Thursday, 29 November 2007

Ordnance Survey: A chat with the Service Delivery Manager

It has to be said that the O.S employ incredibly courteous, polite people. This morning The Service Delivery Manager called me back. He had done his homework and could see entirely the problems I was having.

We discussed linking my site to the O.S. 'Explore' service and both agreed that it really wasn't the best way to display a linear walk of between 12 and 24 miles a day for 103 walking days using a square of 4.2km in size. We, naturally enough then, both agreed that this disadvantage also ruled out their otherwise excellent 'Get-a-map' service for exactly the same reason. (That service is a little cracker if you are wishing to post circular walks and supplement it with pictures.)

I think what we have here is the Ordnance Survey caught in a bit of a bind. They have their terms and conditions and Crown Copyright to adhere to, but this was never written with blogs and personal walking websites in mind.

Dave told me that the O.S were in fact examining this problem (amongst a host of other commercial considerations, I am sure) when they set themselves a target of next February of re-writing their terms & conditions.

He asked me to write to him formally so that my submission can be considered in this process. I felt that this request was genuine and that the organisation really did sympathise that their current rules had caused this problem that I am now facing.

In the meantime, I was very keen to ascertain what action, if any, the O.S. were likely to take should I decide to publish my maps anyway. I wanted to know if I would be taken to court by the Ordnance Survey.

Dave answered very carefully and let me know that the O.S would have to reserve the right to protect Crown Copyright. I asked him again if this meant that they would take me to court. He would not be drawn and reiterated that the O.S had a duty to protect their copyright.

I believe that we have a decent man here working for an incredibly good organisation that is totally trapped in this untenable situation by the current rules. The ePSIplus thematic network is out there trying to ensure that all European Public Sector Information is available in a fair and reasonable fashion.

Currently the O.S. are falling way short of the required performance in making this data - the mapping - available to me in a way that is fair or reasonable.

I shall write to the Ordnance Survey as Dave has suggested in order to further the cause of sanity. I shall also be complaining using their complaints procedure, and if I get the 'straight bat' response I fear they are obliged to make, then I shall be complaining to the OPSI once more as the PSI Holder (the Ordnance Survey) will not have given me satisfaction.

It is a great shame that the guys at the O.S are put in this ridiculous situation. Where the blame for this ridiculous situation lies I do not know, but ridiculous it is. And Untenable.


  1. Keep going Alan, you're doing us all a favour. We could have a bloggers' lobby group, sign a petition or something to show that it's not just you.

  2. ...I believe that we have a decent man here working for an incredibly good organisation...

    I don't doubt that they have some decent frontmen, and they certainly have excellent technical people working at the coal face, but be not deceived... let's not forget that these are the people who threatened one webmaster with legal action and closure of his site for displaying a hand-drawn sketch map, claiming it was based on their data.

  3. positive progress Alan even if there's little tangible benefit to you as yet.

    Thanks for the crusade

  4. Hi Alan.

    Don't know if you've seen this?

    Looks interesting...


  5. Hi Mark

    Good spotting there Sir!

    I have taken a walk around their site and read it all through - and still I am not much the wiser, (being a bit of a non-techie chap) - It appears as though the O.S. are finally relenting and are letting non commercial, not for profit outfits (me?) have use of their data for their websites.

    I am not sure how this is done and whether or not it will work on a blog and how much info I can display on my blog if I am allowed to use it - they talk of 'tiles' which means bugger all to me, a non technical chap.

    It also appears that they are limiting use at the moment to 'developers' whatever that may mean (Why do they speak in tongues?)

    However, I will get to the bottom of it and work it out either by boring them to death by emailing them questions ad infinitum or talking to them on the phone to see what on earth they are talking about in layman's terms!

    Does this mean, for instance that I can publish my digital Anquet maps on my blog?

    No idea at the moment but I shall find out!

    Many thanks Mark - you are a shiny star!


  6. Glad I could help. :-)

    Re the 'developer' thing, it's not open to the public until (I think) January, and in the meantime it's only open to those who've been invited (i.e. developers who are testing the product). Or something like that - calling them is probably the best idea!

    I'll be interested to find out what they say...



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