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OPSI finds against OS in row over AddressPoint licensing

[Update: if you’ve come here via the Guardian article on spam, then first, apologies; secondly, the location you actually want to go to is – and that will tell you what IP address you’re on. Again, sorry for the error, which was introduced during editing.]

We’ve seen the OPSI report into Intelligent Addressing’s complaint (148K PDF) about the lack of transparency in the AddressPoint licensing terms.

Essentially, Intelligent Addressing (hereafter IA) says that OS seems to have a different licencing regime internally than externally: that a company outside OS can’t get access to AddressPoint on anything more than one-year contracts, whereas OS can use AddressPoint indefinitely. That puts external organisations like IA, which wants to license AddressPoint in order to compile the National Land and Property Gazeteer (NLPG), at a disadvantage.

And OPSI agreed.

Para 35:

In addition, the Complainant alleges that the lack of transparency extends to the website in that it is not clear how the Framework
Agreement interacts with the specific use contracts. Furthermore, the
Complainant states that there are few published details about the
partner licensing options.

Para 37:

The PSIH states that the website contains significant openly accessible
information, but does not publish the licensing options as the majority of
partners have actively managed accounts, and the PSIH works closely
with them to discuss their tailored licensing solutions.

The PSI Regulations also state that “Where conditions are imposed they
shall not unnecessarily restrict (a) the way in which a document can be re
-used or (b) competition� (Regulation (12) (1)). It appears to OPSI that the
terms of the licence unnecessarily restrict the way in which AddressPoint
can be re-used and unnecessarily restrict competition since such terms
are unnecessarily prescriptive. Some conditions imposed by the PSIH
restrict the way in which AddressPoint can be used and this restricts
competition between the Complainant and the PSIH since it immediately
puts the Complainant’s products which use AddressPoint at a
disadvantage to those of the PSIH. One such condition relates to time, as
the PSIH can grant licences with a longer term to end-users than others
such as the Complainant, who is limited to twelve month end-user
licences as licensees want more security in the length of time they are
able to use the information. This means that the Complainant is at an unfair disadvantage. Another example is cost as the Complainant has
to pay a higher licence fee for the use of AddressPoint. OPSI does not
consider that such restrictions are necessary.

You can read the full complaint and response. But here’s OS’s response, hot off the press:

“On the OPSI report, as Carol Tullo [head of OPSI] was saying last night [at the RSA/Free Our Data debate], it was only published last Thursday and so we still need to discuss it with OPSI in the context of the points we are already exploring from the reverification process you reported on in March.

That said, we do have a number of concerns around matters of fact and law in the report and are considering the options open to us including our right of appeal to the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI). The report purports to make wide-ranging recommendations regarding our licensing policy on the basis of a narrow investigation of a single, and atypical, set of circumstances.

Please be aware also that although they have a right to make a complaint to OPSI, Intelligent Addressing are not a licensee of Ordnance Survey information; they are a contractor to Local Government Information House, who are the licensee. We believe that OPSI’s interpretation of some of the concepts, terminology and clauses within Public Sector Information regulations could make it difficult for us to properly differentiate between the terms and conditions used for products and services licensed directly to end users for their internal business operations, from those applying to partners who generate commercial revenue by exploiting the data in their own products and services (often by adding value to our data); for example, a direct utility customer using the data to manage multi-million pound assets of pipes and cables would have to be licensed in a similar way to a small publisher using the data to produce consumer products retailing at a few pounds.

OPSI also appear to ignore the fact that third party data plays an increasingly important role in the content of our products and services, bringing added value and benefit to users. Royal Mail has a significant IPR interest in the products involved in the complaint. OPSI’s reading of relevant PSI regulation clauses could result in us having to implement pricing and licensing terms and conditions that would undermine the commercial interests of these third parties. This could in turn discourage them from offering their data into collaborative products and inhibit our ability to produce marketable data or to generate adequate revenue for reinvestment.

Our adoption of specific use contracts followed wide consultation with licensed partners from whom it gained broadly-based support. It enables pricing of data to be varied according to end-user perceptions of value for clearly identifiable areas of use. With this mechanism in place it guarantees that competing partners licensing products into the same market have paid similar licensing costs to us. The model assists in creating competitive markets among partners providing similar products and services and also enables users with specific needs to acquire their information at appropriate prices. Introducing a “one size fits all� approach may also be anti-competitive where others have already entered high cost/high value markets, and it may unreasonably inhibit more from doing so.

We are committed to honouring our full obligations as a Trading Fund with delegated authority to protect and exploit Crown Copyright and in so doing we are required to operate on a commercial agenda. We are proud to be accredited under the Information Fair Trader Scheme and are working with OPSI to ensure our licence terms and conditions remain open, transparent and fair.”

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