Data Policy Ordnance Survey

So is the OS derived data issue now solved ?

Well from reading a couple of press releases the signs look hopeful…

Both the OS and the Dept. of Communities and Local Government have announced the signing of the new Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), a sole source long term contract for providing mapping data to all of the public sector. I’m sure this has not gone down very well with other data providers, but that’s another topic I’m sure we will here all about in due course !

My question today is will this new agreement and the supposed more liberal licensing framework allow public sector organisations to publish their data online without restrictions imposed by the OS.

Specifically will the OS now allow local councils to publish their data using Google Maps or potentially add data to OpenStreetMap ?

Well the language is very positive..

“We’re opening the door to a world of government information that will allow the good ideas of ordinary people to become innovative digital solutions that improve public services.” says Local Government Minister Grant Shapps,

Chris Holcroft of the AGI talks about “Breaking down barriers and better enabling data sharing, the PSMA should help the public sector make better and more transparent decisions and allocate its resources more efficiently, saving time and money.”

The key passage from the OS press release is this..

“The new agreement also introduces a new licensing framework that will enable more collaborative working with delivery partners and will allow public sector organisations to re-use the data for core non-commercial public sector activities. It will also enable sharing of the data, and derived data, with other third parties for specific purposes to support delivery of the member’s public sector activity, for example, contractors, schools, ‘third sector’ charities, the public, for all your core, non-commercial, public sector activity.”

So maybe now the debate will move on from what is derived data to what is a “core activity”?

Still this all seems rather positive does it not, the proof of course will come in April next year when the PSMA comes into effect, and yes I’m sorry I know this is all rather confusing for my Australian readers as your PSMA is a whole different thing!

UPDATE : Paul from the OS Press Office has kindly responded on the OS blog, which I have now commented on, I have reproduced my comments below, but I suggest you follow the debate at the OS blog.


Thank you so much for responding publicly on this issue, so much of the discussion and relied on rumour and misinformed speculation, it is really very useful to have an official OS line on the matter.
I believe contrary to what you say derived data rights do remain core to the issue, however firstly I would like to clarify a few points you make.
Google does not claim any IP rights in data published either using the free or premier (paid for) maps API.
“Google claims no ownership over Your Content, and you retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Your Content.” Makes this point quite clear.
The terms of service also clearly state;
“This license is solely for the purpose of enabling Google to operate the Service, to promote the Service (including through public presentations), and to index and serve such content as search results through Google Services”
To state that “Google claiming the right to use any data you display in Google Maps in any way it sees fit, even if it doesn’t belong to them.” is rather misrepresenting the facts.
If as a data publisher you are unable to agree to this requirement you are able to prevent you map from being indexed or appearing in search results by opting out using the well known robots.txt protocol. This is clearly stated in the terms of service.
Such terms of service are not unique to Google, most services which host user generated content have similar terms, indeed again contrary to your blog post OS Openspace contains the following in section 5.5 of its terms of service..
“However, for the period during which You incorporate and/or display Your Data on a Web Application, You shall grant to Us a revocable, world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to use, display and distribute Your Data on Your behalf, solely for the purpose of allowing Us to deliver the OS OpenSpace service to You and End Users.”
There does not appear to be any alternative to offering OS this rights unlike the Google Maps API.
So no onto Derived data…
At last years AGI conference, nearly 12 Months ago, following my presentation highlighting the problem of derived data, the OS promised to clarify what it views derived data to be and what is not derived data. This is key because many public sector bodies would like to publish their content using Google Maps but have been told by OS sales staff that they cannot as it is derived data.
No such clarification has been made as far as I am aware.
So Paul, Can you answer the following questions..
Can a Local Authority use Google Maps to publish the location of their local libraries, schools or recycling centres ?
Can Defra using Google maps to publish the location of restricted areas to manage any potential future agricultural disease event such as foot and mouth
Can the Royal Household use Google Maps to publish the destination of future visits of the Royal Family, perhaps opening a shinning new office building in Southampton ?
Look forward to reading your comments ?

Written and submitted from the Boulder Marriott (40.016N, 105.260W)

14 replies on “So is the OS derived data issue now solved ?”

Yeeesss… we’re not quite there yet. The OS release and the CLG document are phrased such that it still leaves the Google Maps question open.

If we (a local authority) plot the locations of all our services using an OS map, does that data count as “Derived” or “Free to Use”? We don’t know yet because the new “Free to Use” category isn’t defined.

If it is “derived data” still, will the licence’s definition of “third party” extend to commercial organisations? I note that they’re not mentioned in the examples of the kind of organisation we might share the data with: “third parties (for example, members of the public, the European Commission and its institutions, the third sector and academic sectors)…”

Even if commercial organisations are included, we can only share the derived data “for specific purposes to support delivery of the member’s public sector activity”. At this point we once again run headlong into Google’s terms and conditions, which require us to give Google the right to use the data in *any* way as it sees fit. (Which reminds me, let’s not forget that throughout all this debate, Google could have solved the problem overnight by removing that stipulation from its terms and conditions.)

Quote Andy Key “At this point we once again run headlong into Google’s terms and conditions, which require us to give Google the right to use the data in *any* way as it sees fit.”

– If you use the Google Maps Premier API, the stipulation above is not included and you can therefore use OS derived data on Google Maps.

Perhaps you’re reading something different to me, but the Google Maps T&Cs contain this section: “This license is solely for the purpose of enabling Google to operate the Service, to promote the Service (including through public presentations), and to index and serve such content as search results through Google Services. If you are unable or unwilling to provide such a license to Your Content, please see the FAQ for information on configuring your Maps API Implementation to opt out.”

As you can opt out from giving Google a licence, what’s the problem?

The question I would always ask is if you’re getting something “free” (i.e. not paying for it with money), what’s the catch? There usually is a catch and I doubt Google is any different from any other “free” service. You rarely get something for nothing.

Typically a “free” service might not provide any guarantees about uptime, so you take a chance that the service won’t go down at a critical moment. In Google’s case I would question what they do with data that is uploaded to their servers, regardless of how one might interpret the terms and conditions.

@ Tim W

You don’t need to upload any data to Google’s servers to build a webmap application, all of your data can reside on your own server or you can get someone like (sorry for the plug) to host it for you and then present it over Google Maps.

You are right about availability, Google can and does have outages but I would guess that their availability beats most other options unless you are willing to throw a lot of money at the problem

So after a day or two of much activity on the OS blog, Gemma posted the OS view here in a pdf document ??

As has been the case since the beginning of this sorry story the OS lawyers interpretation of the Google Maps ToS remains different to that of Google and most other organisations.. The only way OS content is going to find it’s way onto Google servers is as part of the Google search index, (remember mash-up content is hosted by publishers not Google) and publisher can elect not to allow their content to be indexed.

Seems that agreement here is not going to be forthcoming so the main issue remains, what is content derived from OS data and what is not..

If there are different interpretations, why doesn’t Google simply clarify the position? Why not terminate the licence when the user stops using the service?

The “mashup content is hosted by publishers not Google” line is irrelevant because the licence states “By … displaying your content in the Service, you give Google a perpetual right…” to do what they like with it. I’m sure “operating and promoting the Service” could be used an excuse for all sorts of activities. Formula 1 teams exploited a loophole in the in-season testing ban by testing new developments at “promotional” events!


This is all about how the OS choses to interpret the Google ToS, and the fact that their interpretation is at odds with the almost everybody else..

This is all about the licensing of mash-up type maps for indexing, so lets say I have created a map of local schools. While the map exists Google would like to index it so it is easy for people to find.. not an unreasonable request.. but one that as the author of a map I can prevent my using the robots.txt protocol.

If I prevent google from crawling the site which hosts my schools map then no licensing of content is required!

If as an author I have allowed my map to be indexed and then remove the map and then no longer use the service, I need to understand that for a while the exist of the map will remain in the index and may appear to users who perform a search using cached results..

Also if Google has selected the map for promotional purposes, Google would like to still be able to use screen-shots mention the site potentially after the map has been retired.

I don’t think this is quite the same at the F1 example you use.

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