The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) is the new name for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Its function is still much the same as before, though now rather than just restrictively enforcing Crown Copyright, the stated aim is “providing a practical framework of best practice for opening up and encouraging the re-use of public sector information.” As such it has the lead for the UK implementation of the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations which came into force on 1 July 2005.
Of course, the simplest and best way to maximise use and reuse of public sector information would be to abolish the feudal Crown Copyright laws. Such a freewheeling system operates in the United States of America and that is why the USA is the leading creator of information databases globally. Europeans complain about the American hegemony of online information (Google, Medline, Edubase, Lexis Nexis, Westlaw, various mapping databases) but then fail utterly to implement the kind of public copyright system that leads to the creation of such databases. Instead we have the weasley EU Directive on Public Sector Information.
This will not help public interest websites in the UK who must still pay extortionate rates to access OS maps or land registers – all information created and compiled by what are, ultimately, public bodies funded by taxpayers’ money. Public interest websites such as Up My Street or Write To Them have to beg and plead for public information and almost build their sites illegally because the government is so intent on making a few quick bucks at the expense of greater public good and overall economic growth.