The government consultation on Ordnance Survey mapping, an initiative resulting from the Guardian 'Free our data' campaign, is now coming to a close. The 'Trading Fund' status of the OS, and all that it legally implied, will now almost certainly undergo a radical upheaval.
For the latest information and discussion on the issue refer to the Guardian Technology blog and their related links.
The following sites cover the general arguments and some of the work in progress by independent organisations, including excellent articles by the Guardian:-
|Free Our Data
Make taxpayers' data available to them
Give us back our crown jewels
Ordnance Survey challenged to open up
Digital Norway sweeps away barriers to information sharing
State-collected Geographic Data is public property
A blog about open maps and geographical data
The Free Wiki World Map
We have received a few enquiries about displaying OS maps obtained from mapping software on walking websites. This is a difficult and poorly understood situation, not least because the licensing is a total shambles. Even the hapless people who answer queries at the OS don't fully understand it, moreover they can - and do - change the fine detail of the story at will. The official line contradicts their own published guidelines.
When walking sites first appeared, some webmasters contacted the OS and asked specifically what license was required to display segments of maps on their sites. It seems that the OS were still firmly rooted in a paper-based mindset and didn't know much about the internet at all, and they stated that the license required was a Paper Map Copying License (PMCL), costing 47.50+VAT per year. This was apparently confirmed by the addition of a specific question in their FAQ (the 3rd. question in the list). Up to 10 map images obtained from the online GetaMap service can be displayed free provided they are accompanied by an OS-worded acknowledgement, but any further images require the PMCL.
Several webmasters took out the PMCL and renewed it each year without any problems. Recently however one webmaster had a protracted confrontation with the OS who have changed their official line entirely:- they told him repeatedly that the PMCL means exactly what it says and no more, i.e. the copying of paper maps only. There is no license in existence that permits the display of map segments obtained from mapping software, nor will they create one. Screenshots (for example) of software mapping can only be displayed on a dedicated webpage to promote the software itself, and in no other circumstances. As a result he now has to scan paper maps and display segments of those rather than the better quality digital captures, which is ridiculous because he has purchased the maps in both formats and the same data is displayed in both cases.
The OS are reviewing the license terms of the PMCL. Briefly, the current terms will remain valid until the time of next renewal, at which point the new terms - which will almost certainly not allow the display of scanned paper maps on a website - will be offered.
For more detail see this FreeOurData blog entry
To summarise the current OS official licensing policy on displaying maps on your walking website:-
This situation will almost certainly change following the OS internal review, and experience shows that any further change after that would not be for the better. Andy Wightman's Who owns Scotland website has a dedicated page describing his bitter experience with the OS, despite having already paid a great deal of money to them, and it shows the kind of people we are dealing with. He has abandoned the OS and sought solutions elsewhere, removing their mapping from his site.