EDIT 2009/05/19: The service has been re-enabled – see this post…
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.
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:
- Contact the Openspace team at the Ordnance Survey at let them know how you were using this service.
- Help shape the future of the Ordnance Survey by voicing your opinions about their future “strategy“.
- Follow the Free Our Data campaign to find out why we should be allowed to use our data.
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 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.
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.
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