Articles filed under Open access

In the last issue we looked at the concept of open law; we should probably now take a step back and consider what is meant by open data.

Open data is the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or similar. The philosophy behind it is long established, but the term “open data” itself was more recently coined. It appeared for the first time in 1995, in a document from an American scientific agency, and it gained traction with the rise of the internet and the web as the platform enabling its effective delivery.

Most types of primary legislation (eg Acts, Measures, NI Orders in Council) on legislation.gov.uk are intended to be held in “revised” form, meaning that amendments made by subsequent legislation are incorporated into the text. Most types of secondary legislation are not revised and are held only in the form in which they were originally made.

A central criticism of legislation.gov.uk in the past has been that much primary legislation is not in fact up to date, in some cases lagging several years behind amending instruments. However, recent efforts have turned this situation around.

Legislation.gov.uk is now in the final stages of a programme to bring all the revised legislation fully up to date. Except for a few special cases that require extra work (such as the Taxes Management Act 1970), the backlog of outstanding effects will have been cleared and the revised legislation brought up to date by the end of 2018.

Open law is the idea that public legal information should be freely available to everyone to access, use and republish. The current position in the UK differs completely as between legislation and case law.

Open access logoOpen access (OA), in its simplest form, means unrestricted online access to research outputs. These outputs cover all forms of research including journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, monographs and more. In its wider sense any kind of digital content can be open access, from texts and data to software, audio, video and multi-media.

But what do we mean by unrestricted access?

Open v free

There is a common misconception that free access is open access. Much of the content of the internet is free to access – newspaper websites, YouTube videos, the BBC etc. However, whilst your access to this content is free, the publisher retains all the intellectual property rights to the content and controls what you can or can’t do with it. You can’t just copy or reuse content as you please. Clearly this kind of free access, while reserving all rights, is a perfectly acceptable publishing model, but it is not open access.