UK Government Licensing Framework - Transparency Board Update (11/10/2011)

UK Government Licensing Framework - Transparency Board Update (11/10/2011)

UK Government Licensing Framework - Transparency Board update (11/10/2011)

1.Background and context

1.1The UK Government Licensing Framework (UKGLF), incorporating the Open Government Licence (OGL), form part of the Government’s drive to open up access to and re-use of publicly held information, promoting transparency and enabling wider economic and social gain. The National Archives (TNA) launched the framework and the OGL in September 2010, and these were very well received both nationally and internationally.

1.2The OGL has been designed in such a way that any public sector organisation can use it. As well as being the default licence for most central government information, 215 local authorities to date are releasing data under its terms. Other adopters include Becta, the Parole Board,the Scottish Information Commissioner, and the University of Southampton Open Data Service. Ordnance Survey adopted its terms for OS OpenData, with specific requirements relating to third party attribution. In addition, the UK Parliament launched the Open Parliament Licence to cover Parliamentary copyright information in August 2011,reflecting the principles in the frameworkandOGL.

1.3The National Archives launched the framework originally in beta form to enable it to evolve and develop in response to engagement and feedback from the public, the user community and the public sector. Building on the achievements of the original version, as well as reflecting stakeholder views and emerging policy needs, the revised framework (UKGLF 2.0) was launched in August 2011. This incorporated the Non-Commercial Government Licence (NCGL) and guidance on the development of licences where charges apply. It also expands the policy on licensing software and source code developed by the public sector by recognising and advocating open source licences approved by the Open Source Initiative.

2.The Non-Commercial Government Licence

2.1The National Archives developed the NCGL to enable re-use in circumstances where it is necessary for a distinction to be drawn between commercial and non-commercial re-use. This development ensures that the framework enables more public sector information to be released under a standardised licence where the OGL is not applicable.(Creative Commons also recognises the need for a licence that covers non-commercial use and accordingly have a non-commercial licence in their portfolio.)

2.2The revised framework and NCGL enable public sector organisations to release data in compliance with the INSPIRE Regulations 2009, which allow for restrictions for non-commercial re-use of spatial data. The National Archives engages with the UK Location Council, which oversees the implementation of INSPIRE Regulations covering the use, sharing and re-use of spatial data. During discussions in 2010-11, the UK Government Licensing Framework was identified as the most appropriate solution and avoided the need to develop a separate one for spatial data.

2.3In addition, some pre-existing contractual arrangements and the rights acquired in some works commissioned by the public sector prevent some public sector information from being released for wider commercial use under the OGL. Commissioned photographs and images are a good example of this.

2.4It has been made clear to government departments that use of the NCGL can only take place with permission from the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in The National Archives and that the OGL is the default licence. Any applications for release of government information under the NCGL must be supported by a business case to justify why the default arrangements are not appropriate. This is to avoid a situation where government departments adopt an overly conservative attitude to opening up data.

2.6To date there are no records of any public sector organisation releasing data under the NCGL. However, it is envisaged that some organisations will use the NCGL as implementation of the INSPIRE Regulations for spatial data progresses.


3.1During the development of the revised framework, stakeholders across government and the public sector, including the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI) and the UK Location Council wereconsulted. The National Archives also provided regular updates to the Cabinet Office Transparency Team through existing official exchanges, as well as the Licensing and Transparency Practitioners Group.

3.2With the launch of revised framework and NCGL, an article appeared in the Guardian Technology section, which referred to the NCGL as an ‘open’ licence. While the OGL is an open licence, the NCGL is not, as it limits re-use to non-commercial purposes. The National Archives pointed this out to the journalist and the article was corrected to reflect this point.

3.3The Open Knowledge Foundation defines an open licence as being one that grants permission to access, re-use and redistribute a work with few or no restrictions. The nature of ‘open’ in relation to licensing forms part of ongoing wider discussions in open data and licensing communities, of which The National Archives is particularly aware. In the case of the NCGL, there have already been instances where open data community has corrected misperceptions itself.

4.Guidance on commercial licensing

4.1As part of the need to develop a portfolio of licensing solutions to maximise the range of material covered, the revised framework also brought together guidance on developing licences for use where charges apply. This guidance was developed primarily for use by organisations releasing spatial data, but it could potentially be used by other organisations, such as trading funds, in the development of their licences. It may be a forerunner for standardised solutions in the context of the Public Data Corporation.

5.Next steps

5.1Discussions with the UK Location User Group and others have identified the desire for a developer licence. This would enable the use of spatial data free of charge during the development phase of a product, after which a charge may be applied for commercial and/or non-commercial use.

5.2An International PSI Policy Exchange workshop with officials from New Zealand and Australia is planned for the end of October. The purpose of this workshop is to build on the co-operative working on licensing between the UK, New Zealand and Australian governments in recent years. This will provide a good opportunity to share best practice and exchange views on future developments. This also provides the opportunity to build on the UK Government’s global reputation as a leader in transparency and open data.

The National Archives