Ordnance Survey Thoughts

Well done OS ! derived rules clarified..

I could be snarky and say better late than never, however the guidelines and new licenses today published by Ordnance Survey are a really positive step forward.

As requested by many, myself included, the OS in their documents have tried to explain with examples what is now possible to create and then distribute in terms of new geospatial data.

This should solve the problem for many potential users of Google Maps, for example, who have been frightened off from using this great free resource  by previously aggressive if unclear guidelines.

Some key aspects..

  • As expected there are no restrictions on deriving or displaying data based on OS Opendata datasets.
  • Data collected by independent means (GPS, field survey) and then verified in relation to OS data is free of OS restrictions
  • The real innovation “Free to use” terms, means that organisations licensing data for business use, are able to infer the position or create new data without restrictions as long as the new data is not a direct copy of an existing feature in the OS product.

These  aspects of the new license/guidelines are illustrated with some rather cheesy but useful case studies.

There are however some more grey areas, which may still cause concern to some, around addressing (oh no !! the humanity) the creation of address centroids is seen as copying features!

I wonder a what level of abstraction this no longer the case, is a point representing a street range ok ? A neighbourhood ?

I fundamentally disagree with the example that a school catchment area is OS derived data, what intellectual effort has the OS contributed to it’s creation ?

Still overall this is a massive step forward and the OS should be congratulated on it’s effort in communicating their position clearly.

This is clearly one of the biggest news stories of the last few months for the UK, I can’t help but wonder while the announcements were not made in the public forum of the AGI conference.. Maybe this is the Macworld moment for Ordnance Survey ?

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

7 replies on “Well done OS ! derived rules clarified..”

Hi Ed,

Our team of open source developers are working on the completely free guide to blue (and other colour) plaques. We built this partly because of the lack of available geodata that devs can just play with, and it grew from there.

Our geopoints are sourced from Creative Commons Licenced images on Flickr that have been user-positioned on a map. However, address geocoding tools and Google StreetView are also very good for confirming a position.

Regarding the new OS rules, what would be the copyright over deriving points visually in StreetView? As the points we are creating are completely new and not part of any existing feature does this mean that we are covered under the ‘Free to Use Data’ description?


Why on earth do OS say that you are free to use data “which copies in part a Feature” and then immediately go on in the example to make it clear that copying features in part is not allowed?!

The adventure camp boundary would seem to me the perfect example of a NEW feature created from OS data that copies features in part but not in whole. The text seems to say that this is exactly the kind of thing that will be ‘Free to Use Data’ but the example says it is not.

I think we now need OS to clarify what they consider to be a ‘Feature’ (and specify which existing feature they consider was copied whole to create the camp boundary) and give clear examples of where things copied in part ARE ‘Free to Use Data’.


I agree this does not seem to make much sense, I like the simplicity of “if the feature does not appear on the map, you can’t copy it” but maybe there are still existential lawyers at the OS ?

Couldn’t help but notice that the DfT’s publication of the high-level HS2 route map at uses Google maps, yet the underlying data (e.g. seems to be based on OS Mastermap.

According to OS, this would be in breach of the PGA licence as since they argue that the Google licence means Google has re-use rights to the derived data … !

Hi David,

Well as is always the case you would need to talk to the OS to understand their position. I would say however as the route does not yet exist and therefore does not appear on any OS map it cannot be derived from OS data.

In any case I don’t accept the OS interpretation of Google’s terms.

Add a comment?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.