Tuesday 15 February 2011

Government Open Data License FAIL

I'd like to illustrate this post, but it's taken so long to work out whether I'm allowed to I haven't had time left.

I wanted to extend my analysis of various OSM datasets by correcting for population density. A simple and obvious way of doing this is using the Super Output Areas defined by the Office of National Statistics.

Firstly, the data are not available on-line. Last week I completed the rather horrible Word document form available at the ONS site. I was pleased to get the CD promptly in the post yesterday. So far so good, just 5 days delay compared with an online download.

Next, I thought I'd check through the T&Cs: I expected a non-commercial license or restrictions similar to those of Natural England and other bodies which allow you to use their data, but not to show it to anyone else. So here are the main terms:
There is no restriction on the use of the material except that:
• a click-use licence must be obtained for re-use and publication;
• an end-user licence issued under a click-use licence must contain these terms and
• copyright and source must be acknowledged[4] on publication;
If I want to make an image using the boundaries and show it on this blog, I require a click-through license. In fact even if I printed out an image and tried to photocopy it in a public library I need a click-through license!

OK, how do I get a click-through license?

A link in the terms took me to the National Archives site, which mentions two kinds of license: an open government license, which has nice clear terms:
• copy, publish, distribute and transmit the Information;
• adapt the Information;
• exploit the Information commercially for example, by combining it with other Information, or by including it in your own product or application.

You must, where you do any of the above:

• acknowledge the source of the Information by including any attribution statement specified by the Information Provider(s) and, where possible, provide a link to this licence;
There is also something called the Parliamentary License which does have a link to a click-through license page, this time at OPSI (Office of Public Sector Information). This site does state:
1. Did you know?
We have completely changed the way you can use Crown copyright information. In fact you probably don't even need a Click-Use Licence anymore. This is because the information previously made available under the PSI Click-Use Licence is now offered under the Open Government Licence
Although I'm probably OK under an OGL, it's a bit difficult to be sure, so I thought I'd better register anyway. Finally there is a clear statement:

Crown copyright Information previously made available under the PSI Click-Use Licence is now offered under the Open Government Licence


But I've already waited 5 days for the data, and now I've spent a frustrating hour going from pillar to post between sundry websites belonging to different government departments all with slightly inconsistent messages.

If the ONS had published the data online they could have up-to-date license information, rather than old stuff pertaining to when the printed the CD, and I would have known exactly what I could and could not do with the data.

Enough moaning, time to use the data. Oh, there's another file of T&Cs, this time from the Ordnance Survey ...

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