Yes Minister

No one could accuse government of being joined up or agile.

The conflicting priorities of different departments and initiatives have been exposed in the recent posts on Free Our Data on how OS licensing prevents public sector bodies from publishing “derived data” (data captured using OS mapping as a background or reference) in Google mashups – the problem appears to be around Google’s terms which may imply some rights to the data published over Google Maps (there is a lot of lawyerish stuff in this that I don’t claim to fully understand, US companies are usually pretty forceful on licensing and IPR). There are 2 lengthy threads in the links that outline the issues and some of the points of view.

There can be little doubt that creative use of geographic information is being stifled by this spat which seems to have dragged on for far too long. Some blame everything on OS and suggests that their senior management are deliberately obstructing the use of information that would be for the public good. My view is that the problem lies firmly with government. OS have been operating as a Trading Fund and continue to deliver on the targets that they have been set by their shareholder (HMG), one can hardly blame them for robustly defending their IPR within this framework. Remember that they settled a dispute with the AA over the unlicensed use of OS IPR in AA road atlases for a substantial sum of money (close to £20m I think) some of which ultimately trickled back into the Treasury’s coffers. This is what publishers do to protect their rights. Look at the recent settlement between Google and the Authors Guild and the Asssociation of American Publishers.

We can’t have it both ways – either we fund the national mapping agency through a grant and allow the data to be accessed at the cost of distribution (as the BERR report suggested) or we need to accept that an organisation that is tasked with generating its revenue through licensing is going to have to place some constraints on the use of its data to ensure that its revenue stream is protected. You pay your money (or not) and you make your choice.

For anyone who does not get the reference in the title enjoy this link to a clip from Yes Minister