Request for information - Ref No: FOI231143
Thank you for your email of 18 April 2023, requesting information from Ordnance Survey in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000, as set out in the extract below:
“In 2001 the AA paid you £20 million for breaching your copyright. Please can you give me this information by email:
- A copy of the letter before claim you sent the AA to start the whole process.
- Details of the 'fingerprinting" process by which you detected that the AA had copied your maps.”
I confirm that Ordnance Survey does hold some of the information you have requested. Where the information is not held or exempt this is stated.
Taking each request in turn, I confirm the following:
1. A copy of the letter before claim you sent the AA to start the whole process
I confirm that Ordnance Survey does hold a copy of the requested information, please see the letter before action dated 8 October 1996 from Ordnance Survey to The Automobile Association (PDF).
We do not hold a copy of the Memorandum referred to in the attached letter.
Whilst we are able to release the attached letter, note that we have redacted the signature on the letter as it is exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) (Personal Information), of the FOIA as it constitutes personal data. Section 40(2) provides that personal data is exempt information if one of the conditions set out in section 40(3) is satisfied. In our view, disclosure of this information would breach the data protection principles contained in the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018.
Section 40(2) is an absolute exemption and therefore not subject to the public interest test.
2. Details of the 'fingerprinting" process by which you detected that the AA had copied your maps
I confirm that Ordnance Survey does not hold the information you have requested.
Ordnance Survey detected that AA had copied our mapping by comparing the maps with our own mapping and identifying where unique cartographic styling, which distinguished Ordnance Survey mapping from other mapping had been used by the AA; this process was referred to in the litigation as “fingerprinting”.
Under the duty to provide information and assistance in accordance with section 16 of FOIA, you may find the following published articles useful:
Copying maps costs AA £20m | UK news | The Guardian. In particular, the following quote: Ordnance Survey’s “fingerprints” did not extend to putting misleading features in maps: “There are some publishers who put deliberate mistakes in their maps. We don’t do that - it would mislead our customers. For us, it’s more about the style we use.”
Your enquiry has been processed according to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000. If you are unhappy with our response, you may request an internal review with our Internal Review Officer by contacting them, within two months of receipt of our final response to your Freedom of Information (FOI) request, as follows:
Internal Review Officer
Customer Service Centre
Please include the reference number above. You may request an internal review where you believe Ordnance Survey has:
- Failed to respond to your request within the time limits (normally 20 working days)
- Failed to tell you whether or not we hold the information
- Failed to provide the information you have requested
- Failed to explain the reasons for refusing a request
- Failed to correctly apply an exemption or exception
The Internal Review Officer will not have been involved in the original decision. They will conduct an independent internal review and will inform you of the outcome of the review normally within 20 working days, but exceptionally within 40 working days, in line with the Information Commissioner’s guidance.
The Internal Review Officer will either: uphold the original decision, provide an additional explanation of the exemption/s applied or release further information, if it is considered appropriate to do so.
Appeal to Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
If, following the outcome of the internal review you remain unhappy with our response, you may raise an appeal, within three months of receiving our response, with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Further information can be found on the ICO website (ico.org.uk) under ‘Report a concern’ or you may wish to call the ICO helpline on 0303 123 1113.