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Transition from the OS OpenData Licence to the Open Government Licence

The UK's National Mapping Agency, Ordnance Survey, has been making available various datasets under the banner of "OS OpenData". Originally the licence for these datasets was it's own "OS OpenData Licence" (OS-ODL). When the Open Government Licence was developed, OS incorporated this into their licence, but modified it slightly by adding some extra terms. These extra terms meant that the OS OpenData Licence is problematic for re-users, include OpenStreetMap. For details, see my notes on the Compatibility of the OS OpenData Licence with the ODbL.

However, on 17th February 2015, Ordnance Survey announced that they would be changing from their own OS OpenData Licence to instead use the Open Government Licence (OGL) v3.0 for their OS OpenData products . The relevant licensing page for the OS OpenData Products has now been updated, so users can now make use of these products under the Open Government Licence.

(This will not have much immediate impact for OpenStreetMap, as we already had separate permission to use all but one of the OS OpenData products anyway. But it should also allow us to make use of the final CodePoint Open data.)

However, the OS's own OpenData Products are not the only datasets to have been licenced under the OS OpenData Licence. This is also a mechanism in place in the Public Sector Mapping Agreement to allow third-party users of OS data to release some datasets that have been derived from OS mapping under the OS OpenData Licence. The applied to things like Public Rights of Way GIS data held by local councils, and maps of conservation areas held by Natural England.

It was initially unclear exactly what would happen to the licences used for these datasets and if there would be any retrospective change for previously released data. I asked Ordnance Survey about this, and received the following reply on 19th February:

'Previous such releases will not necessarily be included - only those that we are informed about in the future.

If the dataset had already been notified to us, or we had approved a derived data exemption application on terms "equivalent to OS OpenData terms" then members are not expected to do anything (i.e. there is no need to take any retrospective action), as they have already been granted "a worldwide, royalty free, perpetual, non-exclusive licence to use the Information".

All they need to do is to check that that are attaching the correct acknowledgement to the derived data for the licence they are using. Nonetheless, they can move across to the Open Government Licence (v3) terms if they want to, or (for example) they are refreshing the dataset.

This information will be added into the public sector licensing guidance soon.'

I interpret this as meaning that for new PSMA exemptions, the data will be licenced under the Open Government Licence. While for previously granted exemptions, there will be no obligation to change the licence but the option will be there if the body wishes to change. Since the OS OpenData Licence is problematic for some users (in particular for OpenStreetMap), I would hope that the re-licensing process is as simple as possible for bodies. Ideally there would be clear guidance and encouragement from OS that they can just change the licence without needing to consult OS or their Lawyers. Unless the licence on these derived datasets is changed by the licensor, we will still not be able to use them in OpenStreetMap, despite OS's change for thier data.

I followed up with OS about these issues, and in resopnse, they have published some information about their upcoming "Presumption to Publish" policy. This confirms that data published under the PSMA exemption will in future be under the OGL, but doesn't answer the question about what will happen now to existing OS-ODL-licenced datasets.

Overall these announcements form OS are fantastic news, as it simplifies the UK licensing landscape, provides more consistent terms for users, and will allow OS-derived data to be used with confidence is projects with data licenced under the Open Data Commons licences. We'll just have to wait and see exactly how easy it will be to get existing third-party datasets re-licensed.