Licensing jargon

This section provides some information about some of the more common terms used in the public sector licences.

Important note: these are not the formal definitions as those are contained in the Member Licences and are the ones that should be referred to as necessary

Business Use

This is about your use that is solely related to your internal administration and operation of your business (i.e. This does not include you providing your information to others, that is described as Public Sector Use).

Commercial activity

This is about any activity which involves, or is intended to, involve financial gain

Competing activity

OS partners with over 300 businesses who licence our data to provide products and services to industry, commerce and consumers. To see some of their activities, see our partners’ page.

The Member Licence allows you to make your information available to support your non-commercial 'Core Business', however, there may be occasions where your use of Licensed Data becomes an activity that competes, or is reasonably likely to compete with:

  • an activity of a 3rd party that is also licensed for the same data; or
  • or substitutes, or is reasonably likely to substitute, the products and/or services of OS and would appear on our website.

Please note that this does not apply to OS OpenData, or derived data that has been granted an exemption, as that data is licensed under Open Government Licence terms and are not regarded as being Licensed Data.

Contractor Licence

A contractor licence which is used where you have a formal written agreement with a third party that are undertaking works that you would normally do yourself.

Copy protection

This is about you having an obligation to protect OS' IP interests when you make our Licensed data available electronically (i.e. on your web site)

For more information about copy protection displaying licensed data through web mapping (or web feature) services.

Core business

This is about the extent of use that the Member Licence enables you to use Licensed Data for, i.e. both Business Use and Public Sector Use.

For public sector organisations, this typically means any purposes they consider they have to undertake to meet their non-commercial public service delivery obligations, such as:

  • Creating and monitoring policy
  • Operational management of government
  • Delivering government business and public services
  • Making information available to the public
  • Performing any other function required by statute
  • Passing /sharing derived information and/or data to third parties
Crown copyright

Copyright material produced by employees of the Crown in the course of their duties is referred to as Crown copyright.

With effect of 1 April 2015, Ordnance Survey (OS) has operated as a Government owned limited company – Ordnance Survey Limited. Prior to this date, OS was not legally separate from the Crown and was a Crown body. The copyright and database rights which arose in the mapping data were automatically owned by the Crown. That is why we refer to OS mapping as being Crown copyright and Crown database rights. 

As part of that transition, the Crown copyright (and Crown database rights) which existed in OS mapping as at 1 April 2015 remain owned by the Crown. However, under the terms of the Crown Rights Agreement with Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO), OS is granted an exclusive right to use, license and manage this IP on behalf of the Crown.

For more information about the position of OS and Crown copyright please visit this webpage.

Derived data

This is any data that you create using OS data as a source. The level of licencing required for continued use, data sharing and publishing will depend on what type of data has been used.

Derived data exemptions

This is a process that allows you to request that our IPR interests in your derived data, having been sourced from Licensed Data, can be licensed under OS OpenData licence terms or could be regarded as being 'Free to Use' data.

There are two ways of obtaining an exemption:

  • 'Presumption to publish' - where members just make a notification to us, or
  • submit an application, for example, where the derived dataset can't be catered for under the above arrangement.

For more information see the derived data and derived data exemptions section.

Emergency service

This means any person, body or entity involved in responding immediately to an emergency situation.

Emergency situations

These are unforeseen acts of events (i.e. those beyond your reasonable control) that also requires you to respond urgently.

Please note: when providing data under these  circumstances, you need to keep appropriate records and, only if asked, provide OS with that information.

End User Licence

There are two End User Licences available

  • Public sector end user licence – INSPIRE. This licence allows you to release data in order to meet your INSPIRE obligations through the provision of web mapping services (WMS) and web feature services (WFS).
  • Public sector end user licence. This licence is for your use in all other circumstances where you want to make your data available to others.

Financial gain

This is about you receiving any revenue or credit that exceeds your costs in supplying or making available to a recipient any copy of any licensed data including, for example, the costs of creating and printing a publication.

Please note: Financial Gain does not include any receipts from statutory charges.

Free to use data

As part of OS’ licensing model, we have included ‘Free to Use Data’ terms. Members can benefit from these terms, you must first licence data for your business use. For more information please visit the following link.

Independently sourced data

This is about data that has been created independently of any OS data.

In practice this means that we do not claim intellectual property rights (IPR) in that data, although it could still be used in conjunction with (or overlaid) OS data. For example:

  • If you create data (including descriptive information or attribution) by means of an independent survey which can be used independently, we can't claim any ownership in your data. It is not, therefore, subject to any of our licensing terms.
    If you then use OS data as the backdrop to your data, our licencing terms will apply to the use of that backdrop.
  • If you create data as described above, which is then overlaid onto OS licensed data for the purpose of verification, OS doesn't claim any ownership of that data - unless your features are repositioned as a result.
    If you reposition a feature, then our IPR will be present in it as you have now created derived data. In these circumstances the data will be subject to the licensing terms applicable to the OS source data used.
  • If additional independently-sourced descriptive information or attribution is attached to OS licensed data, we don't claim any ownership of that additional information. The additional attribution is not, therefore, subject to any OS licensing terms.

The Member Licences can support you in meeting your own INSPIRE obligations. Since May 2007, the 27 member states of the European Union have been establishing an infrastructure for spatial information in Europe to support their community environmental polices, and places or activities which may have an impact of the environment.

Under the INSPIRE directive, there are 34 spatial data themes needed for environmental applications, with key components specified through technical implement rules. This makes INSPIRE a unique example of legislative 'regional' approach.

For more information please visit the INSPIRE webpage.

Licensee / Licensor

A licensee is a person or organisation that has been granted a licence by a licensor (i.e. a body, such as OS, that is able to grant a licence to others to use and copy its information). The extent of use is contained in the relevant licence (such as public sector member licences).

For example, with:

  • the Member Licence, the licensor is OS and the licensee is the member
  • a contractor licence, the licensor is the member that is commissioning the work and the licensee is the party that is undertaking the work.
  • an end user licence, the licensor is the member that is issuing the licence and the licensee is the recipient.
Licensed Data

Under the agreements, there are four forms of Licensed Data

  • The products supplied by OS and listed as being available to members (which may be amended from time to time)
  • Data created by the member (derived data) using, or in conjunction with, licensed data, supplied under the agreement.
  • Derived data supplied from another member
  • Other OS products or derived data that have been supplied to the member under another licence.

It should be noted that the term Licensed Data does not apply to:

OS OpenData

OS offers a wide range of digital map products which you can freely view or download, for use in both personal and commercial applications.

OS OpenData™ can be used with other open datasets available on and from other sources to enhance your existing data or applications.

The Open Government Licence (OGL) is part of the UK Government Licensing Framework (UKGLF) and permits the use and re-use of a wide range of government and other public sector information; supporting the government's policy on transparency and open data. It is also compatible with other licensing models, such as Creative Commons and Open Definition.

OS and intellectual property, copyright & database rights

Ordnance Survey Limited has a Crown Rights Agreement (PDF), which is a licence granted by the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, to make provision for the ownership and licensing of the copyright and database rights which subsist in OS mapping and geospatial data.

This means our data and our brand are protected by a variety of intellectual property rights (including copyright, database rights and trade marks), and our primary income comes from licensing these IP rights to Government, public sector organisations, commercial businesses and consumers.

For more information about the position of OS and Crown copyright please visit this webpage.

The licensing of Crown copyright and database right information is regulated via our accreditation under the Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS).

Member Licence

The Member Licence sets out the terms of what you, as a public sector member organisation, can and can't do with the data you are licenced for and can get access to through your agreement. 

As a summary, the Member Licence is a non-commercial licence that allows members to use OS data products for particular purposes, known as their 'core business', that typically means the provision of their public sector services.

The Member Licence is supported by three further licences. These are:

  • contractor licence
  • public sector end user licence – INSPIRE
  • public sector end user licence (EUL)

Presumption to Publish

This is facility that supports the Government’s Transparency Agenda (including the Local Government Transparency Code (England) and the Local open data incentive scheme submissions (England)

It is a notification process to OS that exempts your Licensed Derived Data from the Member Licence and means that you can release more of your data on Open Government Licence (OGL) terms – should you choose to do so and your derived data meets the qualifying criteria.

See here for more information.

Public sector asset datasets

This is a particular form of dataset that you may have to produce we have enabled you to release through our 'presumption to publish' approach, although they do not meet the qualifying criteria. 

See here for more information.

Public sector use

This is the use of Licenced Data to support delivery of, or to deliver to your core business. This includes the provision of Licenced Data to third parties.

Qualifying licensed data

This is a term used in connection with Public sector use and where the Licensed Data is either:

a) OS MasterMap Topography Layer; or

b) AddressBase, AddressBase Plus and/or AddressBase Premium and in which the PAF Data solely comprises Cleansed Data (where PAF Data and Cleansed Data shall have the meanings given to them in Part A of Appendix 3 - Addressing Datasets - Royal Mail terms).

Style guide

These are our guidelines that apply to all customers who have a current licence in place with us. Inside you’ll find all the information you need to help you understand how and when to use our standard copyright acknowledgements, logos and legends.

You should note that, depending on the activity you are undertaking, you also need to refer to your Member Licence as there is other wording that you need to add to (and does not replace) that standard acknowledgement.

To save you the time of looking through the various sections of the licence, we have provided the information in the Acknowledgements section of this guidance.

Statutory charge

means charges which the licensee is expressly permitted to charge pursuant to a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and/or Northern Ireland to which the licensee is subject.

Topographic datasets

The use of this term becomes important if you are seeking an exemption for a derived dataset that refers to this term, as not all OS datasets are regarded as being Topographic Datasets.

You will find the list this applies to in the Member Licence.


As part of your copy protection obligations, there are some occasions where the use watermarking is required.

For more information on watermarking and web mapping services / web feature services and for other circumstances visit this page.

Web mapping

There are two types of web services that you may be using:

Web Mapping Service (WMS) means a service provided by you in accordance with the standard protocol for serving over the internet geo-referenced map images that are generated by a map server using data from a GIS database or server.

Web Feature Service (WFS) means a service provided by you in accordance with the standard protocol for serving over the internet geo-referenced data that is generated by a map server using data from a GIS database or server.