What the PSMA really means

As you might know, a couple of weeks ago we signed an agreement with the Government to provide geographic information to around 800 public sector organisations.

This agreement is the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) and it comes into effect in April next year.

The deal is being heralded as a breakthrough for the provision of GI in England and Wales (the Scots having blazed a trail with their own agreement a couple of years ago). It brings together local and central government, many NHS organisations, parish councils and organisations like the RNLI and Mountain Rescue under one, single, unified agreement for the first time.

This means they all have access to the same data, under the same conditions. And since the agreement is between Ordnance Survey and Communities and Local Government, it makes the data free at the point of use, bringing OS MasterMap  into reach for the organisations that felt it too expensive under the previous ‘user pays’ model in Central Government.

This has two massive implications.

Does the PSMA finally put a pin in the Derived Data saga?

Does the PSMA finally put a pin in the Derived Data saga? Photo by Mukumbura via Flikr

Firstly, all organisations will have access to the same data meaning there will be no disparity between the datasets available to those in Central and Local Government and Health, something that has been a real problem under the current Mapping Services (Local Government), Pan Government (Central Government) and Health agreements.

This should make joint working much easier and should result in even greater use of GI to help improve public services.

Secondly, the sharing of data, and derived data, will be greatly simplified. I would be the first to say that this has been a very complex and difficult issue for everyone, and as such there has been a lot of hearsay and rumour spread around as fact.

So, let’s be clear. Under the terms of the PSMA, all 800 members will be able to share Ordnance Survey data, and data derived from it, with any other organisation as part of their ‘core activity’.

This is basically the framework that exists under the current Pan Government Agreement (PGA) today.

For example, the Rural Payments Agency uses OS MasterMap to help it calculate the grants owed to farmers. As part of that job (or ‘core activity’) they can freely share that data with the farmers they are working with, even though the farmer is not a PGA member themselves.

This principle will also extend to organisations that want to publish key information online, like the location of public amenities, using a web mapping API.

This is great news. However, if you can feel a “but” coming, you’d be right.

Photo by satguru via Flikr

Photo by satguru via Flikr

Google’s Ed Parsons has written a blog post which asks whether the PSMA will allow members to publish data on Google Maps. Ed describes the ongoing obstacle to this as “restrictions imposed by the OS”.

I’m afraid this simply isn’t the case.

The reality is that the problem has never been with Ordnance Survey, but with the terms and conditions of Google Maps. It has absolutely nothing to do with derived data or our licensing terms but everything to do with 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.

Frustratingly, this is only a problem that exists with Google Maps. No such clause appears in the terms of any other mapping API, including Bing Maps and our own OS OpenSpace.

This issue is raised in a comment left on Ed’s post. At the time of writing, he hadn’t responded to it.

So I’m very sorry to say that while the PSMA is great deal for the public sector in England and Wales, it doesn’t solve this particular problem.

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56 Responses

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  2. Matthew

    As I’ve just posted on Ed’s blog too – perhaps you’re reading something different to me, but the Google Maps T&Cs contain this section: “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. If you are unable or unwilling to provide such a license to Your Content, please see the FAQ for information on configuring your Maps API Implementation to opt out.”

    Even ignoring the fact it’s not “in any way it sees fit”, as yuo say, you can clearly and easily opt out from giving Google a licence. So what’s the problem?

  3. James Rutter

    This is good news in deed…so if I’m reading this correctly this now means that under PSMA we will be able to publish OS derived vector data in formats like KML and GeoRSS.

  4. Paul,

    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 ?

    1. Hi Ed, thanks for coming back to me. As you say, this is an issue that needs clarification so I’m going to personally find out the answers to your questions. Give me some time and I’ll get back to you.

      @James the same goes for you, and @Matthew, your question is tied up with Ed’s so hopefully I’ll be able to answer that too.

  5. Brian Williams

    Hello Paul,

    as a keen walker, I’d like to know how this will improve the situation vis-a-vis PROWs. Will it be possible to mash together a comprehensive list of PROWs nationwide? Will walkers be able to use such derived data without fear?


    Brian Williams

  6. Andrew

    Paul, a good article but it still leaves a lot of gaps…
    So a few more questions for you to research…

    Does the organisation a PSMA member is sharing derived data with have to have an OS licence for the OS data that the members data was derived from?

    What is a “core activity” would a journalist taking a PSMA members derived data and using it to report or challange a the members policies/activitys be allowed?

    Why not just free derived data from all restrictions unless it competes directly with OS data?

  7. Would OS and Google care/dare to draft a joint statement on the derived data matter? If it is purely about interpretation of facts I don’t quite see what the difficulty is, except that communication via keynotes or blog posts is probably not sufficient to make it happen. But this endless and public ping pong game puts the reputation of both organisiations at risk.

  8. For once, I’m on the side of Ordnance Survey here.

    I’m no legal expert, but I looked at this in great detail some time ago.

    Google’s TOS (clause 11.1) require that you license your data to them perpetually and irrevocably in order to display the data over their maps. There’s a need to grant them a licence to work with the data, but there’s no reason for it to be irrevocable.

    There’s then an option to opt-out of Google using this licence for their search results and so forth, which is good – but it doesn’t remove/nullify the clause in the TOS so the problem remains regardless. It simply isn’t clear enough what opting out means – are you opting out of the indexing or the licence altogether? You can’t opt out of the license altogether as then Google can’t process your data. Why can’t you opt out of the indexing and the perpetual/irrevocable part of clause 11.1?

    OS OpenSpace allows developers to grant sub-licences under the same terms of Schedule 2 (EULA), which cannot be perpetual as it lasts until the web application no longer exists (clause 2.3 c). Google however requires that it be perpetual. Therefore, you can’t grant Google the licence.

    The problem IS with Google’s TOS. All Google would have to do is make it perfectly clear that they would only use licence to display the data, and that opting out of the indexing would mean granting a licence to Google for the duration of the user’s session on the website rather than perpetually… Not hard.


    On a different note, I welcome the new PSMA. For walkers, this presumably means that LAs can release PRoW data to the public domain even when it is derived data (which it almost always is), and that Natural England could release the boundaries used for the CRoW Act.

    There are many problems with the commercial licenses still, and that’s a massive shame. On a personal note, we’ve spent many months developing a free web application that we hope to make public in the next two months. It uses both commercially licensed data and OS OpenData. We will have to disable some of the functionality when a user switches from OS OpenData layers to the commercial data (Explorer/Landranger) because there still isn’t a licence for web applications that allows for innovation with the commercial products. Back in November 2009 things were looking positive with the proposed release of Explorer/Landranger, nearly a year on it sometimes seems that for the outdoors all we’ve got is a year older.

  9. Riley Marsden

    Interesting debate gents, and good to see it taking place in an open forum.

    Paul – whilst you’re off collecting answers, could I please throw another into the mix? I note the following para with interest:

    “No such clause appears in the terms of any other mapping API, including Bing Maps ”

    Can you therefore confirm that OS would have no complaint with a local authority supplying what you argue to be derived data (specifically, point objects generated against a MasterMap base) to a contractor (using the relevant licenses) to use overlaid on a Bing Maps API to deliver a public interface which the LA would otherwise provide, using standard Microsoft terms?

  10. Plotting detailed OS data on top of Google maps isn’t very clever at the best of times. It never lines up quite right and all those points make web browsers fall over.

    Probably not the solution for DEFRA’s GIS requirements…

  11. @ Thierry G, Good idea, I’d be happy to do so, but it really does need the OS to define what they believe derived data to be, I of course have a point of view.

    @Luke the opt out does remove the issue as Google will no not have any data to licence as it would not be indexed..

  12. This looks, on the face of it good news, especially if I have read it correctly for Rights of Way and CRoW! Two questions:

    Where can I get a list of the 800 PSMA members and;
    and how can Parish Councils benefit from this agreement (I presume if they are acting on behalf of or instead of a Local Authority they can make use of this agreement)?

  13. Paul – this must be the most responded blog post to date. Well done for starting this.

    Q. What is derived data (DD)? Lines, points, collated data, copied data, is there a definition floating around.
    Q. Organisations still need an OS licence to continue use of their DD?

    Happy to share UKMap’s DD approach and experiences so far.

  14. Dane Wright

    A really valuable (and long overdue) debate. The real issue is not the T&Cs on Google maps or OpenSpace but the constraints on OS derived data. Local authorities are being encouraged to publish open data but the OS is not allowing them to include coordinates of their schools, libraries, winter grit bins etc. This is a completely unacceptable situation and needs to be resolved in favour of open publication. I look forward to Paul’s response to Ed’s specific questions.

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  16. @Andrew: Fantastic! Hadn’t realised that existed. Made a couple of phone calls and it seems it may still require an OS licence in some cases to use the data which is derived… at the moment at least.

    That would, presumably, all change under the new PSMA.

    Will keep digging and find out for definite, would definitely like to use it.

  17. Our ‘What the PSMA really means’ blog post certainly seems to have generated plenty of discussion and raised a lot of questions. We thought it would be useful to sum-up our position on the general points you raised in this blog update document http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/aboutus/reports/misc/Blog%20update%20-%20What%20the%20PSMA%20really%20means.pdf.

    The new PSMA was announced at the beginning of August and we’re in the early stages of planning the implementation of the agreement. We’ll be able to give you more information about the agreement, including on licensing and derived data, closer to the April 2011 launch date. We’ll be talking to our PSMA customers as we go, and we’ll keep you updated on the blog too.

  18. Nick Wood

    I have never trusted Google and never will, the accuracy for business websites using their open API is poor, development takes ages and its all very cheap looking.

  19. Echoing Dane’s statement and asking for an answer to Jame’s enquiry about the publication of derived data in open data formats (KML, geoRSS etc).

    Please can we have a definitive yes/no? This is holding up the release of lots of public sector information.

  20. Hi Gemma, thanks for that. Given that central gov has told local authorities to publish open data I’m counting that activity as part of our “Core Business”. However, central gov has also told us to release data with no licence restrictions on it (including commercial use) so where does that leave us in terms of “as long as this activity does not compete with Ordnance Survey or its licensees or is not for commercial gain”. Is the implication that we can release derived data in open formats but with restrictions on its usage?

    1. Hi Julian, the PSMA was signed at the start of August and is due for launch in April 2011. We’re still in the early stages of implementing the agreement and will be able to give more information nearer the launch date.

  21. Further to the above posts I have noticed this on the Public Sector Mapping Agreement for England and Wales: Transition Plan 2010 document(http://bit.ly/aq2pkx) under the heading “Licence Terms” the following :

    “The licence will also permit members to share data and derived data with:
    -other PSMA members and other Ordnance Survey licensees who are licensed for the same product and geographical coverage
    -contractors working for the member
    -third parties (for example, members of the public, the European Commission and its institutions, the third sector and academic sectors) for specific purposes to support delivery of the member’s public sector activity; and
    -other unlicensed organisations during emergency situations”

    Is this document clear in stating that the PSMA will allow the sharing of data (derived or otherwise) with members of the public? I would have thought that something like RoW is part of the public sector activity and can therefore be shared with anyone?

    I know that once it is launched things will be clearer, but if the PSMA was signed in August why not say now? If it’s been signed then the implications of such an agreement will already have been figured out, yes?

    1. Hi Elliot, I understand your frustration but we’d ask that you wait just a little longer for more detail.

      As well as the PSMA, there are going to be big changes to all our licences and we’d like to communicate all the information together so everyone has the full picture.

      I hope that makes sense and rest assured we’ll be writing about the changes as soon as we’re able!

  22. Craig Moulding


    This is starting to really drag, and is starting to sound like the address arguement we have all been accustomed to over the last few years.
    As a Local Authority, we are in various agreements, all of which are changing, and I would be hoping the PSMA would draw a conclusion over the 11.1 clause debate. Judging by this thread, it would appear not.
    I would like to use Google maps as a base mapping option alongside OS data. I want the public to come to our website and have freedom of choice. Whilst this debate is interesting, when will we see a statement from Google and the OS that there is/isn’t light at the end of the tunnel. A joint statement would at least dispell myths and rumours and show the users that there is at least dialogue going on.

  23. Craig – any particular reason you are stuck with Google?

    OS have provided us with examples of compatible and incompatible 3rd party license agreements, I’m not sure it’s up to them to do too much more vendor specific stuff. As a small software vendor, it’s bad enough already with their very ESRI specific OS “Open data”. You’ll presumably be wanting a statement about OpenStreetMap, The People’s Map, Michelin maps etc. too?

  24. Craig Moulding


    I merely want some more transparency on what is happening with the OS and Google. In Local Authority the question is always ‘Why not Google?’ I would like to offer an alternative web served base map for users, who all have differnt needs. I agree a large number of specific licenses is hardly ideal, but if there are different demands, perhaps that is the way it ‘appears’ to be going, and why there is difficulty in moving forward.
    Only time will tell i suppose on this one.

  25. Richard Saunders

    One of the items I’ve not heard in discussion is the use of ‘Derived Data’ is for mobile use and specifically for mobile application development.

    Lets take aside the fact that the OS deems it impossible to agree with Google Terms of Service (that arguments been going on way to long!). For me web development and mobile development should encompass one thing and that is usability.

    The variety of mapping applications that we come across with government sites is pretty awful. Inconsistent display, zoomed out OS Maps look ugly, redrawing times take forever, large tile sizes, different type of navigation and user interaction its pretty abismal.

    Now lets get away from the Desktop web and think mobile. We have Android / iPhone / Blackberry, Nokia and Microsoft none of these platforms us OS as their map base.

    In fact the two largest smartphone (not even included tablets in this discussion) bases are Android and iPhone and they use Google Maps. Users are aware of pinch, pull to zoom in and out or tap and double tap, rotate, shake, tilt because thats the norm on these devices, in addition to that the touch events are global on the device, its natural. Blackberry and Nokia have similar functionality but not as widely used as the previous platforms.

    Google has a global market and has the ability to adapt, expand and innovate when it comes to these devices, thats why they are used. Users experience the simplicity and familiarity they dont want to download another application to carry out a simple map data search, or location based task.

    Lets consider a simple council app:

    Council News / Alerts
    Find my nearest (based on location)
    Report a problem

    Council News / Alerts would be delivered to the device through and Open Data feed likely to be XML. No issues there.

    Find My nearest – Phone / Tablet GPS determines my location and should be able to inform me of my nearest library / leisure centre / doctors which essentially should come from Derived Data that has already been plotted against MasterMap in our GIS team.

    Essentially what is simple data (that could be obtained using a GPS) is prevented in its use because it originates from an OS map, bloody ludicrous. The general public couldn’t care less if its two or three millimetres out, they are not GIS people!

    Ok for more detailed application such as reporting street lights that may be a little different but thats why we have our Desktop Counter parts such as iShare Maps for much more detailed street level information and thats covered by the license agreements.

    Organisations / developers need to stop thinking about what matters to them as detailed mapping enthusiasts, cartographers and GIS specialist. Content is massly consumed rather than analysed and when it comes to the Citizens of an area we need to think about them.

    This is going a little off topic, but lets think about how the data is used, interpreted, its visual, its a snapshot and Google Maps is a choice, but its the standard choice on the web.


  26. DG

    Couldn’t help noticing that the DfT’s publication of the HS2 route uses Google Maps … yet apparently the detailed maps for each section are based on Ordnance Survey data, and so the high level map should be considered as Derived Data.

    Should be a nice test of the derived data vs Google principle …

  27. Tris

    Paul, you replied to Ed on August 17 last year saying “I’m going to personally find out the answers to your questions. Give me some time and I’ll get back to you.” Any sign of those answers yet?

  28. Julian Scarlett

    Hi Paul, thanks for the PDF link. It’s clear that OS are trying to get this sorted out and we should be grateful for that (even if it is taking a long time).

    One thing that your PDF statment doesn’t address though is the use of open data. Specifically, local authorities providing point locations (derived from OS mapping) in an xml format. Does the PSMA preclude that?



  29. Does this address the way public bodies want to publish open data? If they want to create a map of where their buildings or services are located can they publish an overlay on an OS map as OpenData or will it be subject to OS’s usual Crown Copyright and therefore not open at all?

  30. It looks as though the Free to Use category would cover any “new” locations (eg grit bins or street lights) and perhaps the Exemptions process would allow existing features (eg libraries or sports centres) to be published as open data. It would be helpful if the OS would make this more clear and also publish a list of exemptions that have been granted.

  31. Ed,
    Thanks, but that does not specifically answer my point. My use of the word OpenData may have been misleading.

    If a public body creates an overlay on OS map data, they can publish the overlay any way they want to, including any kind of free or open licence. OS have helpfully said that they now claim no rights over such work (they used to do so). However, these overlays without the context of the underlying map are often useless. So creating such an overlay and publishing it on an OS map for context forces the public body to release the mashup as Crown Copyright and therefore not reusable by anyone else. One public body (say a local authority) who wants to release open data is prevented from doing so by another public body, Ordnance Survey. I expand this idea in this blog post: http://chris-osm.blogspot.com/2011/05/psma-and-open-data-dont-mix.html

    This is my understanding of OS’s position, if I’m wrong I hope OS correct me.

  32. Brian,
    Just use OpenStreetMap (http://osm.org). They already have much of the public rights of way network in place, gathered by surveying the actual route on the ground and taking the access rights from local signage which turns out to be more helpful and accurate than Local Authority maps which are not available for reuse. There are various renders of OSM data including the walker-orientated http://www.free-map.org.uk

  33. Tim

    Dear Paul,

    Is there any chance, with permission from @James, @Matthew and @Ed, that you could publish your private answers to their questions on this blog, so that everyone else reading this might be able to read them to and learn from them.

    Many thanks


    1. Hi Tim, now I maybe wrong, but I’m not aware of any private answers to Messrs @James, @Matthew and @Ed. Certainly I wasn’t involved in them if there were. As far as I know, in the end, it was decided to try and spell out our position, in a single answer (sorry, it’s a pdf) and I hope it’s useful. Naturally when there is anything else to say, you’ll hear it here. http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/aboutus/reports/misc/Blog%20update%20-%20What%20the%20PSMA%20really%20means.pdf

  34. Ian

    One year one and the OS data is appears still to not be open i.e. the world thinks you cannot use it with anything google. Cab you clarify a specific situation – I have some city boundary data derived from OS data – I can then create a kml file with this, If I look at this data in a Google Earth Browser (no data is being sent to anyone ( it is all on my local machine) am I at risk of copyright prosecution? What if I then send someone that kml file or post it on a website? All the government agencies I talk to (e.g. Natural England, City Council, EA)just say don’t ever use OS data with a real sense of being scared by the whole licencing confusion – surely this is not in the spirit of open data?

    1. Hi Ian, thanks for commenting. Have you heard of OS OpenData? Anything you derive from that set of products is entirely free from any copyright restrictions so would be worth a look if you want to do as you’ve suggested – http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/products/os-opendata.html

      In regard to our government customers, many are making very good and extensive use of our data (including those you mentioned) and earlier this year we did release a completely overhauled our licensing model and published some (hopefully!) useful guidance – http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/licensing/index.html

      I hope that’s useful, but as ever if you (or anyone you meet) has questions about licensing they can get in touch with us – if in doubt ask, we don’t bite really!

  35. Ian

    So can you confirm that if I use the boundaries of from OS Openmap for:
    City Boundary
    LSOA boundary
    SSSI bounday
    Ward boundary
    Then these can be openly used as a kML file on Google Earth.
    Given Google Earth has just reached 1 billion downloads it would be very helpful if you could specifically say what can and can’t be done on this platform. Reading the licence it is far from clear. Many thanks

    1. Hi Ian – I’m assuming you mean OS OpenData? As it says on our website, all the data available through OS OpenData is still open for commercial or non-commercial use without restriction. As before, we ask for little more than an acknowledgement of the source of the data.
      The Open Government Licence, developed by The National Archives, is designed to provide a single set of terms and conditions for anyone wishing to use freely available government information. Importantly, this does not alter what users of OS OpenData can do.

  36. James

    Will the new Google Terms of Service (http://www.google.com/policies/terms/) unblock the issue of displaying OS data using the Google Maps API?

    The current conditions give Google rights over any data displayed using the API, but the new version appears to limit this just to data that is “upload[ed] or otherwise submit[ted]” to Google. Since using the API doesn’t actually send any of the geographic data to Google, this might be the change that was needed.

  37. Chris

    Paul, in the OS guidance PDF above it states in regards to the Google Maps Premier API that “Subject to some movement or clarification on item 3 above [namely that the licence sought is “irrevocable”, and grants the ability to “adapt, modify, translate, publicly perform], Ordnance Survey would have no issue whatsoever with a PSMA member displaying content including Ordnance Survey data or derived data on the internet using Google Premier API.”

    Google have now updated their Premier API terms and conditions to add the word “terminable” to the relevent clause, and have also removed the words “publicly perform” and “publicly display”. Does Ordnance Survey consider that to be a satisfactory clarification?

    1. Melanie

      Hi Chris,
      Thanks for raising this. We are looking into it and will come back shortly with some further detail about what this means.

      1. DG

        And five months later, the answer is … ?

        Why do the wheels of Ordnance Survey seem to grind so exceedingly slowly?

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