Whilst it has been clearly established that under the INSPIRE Regulations as enacted in the UK, universities are considered ‘public authorities’ and hence fall under the scope of the INSPIRE Directive, there remains the need for clarity on interpreting ‘public task’.
Clause 5. 1 of the Scottish Regulations (and same applies to rest of the UK) state:
"Scope of application of the Regulations: spatial data sets and spatial data services
5.—(1) In so far as a provision of these Regulations concerns a spatial data set for which a Scottish public authority is responsible, that provision applies in relation to that spatial data set only if that data set is held— (a) by a Scottish public authority which has produced or received that data set, or manages or updates that data set, within the scope of its public tasks; or (b) by another person on behalf of a Scottish public authority which has produced or received that data set, or managed or updated that data set, within the scope of that authority’s public tasks." [our emphases]
So, the big question is – do universities need to comply to the INSPIRE Regulations? Being, as they are, defined as public authorities the impulse is to say ‘yes’, however the interpretation of the Regulations begs another follow on question – is it part of their Public Task?
Naively, one might think this would be a simple yes or no but initial enquries with our legal team suggest that universities do not have a defined public task and hence a clear answer is problematic.
Universities are not necessarily alone in this and in recognition of the ambiguities and lack of clarity around the term ‘public task’ advice has just been released by the National Archives which aims to provide a set of principles in relation to which statements of public task can be assessed..
These principles relate to the definition of “public task” under the re-use regulations rather than INSPIRE, but we anticipate that the principles will be transferred across to INSPIRE.