Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens

At last – free tide data, going back nearly 100 years

Thanks for the tipoff from someone Who Knew, one story in today’s Technology Guardian is about the fact that you can get tide data for free – and reuse it commercially, no muss, no fuss, and no copyright hassles.

The newspaper version reveals how tidal data can be got for free. It’s quite simple: you go to the British Oceanographic Data Centre, follow the links to “data”, register, and download as much data as you like. Then you’re free to make your own tidal harmonics. The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory has some analysis software – not free, though plenty of their maps are – demonstrating that some people are interested.

And the numbers, oh yes.

The BODC told me that since making the data available for free (under a contract with Defra signed in 2002) there have been 1347 commercial downloads of data since October 31st 2002; 659 commercial downloads between 1st April 2005 and 31st March 2006 (that’s nearly a doubling in a single year); and downloads have been made by 176 different commercial organisations including the following categories: consultancies; engineering; insurance; surveyors; water companies; local port authorities.

And they’re all free to make commercial use of that data. The only restriction is that they don’t pass it off as their own.

I find that pretty inspiring, actually. That’s a lot of companies making good use of data generated by taxpayers’ cash. And more piling in all the time.

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