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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Ordnance Survey and Virtual London

    Less than a couple of weeks since I reported on the Guardian's latest article on Freeing Our Data and the fact that the Ordnance Survey was 'under fire' from another government body (DEFRA), the Guardian is on the attack again. And the target? Well, the Ordnance Survey, again. In the latest from the 'Free Our Data' campaign, they report that OS has decided to withhold its licence for data for the Virtual London project, which was meant to act as a useful visualisation tool including three million of the city's buildings.

    As Information World Review says,
    The question everyone is asking is why can’t the public access information that they have already paid for and help fund the development of?

    The OS say that they were unable to issue the licences for the project the way Google wanted because it wouldn’t fit into their current framework.

    In the Technology Guardian, it is reported that negotiations have been going on for a year, the
    stumbling point is understood to be that Google wanted to make a one-off payment for the use of the MasterMap data, while OS wanted a per-user charge. .. But last month the Virtual London team formally admitted defeat. The Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis reported on its blog that "our Virtual London model will not be appearing in Google Earth due to data licensing issues". The decision "puts a stop to six years of research to openly inform the public about changes to London's built form via a publicly accessible model"... Virtual London's chief developer, Dr Andrew Hudson-Smith, said the blame lay with Ordnance Survey's licensing practices, which he described as "quite frankly arcane in the digital world". He called for the government's Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information to look urgently at the issue.
    Given that Virtual London is a government project (Office of the Mayor of London), the situation is very close to the DEFRA case previously reported. They may all three be separate cost centres, but the fact remains that it is the citizenry who pays for the data collection in the first place and is now called upon to pay for it again.

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