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Annex 2: Useful definitions/explanation

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Using geospatial data | Annex 2: Useful definitions/explanation

In this section we define some common terms used in data licensing or used in this guide. It is not a definitive glossary and if you think we have missed anything please let us know. We have linked to further information where we can.

There are glossaries available that may also be helpful, eg the Ordnance Survey has a glossary of terms used within public sector licences and the OpenStreetMap wiki includes a glossary of terms related to OpenStreetMap.


  • Context: The acronym ‘API’ is used within one of the scenarios in this guide
  • API is a computing term and stands for Application Programming Interface.
  • In the context of data access, an API defines a specific way to retrieve data across the web. It will define things like the format of the data, which attributes of the dataset can be retrieved, the ways in which the data can be queried, etc.

“collective database”

  • Context: The Open Database Licence uses this term to describe a way of bringing different datasets together.
  • OpenStreetMap Community Guidelines describe a collective database as a ‘collection’ of independent databases.
  • A collective database brings together multiple data in layers but not adding to or changing them. The resulting product doesn’t have to be shared under open licence (share-alike) – a collective database can be shared under any relevant licence.


  • Context: this is a term we have used within this guide in answers to use cases.
  • By the term ‘correcting’ we mean changing the source data.

“development phase”

  • Context: we have used this generic term to describe the types of exploratory activities that may be permitted under the Ordnance Survey Data Exploration Licence.
  • Ordnance Survey does not provide a direct definition of what they take to be the ‘development phase’, but they do outline uses that would fall within that phase. Its licence guidance outlines that under the Data Exploration licence, you are likely to be in the development phase if you are:
    • in the process of researching and/or developing your ideas and propositions
    • assessing Ordnance Survey data for potential commercial opportunities or discerning the potential benefits and value of Ordnance Survey data
    • using Ordnance Survey data to create a working prototype of a potential product in order demonstrate or promote how your ideas or proposition would work
    • conducting a live trial or test (for up to three months)
    • or running a competition, hackathon or mash-up.

“derived/ derived datasets” (“derived products”)

  • Context: ‘derived’ is a common term used within data licensing. Both the Open Database Licence and Ordnance Survey data licences use this term.
  • We understand derived data to be the creation of data or information that includes the whole of or a substantial part of a third party’s work (i.e. database or dataset).
    • Derived data is typically only an issue for commercial licences, or those that place limitations or requirements on how or when data can be redistributed.
    • There isn’t a consistent definition of ‘derived data’. For example:
  • Ordnance Survey describes derived data as “…new datasets or information that have been created using an existing dataset or information asset as its source.” There is further guidance on their web page.
  • The OpenStreetMap Community Guidelines include guidance around derived data.
  • The OpenStreetMap  wiki also contains guidance including examples of derived data.
  • The ODbL describes derived data as “…a database based upon the Database, and includes any translation, adaptation, arrangement, modification, or any other alteration of the Database or of a Substantial part of the Contents. This includes, but is not limited to, Extracting or Re-utilising the whole or a Substantial part of the Contents in a new Database.
  • For an in-depth discussion of the variety of ways of defining ‘derived data’, see the article, ‘What is derived data?’.


  • Context: Extract is a common term used within data management and licensing.
  • The term ‘extract’ in this context means selecting and accessing a subset of data from a larger database or dataset.


  • Context: We have used this term within this guide as part of a use case to describe the bringing together of geospatial data from various sources.
  • In geographic information systems different datasets are often referred to as ‘layers’ that can be ‘switched off or on’ in the context of a digital map. An example of types of geospatial data layers is in Figure 1 (page 5) of the ODI’s geospatial data infrastructure report.
  • In using the term overlay in this guide we mean using multiple layers of geospatial data within the same mapping application.


  • Context: The Open Database Licence (ODbL) uses this term to describe the requirement to share outputs under the same licence.
  • OpenStreetMap Legal FAQ’s provide a good description of the term used in the context of OpenStreetMap. Essentially, if you improve OpenStreetMap data and then make it available to others you will need to share it under the terms of ODbL.
  • A share-alike licence requires you to republish new content or data that you create using the given content or data under the same, share-alike licence.
  • Publishing the content and data that you create from open data, as open data, is a good thing to do even if the licence does not require it. Opening up your content and data enables others to reuse and build on your work, and can add value to your work.

“systematic/ repeated extraction”

  • Context: We have used these terms in the description of a use case within this guide. The phrase is taken directly from the Open Database Licence.
  • We understand the term to mean the extraction of data from a database in a planned, routine and repeated way.
  • The term is linked in with the definition of ‘substantial’ and ‘insubstantial’ extracts of OpenStreetMap data.

“third party content/ third party rights”

  • Context: ‘third party’ is a common term used within data licensing when describing legal rights and intellectual property.
  • By using the term third party in this context we mean an organisation or individual who is not the data steward (the licensor) and not the reuser (the licensee).
  • For instance, in the context of the Data Exploration Licence (where this term is most commonly used in this guide) the data steward might be Ordnance Survey, the reuser might be your organisation (as your are sourcing the data), and the third party might be Royal Mail (who own the Postal Address File used within the Ordnance Survey product Addressbase).


  • Context: We have used this term in the description of a use case within this guide. It is also a common term used within data management.
  • By ‘validate’ we mean comparing two or more datasets and using the content of one dataset to check the accuracy of the data in another.