Gavin’s Odd Bits of Code

2009-05-18 (Mon)

OS Overlays disabled by the Ordnance Survey

Filed under: Google Earth — Gavin Brock @ 10:04 pm
Tags: ,

EDIT 2009/05/19: The service has been re-enabled – see this post

What’s happened?

After running my KML based Openspace Overlay for Google Earth service for the best part of a year, the Ordnance Survey has decided that the service is in conflict with the OpenSpace Developer Agreement, and I have had my API key disabled.

OS API Key Blocked

Although I have requested clarification on exactly what aspect of the agreement I am in violation of, or how I could make changes to to the service so I can comply with agreement, they have chosen that they would rather block the it. I will give full details of my conversation with the OS below.

What can you do about it?

Over the year, many of you have sent me great feedback of how you are using this service for many things including hiking, biking and even in schools. I have really appreciated this! I believe this service has benefitted the community, and that is why I have worked on it and hosted it (at my cost).

I believe the the Ordnance Surveys actions are unfair and unnecessary. If you feel similarly, here are some things you might like to do:

Finally, if you do follow up on this, and have time, drop a comment at the end of this post to let me know!

The full details

The Ordnance Survey Overlay started life in October 2007 – it was a simple CGI script that translated data from the OS Explorer web service in KML suitable for Google Earth. In early 2008, the OS released Openspace API, and I registered for my API key and ported the service code.

From the beginning, I realised that this was going to be an edge case for the Openspace API, and I took great care to ensure that there could be no commercial conflict of interest and to maintain all copyright notices prominently. At no point did I store any OS data on my servers. I just provided users with pointers to publicly available map tile data on the OS web servers.

The service ran smoothly (with the occasional outages late in the day due to the 30,000 tile limit), until on April 17th, 2009 I received the following message from a member of the Openspace team (out of politeness I won’t post their contact details):

Regarding your project that displays Ordnance Survey data in the Google Earth application, we are writing to let you know that the OS Openspace Developer Agreement is inconsistent with what we understand to be Google’s standard terms and conditions and any provision of OS Data to Google for display on Google Maps would be in breach of the OS Openspace Developer Agreement and an infringement of Crown Copyright. Your project is therefore not currently allowed and the use of OS OpenSpace should be discontinued.

Now, since I am not using any Google APIs – I responded on April 19th:

Thank you for your feedback on my project.

The KML Overlay for Google Earth has been a service that I have been running since last autumn. The advantages of being able to take two dimensional OS map data and visualise it in 3D, or compare it to satellite imagery in Google Earth is something that has not been readily available to the general public, but is proving very useful not just to me, but to many other people. For example, I have received positive feedback from a number of users who have been using the service for planning safe routes for outdoor activities. I have also heard from teachers who are using it to explain mapping concepts to school children.

For the benefit of the community I would like to keep this service running, so I would be very grateful if you could clarify exactly where I am in breach of the OS Openspace Developer Agreement, or infringing Crown Copyright, and if so, what steps I could take to rectify this.

From my point of view, I believe:

* I am not providing any data to Google, nor am I storing it myself.

* I have included your copyright notice with the displayed data.

* I am in no way profiting from this project (in fact I am covering the costs, such as hosting and bandwidth personally)

* I am not using the Google Maps API and so I do not believe I am bound by it’s Terms of Service.

After a long silence, I finally got a response on April 29th:

We really like your project, but unfortunately it will need to be discontinued as soon as you can. This is because it remains our current position that OS OpenSpace Developers may use third party content with our data provided they do no grant the third party any wider rights than those the Developer agrees to when accepting the Ordnance Survey’s OpenSpace Developer Agreement.

Now they seemed to believe I am granting “rights” to Google. Me response (after a short vacation) on May 7th:

I’m still a little unclear on exactly what I am doing wrong. You mention that you believe that my service is granting a third party (I am assuming Google in this case) wider rights than the OS is granting me, however I don’t understand why this is the case.

My service is just translating the OpenSpace HTML link data into the similar KML format. This is then viewable through any KML browser, of which Google Earth is the most popular.  By providing a KML version of the data, complete with the OS copyright notices, I don’t believe that I am granting Google, or any third party, any rights. Isn’t the argument similar to saying that you grant Microsoft rights by viewing the data in Internet Explorer?

If the _appearance_ of granting rights is an issue, perhaps I could add further disclaimers, or copyright notices to the displayed data?

Finally, today, April 18th, I received:

Following our email on 29th April 2009 about the OS OpenSpace terms and asking you to discontinue your application we have not noticed that this has happened, so we have deactivated your account.

If you would like more information about OS OpenSpace terms please check out the website at http://openspace.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/or contact us at openspace@ordnancesurvey.co.uk.

If you find that you would like to use OS OpenSpace in the future for a new project please let us know and we will activate your API key again.

The Future

I don’t expect any quick fixes to get this service back on the air. Other people could run my code with their API keys, but I expect they will get their keys disabled too, probably quicker than mine.

I would still like to release the code – this is something I should have done ages ago. It’s a mess, but not complicated. I will put up a post up here when I do this.

There are also other ways to get at OS map data. I expect that a client side tool may solve the problem in the future.

To follow just my Google Earth posts, subscribe to the RSS feed on: https://gavcode.wordpress.com/category/maps/google-earth/

The service ran smoothly (with the occasional outage late in the day due to the 30,000 tile limit), until on April 17th, 2009 I received the following message from a member of the Openspace team (out of politeness I wont post his contact details):
Regarding your project that displays Ordnance Survey data in the Google Earth application, we are writing to let you know that the OS Openspace Developer Agreement is inconsistent with what we understand to be Google’s standard terms and conditions and any provision of OS Data to Google for display on Google Maps would be in breach of the OS Openspace Developer Agreement and an infringement of Crown Copyright. Your project is therefore not currently allowed and the use of OS OpenSpace should be discontinued.
Now, since I am not using any Google APIs – I responded on April 19th:
Thank you for your feedback on my project.
The KML Overlay for Google Earth has been a service that I have been running since last autumn. The advantages of being able to take two dimensional OS map data and visualise it in 3D, or compare it to satellite imagery in Google Earth is something that has not been readily available to the general public, but is proving very useful not just to me, but to many other people. For example, I have received positive feedback from a number of users who have been using the service for planning safe routes for outdoor activities. I have also heard from teachers who are using it to explain mapping concepts to school children.
For the benefit of the community I would like to keep this service running, so I would be very grateful if you could clarify exactly where I am in breach of the OS Openspace Developer Agreement, or infringing Crown Copyright, and if so, what steps I could take to rectify this.
From my point of view, I believe:
* I am not providing any data to Google, nor am I storing it myself.
* I have included your copyright notice with the displayed data.
* I am in no way profiting from this project (in fact I am covering the costs, such as hosting and bandwidth personally)
* I am not using the Google Maps API and so I do not believe I am bound by it’s Terms of Service.
After a long silence, I finally got a response on April 29th:
We really like your project, but unfortunately it will need to be discontinued as soon as you can. This is because it remains our currentposition that OS OpenSpace Developers may use third party content with our data provided they do no grant the third party any wider rights than those the Developer agrees to when accepting the Ordnance Survey’s OpenSpace Developer Agreement.
The issue has changes slightly now – they seemed to believe I am granting “rights” to google. Me response (after a short vacation) on May 7th:
I’m still a little unclear on exactly what I am doing wrong. You mention that you believe that my service is granting a third party (I am assuming Google in this case) wider rights than the OS is granting me, however I don’t understand why this is the case.
My service is just translating the OpenSpace HTML link data into the similar KML format. This is then viewable through any KML browser, of which Google Earth is the most popular.  By providing a KML version of the data, complete with the OS copyright notices, I don’t believe that I am granting Google, or any third party, any rights. Isn’t the argument similar to saying that you grant Microsoft rights by viewing the data in Internet Explorer?
If the _appearance_ of granting rights is an issue, perhaps I could add further disclaimers, or copyright notices to the displayed data?
I look forward to next months roadmap – I hear that it’s an exciting time at the Ordnance Survey. Is there any recommended places for discussion on the future directions?
Finally, today, April 18th, I received:
Following our email on 29th April 2009 about the OS OpenSpace terms and asking you to discontinue your application we have not noticed that this has happened, so we have deactivated your account.
If you would like more information about OS OpenSpace terms please check out the website at http://openspace.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/or contact us at openspace@ordnancesurvey.co.uk.
If you find that you would like to use OS OpenSpace in the future for a new project please let us know and we will activate your API key again.
The Future
I don’t expect any quick fixes to get this service back on the air. Other people could run my code with their API keys, but they will get disabled too, probably quicker than mine.
I would still like to release the code – this is something I should have done ages ago. It’s a mess, but not complicated. I will put up a post when I do this.
There are also other ways to get at OS map data. I expect that a client side tool may solve the problem in the future.
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17 Comments »

  1. Thats a real shame – I had a good 3D Google Earth demo going there with your OS OpenSpace networked KML.

    http://mapperz.brinkster.net/Demo/OS_OpenSpace_Tiles_Google_Earth.html

    now just ‘Sorry Ordnance Survey have disabled this service’
    Typical of the OS, when will they learn?
    I can’t see why they allow OpenSpace using OpenLayers what the difference is. Your not make money out of it.

    (hint use the Multi-map Open API for a work-around? check terms first)

    Mapperz
    http://mapperz.blogspot.com/

    Comment by mapperz — 2009-05-18 (Mon) @ 11:52 pm | Reply

  2. […] including Google Earth has been blocked by the OS for … well I’m not sure actually read Gavins blog post on the subject for the […]

    Pingback by OS puts the “No” back in Innovation | edparsons.com — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 1:04 am | Reply

  3. Gavin,

    Sorry to hear this has happened, happy to provide any clarification to the OS if that might help..

    ed

    Comment by Ed Parsons — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 1:07 am | Reply

  4. I, for one, would be very interested in looking at your code, and potentially helping to tidy it up.

    Ordnance Survey’s licences don’t match reality in any way any more, and they need to think long and hard about updating their rules to fit internet mapping.

    The OS themselves are promoting the WhereIsThePath website (http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm), which displays OS mapping for free to anyone on the internet. I have a demo OpenSpace site that also provides free OS mapping to anyone who visits, subject to the OpenSpace tile limits. Why that is any different to displaying tiles in Google Earth (as you say, Google don’t claim any rights to displayed data, and they don’t even get to see what’s being displayed anyway) I really don’t know. But OS still think that “displaying” data in a web browser is somehow different to “downloading” the same data… they can’t tell me what that difference is, though… http://openspace.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/openspace/gallery.html

    Comment by Anthony Cartmell — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 1:57 am | Reply

  5. Oh, forgot about the Derived Data rules, that actually mean that you can’t use the Google Maps API for UK points at all, officially (that comes from the OS licensing team). Points and lines traced on the TeleAtlas mapping that Google provides for free become OS-derived data and are therefore entirely owned by OS (!). Since you are not allowed to display any OS-derived data on Google Maps of any kind, it’s pretty difficult to legally use Google’s excellent mapping system for UK points. Presumably this applies to non-UK websites that happen to display UK points, but there’s no way they can enforce this silly rule worldwide. Or even in the UK, for that matter.

    Comment by Anthony Cartmell — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 2:00 am | Reply

  6. Copy of mail to OS. Only recently discovered the overlay and loved it. I should have said ‘good work’ sooner.

    Hi,

    I’m very disappointed to lose this service. I was using it to locate listed buildings all over the country for a flickr/google/Wikipedia non-profit project involving several hundred people. I was also using it on a near daily basis to teach my son about mapping and his local area; the overlay made the contours come alive.

    It hasn’t been clear to me how the overlay broke the T&C’s. I hope you can reconsider, or at least provide an explanation.

    Comment by Mark — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 2:03 am | Reply

  7. Phoney openness will always be revealed as such.

    This is why I only ever work with genuinely open and free projects like OpenStreetMap.

    Comment by ris — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 2:25 am | Reply

  8. […] can read more  info here from Gavin’s […]

    Pingback by Fail Maps » Blog Archive » Ordnance Survey FAIL — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 2:27 am | Reply

  9. I have emailed OS to express my disgust.

    Comment by Swordsman — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 4:23 am | Reply

  10. Sounds like the problem that used to exist with Google’s T&Cs, discussed for Chrome (where it was first spotted) at http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/update-to-google-chromes-terms-of.html

    I believe a similar issue applied to Google Earth for a while, and perhaps your correspondent believes it still does.

    Comment by PeterP — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 5:49 am | Reply

  11. Hi Gavin.
    Really sorry to learn that the OS has killed the overlay, which I found really useful in the classroom. Thanks for the time and effort you spent in creating the service. I’ll be contacting the OS and urging other colleagues to do the same.

    All the best

    Noel Jenkins

    Comment by Noel Jenkins — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 6:57 am | Reply

  12. I have emailed: “I would just like to convey my disappointment at OS’s decision to block the use of openspace mapping at this website http://www.brock-family.org/gavin/google-earth/osmaps.html Regarless of the ‘letter of the law’ of your API, this site was run without profit and was providing a useful public service. The OS’s maps are Corwn Copyright and you should act in the best interest of UK citizens and taxpayer. The actions you have taken in this case have not been. I urge you to reconsider.”

    I’ll let you know if I get a response.

    Comment by Rob — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 7:06 am | Reply

  13. Hello Gavin,

    As Director of Products at Ordnance Survey I’d like to apologise for the way we have communicated and explained this issue. As discussed widely in the press Ordnance Survey is going through significant transformation and I see this as a teething problem (and can not promise it will not happen again).

    The issue we seem to have with your application is related to the Terms and Conditions of Google Earth, which end users viewing your data accept when they decide to use that product. These Terms state that by using your content (Ordnance Survey data) in Google Earth you/they grant Google a right to that data (“By submitting, posting or displaying Your Content in the Service, you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute Your Content through the Service and as search results through Google Services”). You or end end users of your application do not have the right to grant Google any rights to Ordnance Survey data, and that’s really where the problem is. Google claims similar rights when you use the Google Maps API.

    We at Ordnance Survey do not understand why Google would require this perpetual right to data that their users only want to display, and are therefore working with Google’s lawyers to get these terms changed or at least get a formal clarification.

    This is not a derived data issue, as you are not deriving any other data from the raw OS data and I hope readers of your blog will not confuse these two.

    I understand your situation might feel like being caught in the middle with an application that is absolutely in the spirit of OS OpenSpace.

    I know there are many other tools in the market that could benefit from your application; many other tools can read a KML stream these days. Many of these tools do not claim a comparable right to the displayed content. I would like to make sure you can explore the possibilities these other tools give you and have therefore asked my team to re-instate your API key as soon as possible for a period of 3 months at least. The purpose of re-instating this key is to allow you to explore these other tools. You will need to make it very clear on your web pages that the KML stream is not to be used within Google Earth, as that would breach your licence.

    In the mean time, I hope Google will give the GI community the clarification it deserves on the terms and conditions of Google Earth and the Google Maps API. My opinion is that granting Google a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free license to all content that people only want to display is unnecessary.

    I will cross-post this email on Ed Parsons’ blog’, hoping he can use some of his influence at Google to get that clarification.

    Best regards,

    Peter ter Haar
    Director of Products
    Ordnance Survey

    Comment by Peter ter Haar — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 6:36 pm | Reply

  14. […] the developer was using Google APIs and somehow transmitting OS property to Google. There’s more on the developer’s blog. Write the first […]

    Pingback by OS Maps overlaid in Google Earth @ Ammotin — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 9:34 pm | Reply

  15. Thankfully its working again. I’d just found the KML based Openspace Overlay for Google Earth service and found it excellent for geocaching.

    Thanks for the great work

    Comment by Sean — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 9:38 pm | Reply

  16. Good news – the service is available again… See https://gavcode.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/os-overlays-re-enabled/

    Comment by brockgr — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 9:44 pm | Reply

  17. […] useful application that overlays Ordnance Survey mapping over Google Earth. You might have seen this post about it too. You might even have written to the Ordnance Survey to complain about […]

    Pingback by Computing, GIS and Archaeology in the UK » Ordnance Survey not so bad after all? — 2009-05-21 (Thu) @ 6:02 pm | Reply


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