Polish Ministry of Infrastructure and Development introduces open licensing requirements

In October, the Polish Ministry of Infrastructure and Development (MIR) has announced a grant competition for digital literacy education projects, with a total value of PLN 180 million (EUR 45 million). It is one of several recently launched grant programs that include a requirement to openly license and make freely available resources created with public funding. Total value of the announced competitions exceeds PLN 400 million (approx. EUR 100 million).

Furthermore, a requirement to openly license educational resources is present in general guidelines for educational activities funded in Poland from the European Social Fund – a funding source with an overall budget of over EUR 35 billion, to be spent until 2020. This requirement is among the biggest open policies implemented today (in terms of the volume of funding covered by the rule).

EQUAL program and the origins of open policies for EU funds spending in Poland

This type of requirement was first introduced by the Polish public administration in the EU-funded EQUAL program, running between 2004 and 2008 (administered by MIR – at that time called the Ministry of Regional Development, MRR). Since then, several ministries, including Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Administration and Digitisation, have included such requirements in their grant programs. New policies, implemented by MIR mark a continuation of this approach. At the same time, new developments mean that the rule of “public availability of publicly funded works” will apply to a much larger source of public funding.

European structural funding for Poland in the years 2014-2020 is divided into six Operational Programs, with an overall value of 82,5 billion Euros. In the period until 2020, these funds constitute a major funding source, alongside the state budget. Dedicated Operational Programs will provide funding to broadly understood educational activities (Operational Program Knowledge Education Development – POWER) and the growth of digital society (Operational Program Digital Poland – POPC). Introduction of open licensing policies into these programs constitutes an important step in the development of open policies for public funding in Poland.

Open licensing in grant competitions of the Digital Poland Operational Programme

The currently announced competition is conducted under Measure 3.1 of the Digital Poland Operational Programme (POPC), focusing on the “development of the digital competences of the society”. The Ministry is currently allocating PLN 180 million for 3-year digital literacy projects, with 360 million to be allocated altogether for this Measure by 2020.

Funding under Measure 3.1 will be available primarily for training activities, but the beneficiaries will also be allowed to design and create educational resources for the purpose of the trainings.

Based on the assessment criteria, applicants will receive points for planning to create and share educational or training resources. At the same time, according to the assessment criteria,

“the beneficiary will be required to share materials prepared as part of the realized project under licenses allowing to freely use, copy and distribute copies of the original work in whole or in parts as well as to make and distribute derivative works based on it.”

The principle of openness has also been introduced to two other grant competitions for digitisation of government data and academic resources (within the Submeasure 2.3.1: “Digital access to public sector information from administrative and academic sources”).  PLN 118 million will be allocated for sharing of digitized public sector information and data, and another PLN 118 million for Open Access: digitisation of academic resources.

As these competitions concern mostly the digitization and sharing of resources, the requirement applies first and foremost to digitized materials. Specifications concerning digitized public sector information state that:

“with regard to the PSI resources falling within the scope of the project, the issue of copyright and patents has been settled. PSI shared to be re-used and subject to copyright must be shared under free licenses (such as Creative Commons Attribution License). You must declare the type of license to be used and ensure that appropriate marking will be displayed on the web pages (own and/or owned by third parties) which will be used to share such resources. You must also declare that the legal status of the PSI resources not subject to copyright will be clearly marked with the use of standardized tools (for instance, Creative Commons Public Domain Mark).”

Similar provisions were included in the competition concerning academic resources.

Overall, these grant requirements provide strong open licensing policies, including a libre Open Access approach to academic resources.

Openness as requirement for educational activities funded from the  European Social Fund

Finally, in June the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development published “Guidelines for the implementation of educational projects financed by the European Social Fund 2014-2020”. It states that the institutions managing projects financed by the ESF are to guarantee that the educational materials will “be made available under free licensing that provides the users at least with the right to freely use the work for commercial and non-commercial purposes, to make and distribute copies of the works in whole or in parts as well as to make and distribute derivative works based on the original work.” These guidelines apply both to the Operational Program Knowledge Education Development (with a total volume of EUR 4.4 billion) and sixteen Regional Operational Programmes (RPO), with a total worth of EUR 31.2 billion. A significant part of ESF funding is expected to be spent on educational activites, and these in turn will include the creation of educational resources.

Next steps towards openness of public resources

Provisions adopted by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development under the POPC and POWER programmes, and for ESF funding are an important step in the development of the idea of open public resources. We hope that they will become model policies for other EU member states, in which structural funds are being spent.