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Using geospatial data: what you need to know about licences

Fri Feb 1, 2019
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We explore how geospatial data can be used to build new tools and services, and what licences are required

As part of our project, Open geospatial data and technology in the UK, we have produced a guide which uses example scenarios to help explain how data from some important geospatial data stewards – Ordnance Survey, OpenStreetMap and Google – can be reused, and outlines the terms of different licences.

Geospatial data is data about a place, and most data has a ‘location element’ to it – everything happens somewhere and can be mapped with geographic coordinates. Geospatial data can be used in many different ways – it can help us to calculate transport routes, make decisions when moving house or identify areas at risk of flooding.

Geospatial data licences

When you use data you need to have permission from the relevant data steward (person or organisation who collects, maintains and shares data) to use the data as you wish. A licence tells you what permission you have been granted.

Users of geospatial data can often find it difficult to understand the language used in data licences. This can lead to uncertainty around whether they can use the data in the ways they need to, for example to create new products and services.

A lack of confidence in interpreting data licences can mean that people don’t build products/services, don’t include the most useful data in their projects, or miss the opportunity to publish and distribute additional open data.

At the ODI we want people to maximise the value of geospatial data, using openly licensed data where possible. We have produced guidance that explores example scenarios to help explain how licensing impacts on the use and reuse of geospatial data. We have focused on common licences produced by important geospatial data stewards – Ordnance Survey, OpenStreetMap and Google.

The guide is available to view or download here.

We anticipate this guide being used:

  • to help an individual or team improve understanding of individual licences
  • to help an individual or team to better understand how to use and share data from different sources
  • to help an individual or team decide on the most appropriate source of data for their project
  • to help data stewards understand the impacts of different licences when they release new data

More examples and feedback

We’d love to know if you have other examples of licences or data stewards that we could add to the guide; your experience of using the guide; and any feedback on how the guide could be improved.

You can leave comments on the Google Doc version of the guide or email us.

If you find this guide useful or would like to contribute answers for other licences then please let us know.