Opinion & Analysis

Data Flows – Future Scenarios



Significant progress towards the digital single market is promised with the opening of data currently held as private archives for more general use, for innovation and development, in a “data-driven” economy.

This In Depth Analysis explores the issues around access to open data in the EU, particularly in the context of the European Commission’s January 2017 Communication, Building A European Data Economy, and the proposed Regulation on a framework for the free flow of non-personal data in the European Union.

The report examines the current state of play in the market and the legal framework concerning open data in the EU, both at European and national levels. Barriers impeding access to open data are discussed and possible solutions are identified in the form of future scenarios to 2020-25. How and to what extent the proposed measures could be implemented, at EU level, is discussed with policy recommendations. This succinct briefing is based on recently published data and current analysis.


• On the recommended legal framework to move forward: the optimal choice is to reuse the structures of open source software licensing for open data.

• How should competition be considered in the hypothesis of total opening?: It will be advantageous if all competitors are considered as equal beneficiaries of open data. This implies that open data is positioned in a pre-competitive category, requiring further refining through processing to move up in worth to have commercially valuable.

• Is data that is made to optimise the manufacturing process and to achieve company specific competitiveness affected by an unlimited opening of databases?: As emphasised by the last point, the class of content that would be put into open datasets is unlikely to affect competiveness, as it should be too uninformative, diverse and disparate of itself and so would not approach what might be termed commercially useful or confidential data. To share it widely is feasible without infringing essential IPR for the enterprise.

• What is the value of the commercialisation of this data?: At a simple level, if data becomes widely traded, it will be valued by the market. Currently the total EU data market is estimated at €60 billion, of which only two percent is open data. More broadly, the report examines how open data can be valued and the factors that affect this.

• Can regulation cover all aspects of this? Should more scope be given to contractual agreements?: The report explores four scenarios, including doing nothing, using existing contractual law, the concept of a new right in data, as well as an approach suggested by open source software licensing.

• What are the legislative measures that could enable the guarantee of the free movement of non-personal data in the EU?: The report proposes a novel form of contractual agreement – Open Data Licensing – with different types of licence providing permission suitable for the wishes of different donors and appropriate to the kinds of application proposed.

• What are the critical factors in data protection and privacy and how should we simultaneously tackle data management and security?: A critical issue is the contamination of open data by personal data. This will require vigilance that can be enforced under the current GDPR.

Read the full report here