Publishing Local Government geodata on Google Maps

I could have inserted an "F" word here. Thanks to Cudmore

Last year were in discussions with a potential partner in Local Government and the dreaded derived data question came up, something along the lines of “we’d love to work with you but …”

There still seems to be quite a lot of confusion about what data Local Government (or for that matter any public sector user of Ordnance Survey base maps) can or cannot publish using the Google Maps API. I thought that I would try to produce a simple outline of what people could and couldn’t do. Given that OS had published some new guidelines on derived data I foolishly thought it would be a fairly simple task.

After several iterations (shared with OS and Google) and some helpful input from the licensing and legal folk at OS I finally handed over a finished version to who have published it here. I must stress that this is my view of how PSMA members can publish data using Google Maps, OS have not officially sanctioned this view although I don’t believe that they materially disagree with it (watch the comments fill up on this post). Hopefully my version is a little easier to read and understand than this FAQ on the PSMA web site.

It is disappointing that we still cannot freely publish all public sector corporate geodata on top of Google Maps as part of routine business activity in the public sector. It costs the public sector and tax payers dearly in terms of usability, software license fees and infrastructure costs. Why does this continue to be a problem (particularly as OS are keen to point out that publishing on Bing Maps is OK, shame the API is less popular than Google’s and offers less usage for free)? Having spent over 3 months of wrangling, discussing etc, it seems to me that there is a lot of lawyer facing off going on here and somehow common sense is being suspended. I really don’t think Google wants to appropriate any OS IPR but OS lawyers remained stressed about their interpretation of Google’s T&C’s.

In their FAQ OS say

We have sought official clarification from Google on these points, and suggested alternative drafting that would resolve the issue from our perspective whilst, we hope, satisfying Google’s need to develop their service unencumbered for the benefit of their users. We understand that these proposals are receiving active consideration from their lawyers and we are hopeful that our recent positive engagement and experience with Google will result in mutually agreeable terms being adopted.

My response would be “Please get a move on”. There is business to be done, tax payers’ money to be saved and better public facing mapping experiences all waiting on a full resolution.

In the meantime there are loads of local government data sets that can be published using either the free or premier Maps API’s. Far be it for me to say to anyone interested in this topic “JFDI!” and Google are running an event for Local Government in June, you can register here. I imagine I will have a word or two to say on the subject

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