Tag Archives: geographic maps boundaries

Geographic Data that Should be Free (In All Senses of the Word)

The problem of the status of public service geographical data that we have discussed could be fixed by the Ordnance Survey simply declaring that certain categories of data are completely free for re-use even if they have been derived from OS maps.

My candidates for this are:

All government administrative boundaries – e.g. constituencies, wards, super output areas, health authorities, school catchments etc.

All point data for the location of public service outlets – e.g. schools, hospitals, public toilets, daycare centres etc.

I can’t think of any good reasons why such data should not be declared as free for re-use in all senses of the word, i.e. that no license fee should be payable but also that no restrictions should be placed on how it is re-used so we stop worrying about Google Maps terms and conditions etc. for this class of data.

The major advantage in doing so is that anyone who wants to experiment with this data, both inside and outside government, is able to get on with innovating without having to worry about legal problems.

I could only see a potential disadvantage if this data brought in significant revenue for Ordnance Survey that they would then miss out on. I may be missing something, and please tell me if I am, but I can’t see there being a lucrative market for this basic public service location data.

So the balance of public interest here seems firmly in favour of making this data as widely available as possible. And this does mean lifting any cloud around licensing for re-use from it by declaring that derivation is not an issue in these particular circumstances.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair

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