'Turning Government Data into Gold': The Interface between EU Competition Law and the Public Sector Information Directive – With some Comments on the Compass-Case
International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law (IIC), Forthcoming
14 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2012 Last revised: 9 Feb 2017
Date Written: September 19, 2012
This short article was triggered by the recently delivered preliminary ruling by the CJEU in the Compass case. The case is important since it raises difficult questions regarding when a public sector body should benefit from the application of EU competition law in general and is specifically interesting for those public sector bodies that create the essential information needed for the growing Public Sector Information industry. The main issue discussed in the article is when public sector bodies should be considered “undertakings”, under EU competition law. The substantive issue of the case being whether the specific conduct under scrutiny, i.e. the disbursement of public sector information for remuneration, is an economic activity or not. In light of the Compass case, the author argues that the underlying doctrine, derived from quite a number of CJEU cases, needs to be narrowed down and tightened so that public sector bodies are exempted as not conducting economic activities only when the scrutinized activity is truly indispensable for a specific exercise of public power. The CJEU should thereby refine the current case law regarding the dichotomy between undertakings, which benefit from the application of competition law, and public or private bodies, that perform acts of sovereign public power and thereto connected conduct, which do not. EU competition law should prevail if a public sector body or a private body conduct an activity that creates or is conducted on a market, irrespective if that body simultaneously conducts a public task, as long as it is not a conduct of public power.
Keywords: EU Competition Law, Undertaking, Public Sector Information, PSI, Compass and Compass-case
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