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EARSC Position Paper on Industry Access to Copernicus Sentinel Data

The practical aspects of Copernicus Data Policy

In the recent EARSC position paper (Industry Access to Copernicus Sentinel Data) a number of areas have been identified where it would appear that the anticipated free and open data policy alone will not achieve the desired results due to some practical, conceptual or financial limitations on data access. EARSC is concerned that this will make it difficult for the EO services industry to play a full role in meeting growth and competitiveness goals. Consequently we look forward to future discussion on the practical aspects of Copernicus Data Policy.


Considerable discussion and exchange of views has taken place amongst stakeholders concerning the appropriate data policy for Copernicus Sentinel data2 and in particular the introduction of a free and open policy. Representing the view of the EO services industry, EARSC has been supporting the view that the data should be free and has recently completed a study3 looking at the impacts of such a policy. The study examines the consequences of a free and open data policy and makes a series of recommendations on steps that would help grow the EO services industry.

The industrial view supporting this policy is based on the perspective that the greatest benefit accruing from Copernicus will come from having free and open access to this new, public data. Industry expects to exploit the Copernicus Sentinel4 data through developing new business with commercial (ie non-public) and export (ie non-EU) customers.

That being said, the industry also includes commercial data providers which expect a negative impact on revenues by virtue of free and open data policy unless adequate measures are taken. Private satellite operators – some with the support of Member States and the EU – have made large investments to build, launch and operate a number of satellite systems. Full and open access to Sentinel data will present a direct challenge for these data providers, where off-setting market growth may take considerable time to develop. Private satellite operators have played a fundamental role in the GMES pre-operational phase by complementing data available through ESA satellites. This role has demonstrated repeatedly that it is in the best interest of the EU to have a strong private satellite operators’ industry sector. Hence a free and open data policy must be accompanied by measures which help the transition of the European commercial data providers’ business models.

More recently, industry focus has turned to the practical aspects of a Free and Open data policy and how companies will be able to obtain imagery to be used for commercial business. It may be fine that the data is free but this is of no consequence if industry / companies are unable to access it. This has led to an exchange of information on the practicalities of the data access which gives rise to a number of concerns which are considered in this short paper.

EARSC Position Paper on Industry access to GMES _ Copernicus Data final