Changes to the OS OpenData licence

opendata2From today, anyone who visits the OS OpenData site, where they can download a wide range of Ordnance Survey mapping for free, will notice something a little different.

That’s because we’ve incorporated the Open Government Licence, the new government wide licence, developed by The National Archives, which enables easy access to public sector information.

The Open Government Licence is a key element of the Government’s commitment to greater transparency. It is the licence used by data.gov.uk and provides a single set of terms and conditions for anyone wishing to use or license freely available government information.

The licence is designed so that developers and entrepreneurs wishing to use government data to create new applications will no longer need to formally apply for permission. And, the new licence is interoperable with other internationally recognised licensing models, such as Creative Commons.

Of course, as anyone who has already made use of OS OpenData since 1 April last year will know, we’ve always had an open and accessible licence. We ask for little more than an acknowledgement of the source of the data.

So, what will change now?


Essentially, in terms of what you can do – nothing! The licence is just as permissive as before, but is now more consistent with the wording being used by other government departments. It is also now fully interoperable with the Open Data Commons Attribution Licence.

Ordnance Survey is also the first Trading Fund to incorporate the licence and we wanted to set a good example.

So, from today onwards, if you’re building an application using data from us, or any other source using the Open Government Licence, you’ll see terms and conditions with a greater degree of commonality.

We hope that with this reassurance and consistency we’ll see even more people using data from across government to build exciting and innovative application underpinned by geography.

And there’s no better place to start than the GeoVation Challenge, where there is £150,000 up for grabs.

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17 Responses

  1. At OpenStreetMap we were very excited that the Ordance Survey was using the Open Government License as it, (the Open Government License), is unambiguous and does away with the potentially troublesome attribtion clause when using highly granular data in a multi-data-source world.

    … until we read the actual different license at http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/opendata/docs/os-opendata-licence.pdf

    Regretfully, this appears to put it back.

    Is this a general clause or does it only refer to Code Point Open?

    If general, are you expecting school children in this generalisable example to put attribution text on their school work?

    OpenStreetMap derives data from a source such as Open StreetView into its geodata database. Zero or more other entities take data from OpenStreetMap and make their own databases, which now may or may not have OS-derived data in them. School children in Australia now make a local map. Are they a Sub-Licensee? How do you envision this working if all state mapping agencies make the same requirement?

    Michael Collinson
    License Working Group Chair
    OpenStreetMap Foundation

  2. Hi Michael, thanks for your comment.

    Like OpenStreetMap, OS OpenData is entirely free to use, for commercial or non commercial applications. But when someone uses it we do ask that they acknowledge where it has come from, again, just like OpenStreetMap.

    The acknowledgement is simply ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2010’, unless you’re using Code Point Open, which contains data from Royal Mail. In that case you should also use the acknowledgement ‘Contains Royal Mail data © Royal Mail Copyright and database right 2010’.

    Hopefully that’s not too onerous, whether you’re a school pupil or multi-national company!

    But because we know that OS OpenData is used in different formats, how the acknowledgement is included is entirely at the discretion of the user.

    For example, I think CycleStreets does a good job – simply listing all their acknowledgements on a separate page where there is plenty of space: http://www.cyclestreets.net/about/#credits Perhaps that’s a good example for others to follow when using multiple data sources?

  3. I notice that whoever created the licence pdf has disabled content copying, meaning the attribution statement can’t be copied & pasted from the document. This happened last time as well. I know it’s only a couple of sentences, but still!

  4. Barry


    Just to be clear, if you wish to use an extract from an Ordnance Survey map for inclusion in a wedding invite, this is okay so long as you acknowledge the source?

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Barry, If you’re getting the data from OS OpenData then you can use it however you like – including wedding invites – as long as you carry an acknowledgement. Are the invites for your own wedding? If so, congratulations! Paul

  5. Rory

    Hi..Does anyone know what happened to the topography layer that was available in open source??? It seems to have disappeared.

  6. Michael Collins

    I want to include a copy of the ordnance survey map round my village to show the relevent foot paths. Can I use as downloaded or must I make a map of mt own .
    The map will be used as a free introductory pack for new comers who move into the village

  7. Ian

    I would like to be able to create a Google Earth KML file of all the nature reserves near my village and send this kml file to others to view on their own Google Earth software. Can I use the OS Open data to define the boundaries

  8. Melanie

    Hi Ian, Public Rights of Way data is owned by local authorities. Gemma’s link above gives more detailed information.

  9. Pingback : Partners In Sublime Google Map Maker arrives in UK - Partners In Sublime

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