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UK Ordnance Survey switches to Open Government Licence

Author: Adrian Offerman

Ordnance Survey (OS), the British national mapping agency, has switched to version 3 of the Open Government Licence as the default for all of its open data products. This should make it easier for the open data community and other data publishers to re-use the OS mapping data, and for the data to be freely and easily mixed with other UK government sources.

The Open Government Licence (OGL) is an open data license for Crown Copyright works published by the UK government. It is maintained by The National Archives and is compatible with the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.

Concerns and confusion

Until now, Ordnance Survey has been using its own OS OpenData license, a derivative of the first version of the OGL. From the beginning, both industry partners and the online community had concerns about the implications of the OS modifications to the OGL. The OpenStreetMap (OSM) project, for example, was able to use the Ordnance Survey data, but only because, after pressure from the community, the agency made an additional statement that mapping derived from OS OpenData products could be released under the Open Database License (ODbL) OSM is using. However, mapping from third parties that built on OS OpenData products could not be re-used in that way.

The Open Data Institute (ODI) expresses the hope that other agencies would follow Ordnance Survey in this move and say goodbye to their own derivatives of the OGL.