[Freegis-list] Campaign for rejecting Inspire directive?

Jo Walsh jo at frot.org
Wed Aug 17 11:48:05 CEST 2005

dear Michael, list, 

On Tue, Aug 16, 2005 at 09:51:01AM +0200, michael gould wrote:
> The current thinking among Inspire creators/supporters, is that it is better
> to get a weak directive signed, and then work on the implementation rules to
> try to tighten things up.

It would be good to hear your assessment of where the proposed Directive
has been 'weakened' and how that might be subject to fixing
> The current GI situation in Europe is
> heavily NMA-controlled, however I see their position(s) evolving some over
> the past few years. 

To an EU process and GI industry outsider, it looks as if INSPIRE has
been dictated by the concerns of a cartel of National Mapping Agency
representatives, at the expense of data holders and users. These are
valid concerns: because NMAs can and do operate in competitive commercial 
markets, government pressure to semi-privatise mapping agencies,
and reduce their public budget is intense. 
This is part of a bigger debate surrounding the ethics, if you like,
of commercialising government-collected information of all kinds. 

The 'weak' directive does not reflect this debate; it enshrines
existing copyright and IP policies in EU law, decreasing our
chances of amending it locally. It entrenches the NMAs in a historic
position, rather than reflecting their changing role as it rapidly
emerges. It makes expensive and unnecessary stipulations about data
distribution, *mandating* e-commerce services for all geodata sources
that are not openly accessible - quite a cost and implementation
burden in itself.  

> producers. As coordinators they will find the current licensing and pricing
> schemes too messy and will themselves lobby for more open distribution
> (sharing) among the partners they are coordinating.

Then why the rush to entrench IP stances in EU law now? Again, why
can't this be addressed at the national level before rushing into a
Directive that is evasive and unclear? 
> Alternative to campaign for rejection? Gentle pressure in the form of
> alternatives proposed on lists such as this one. It is my impression that
> more radical approaches --especially those from individuals or small groups
> labeling themselves as hackers (!)-- do not get decision-makers' attention
> and are too easily dismissed. 

I understand that to have a voice at an EU level, one needs to be not
merely an organisation, but a coalition of organisations. These
structures reflect the priorities of large-scale business and
professional lobbying organisations, not of loose groups of small
companies and individual developers.  

This is why we set up http://www.okfn.org/geo/ and why, as a small
coalition of projects, we've been working to propose a not-for-profit
free license for state-collected geodata, generalised if necessary, 
very similar to that being used by the BBC to provide more open access to
its archives.

I've been Inspire-watching for a year and would have had no idea how
to submit amendments or acquire a voice in the process; especially
when large coalitions of state-funded data holders and creators (the
marine/oceanographic people) have had their needs and views sidelined.

> Practical demos of how things could be
> different seem to be working better. 

"Chicken, meet egg." Most of the interesting activity on the
geowanking list is from US and some Canadian projects. Without open access 
to the GI that describes our own parts of the world, how can we
develop metadata sharing and web services solutions that will appear
meaningful, recognisable to those we are trying to convince? 

I co-authored 'Mapping Hacks' to have the chance to present
interesting Open Source GIS tools and semantic web principles in the
context of the data access and dissemination debate. I hang my head
when i confess to my UK/EU friends that 75% of the 'hacks' in the book
are only possible in the US because of the data access policy that
obtains there. 

I don't keep up with the OpenSDI conversation, but there is at least a
candidate free software solution for Total Spatial Data Infrastructure
in the world. I don't see where the route to informing 'decision
makers' at the INSPIRE level of these solutions is. Can you help?     

> But remember that complete solutions are not only tech-related. They need to
> include solutions for tricky legal issues such as digital rights management,
> versioning, etc.

Without access to real-world, meaningful data to make test cases out
of, we can't develop these solutions at a free-software, free-time

> So let's hear fully-developed ideas on how to migrate 25 NMAs from cost
> recovery mode to public dissemination mode!

I would rather hear these ideas emerging from the NMAs themselves, or
hear more about where this debate is being conducted inside the
INSPIRE implementation process now.

I think that a free-for-non-profit-use license, available without
supplication, is the turnkey in enabling academic and private
researchers to build integration and translation solutions driven by
their own needs. 

Given the messy history of European GI directives i appreciate that
you don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. 

I would like to see an alternative to INSPIRE and deeply regret having
been unable to mobilise an amendment campaign before the first reading
was complete. I'd like to see an analysis of where it is really still 
weak, and where it makes IP and copyright assumptions that will
suppress innovation and economic activity, before any campaign to
throw the whole thing out, which i fear would just be an energy sink
for those of us working towards free information infrastructures.

http://www.ael.be/index.php/InspireDirective seems like a good place
to start, at least.

Paolo, i think, suggested a while back that the freegis 'community'
could be putting together a whitepaper on open standards, open source
driven approaches to the 'implementing rules'. Again, i don't know how
such proposals are inserted or accepted into the INSPIRE working
groups, or how to make sure this would just not sink without trace.

This is perhaps not the FFII's normal thing, Benjamin, but perhaps it 
could help assemble a 'working group' / provide online space for such
an effort.

> These are going to be interesting times (next 5 years or so).

I'm still waiting for the Big Information Crunch.


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