Open Government Data Ordnance Survey Thoughts

So does Open GovData allow SME’s to flourish?

Within the first few weeks of joining the Ordnance Survey 10 years or so ago I was shown a prototype map of the New Forest printed on silk, for reasons anyone who has read the “Innovators dilemma” will understand it was never turning into a product, and I still have  the prototype in a drawer at home.

So when my old friend from the OS David Overton  launched SplashMaps via Kickstarter last month I immediately supported the project.

I supported the project not just because I think the product is a great idea, but that is is a real example of Open Government Data supporting small business innovation.  As David points out, he was willing to license commercial data from the OS, but the usual licensing maze in Southampton actually made using the newly available OS Open Data and OpenStreetMap data a better alternative.

If you believe in the principle of open government data, support it with your bank account and help SplashMaps meet it’s target.

Written and submitted from the Hilton Hotel, Vienna  (48.206N, 16.383E)

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)

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)