directive requires the development of implementing rules to regulate the provision of access to spatial data sets and services from Member States to the institutions and bodies of the Community.

Principles for sharing of spatial data sets and services between public authorities within and Member States, on the other hand, are contained directly in the Directive; the definition of the concrete measures to be implemented to this end is left to the responsibility of each Member State and is not within the scope of these implementing rules. The Regulation on INSPIRE Data and Service Sharing was adopted on the 29th March 2010.

The main points of the Regulation are the following:

  • Metadata must include the conditions applying to access and use for Community institutions and bodies; this will facilitate their evaluation of the available specific conditions already at the discovery stage.
  • Member States are requested to provide access to spatial data sets and services without delay and at the latest within 20 days after receipt of a written request; mutual agreements may allow an extension of this standard deadline.
  • If data or services can be accessed under payment, Community institutions and bodies have the possibility to request Member States to provide information on how charges have been calculated.
  • While fully safe-guarding the right of Member States to limit sharing when this would compromise the course of justice, public security, national defence or international relations Member States are encouraged to find the means to still give access to sensitive data under restricted conditions, (e.g. providing generalized datasets) Upon request, Member States should give reasons for these limitations to sharing.

The implementation of arrangements in agreement with this Regulation follows a phased approach. As a basic rule, within 18 months from its adoption, all INSPIRE arrangements between European institutions and bodies and Member States must follow these rules; however, a transitional period is foreseen, which allows for a derogation to arrangements already in place when the Regulation enters into force.

Guidelines and good practice documents

In parallel with the definition of the formal Regulation, technical guidelines have been developed. They are intended as a document helping Member States to implement the Regulation on INSPIRE Data and Service Sharing, and also contain non binding instruments, such as model contracts, and illustrate related concepts such as framework agreements. A second supporting document provides examples of good practice related to sharing within and between Member States. A list of central issues has been established and for every topic criteria for good practice have been defined. Topics covered are e.g. transparency, framework agreements, coordination, charging mechanisms, public access etc.).