Free Our Data: the blog

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


A national address gazette – but copyright problems persist

Today’s Guardian notes the arrival of the NLPG (national land and property gazetteer) in a commercial form, created by local authorities and Intelligent Addressing.

Yours, for

between £15,000 and £20,000 a year. Profits will be shared among local authorities to help them keep data up to date.

So let’s delve briefly:

The gazetteer is not the only address database on the market. The state-owned Ordnance Survey also offers addresses as part of its MasterMap digital geographical database of Britain.

Depending where you stand, this is either healthy competition or a wasteful duplication of effort. In recent years, a tortuous dispute over the licensing of intellectual property in state-generated address databases has exposed some of the damaging consequences of public agencies trying to compete with each other in the information business. Last year, the dispute exposed a hole at the heart of the government’s information strategy when the Advisory Panel for Public Sector Information said it was unable to rule on the matter.

So what do we advise?

Technology Guardian’s Free Our Data campaign urges a simple solution – that a taxpayer (or otherwise centrally funded) basic database of addresses be made available to all comers, for free. Despite some advances in the campaign, including the support of the Cabinet Office minister responsible for government IT, we have a long way to go.

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