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Scope of this guide

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Using geospatial data: scope of this guide

Use cases

For this guide we have collected 17 example use cases describing common ways geospatial data is accessed, used and shared. We’ve focused on data supplied under licence from some important geospatial data stewards – Ordnance Survey, OpenStreetMap and Google. If you find this guide useful or would like to contribute answers for other licences then please let us know.

For each of the 17 use cases, we have focused on the licences that users have indicated they have trouble understanding, and those that will most commonly apply to startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK.

The licenses we have chosen are:

  1. The Open Government Licence (OGL)
    • The OGL is the licence used for Ordnance Survey Open Data. It is also the licence used when public sector organisations produce a product containing OS derived data and have met the ‘presumption to publish’ criteria, or have been granted an exemption by Ordnance Survey. Other UK public sector organisations use the OGL to publish open geospatial and non-geospatial data.
  2. The Open Database Licence (ODbL) in conjunction with OpenStreetMap Community guidance for use of OpenStreetMap data
    • For use of OpenStreetMap data we’ve taken the ODbL licence and the OpenStreetMap guidelines into account, because the community guidance can change how you might interpret the licence. It is important to note that another data steward publishing another dataset under the ODbL might have different views from the OpenStreetMap community.
  3. Ordnance Survey’s Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA)
    • The PSMA (and the One Scotland Mapping Agreement) enable public sector organisations in Great Britain to access and use Ordnance Survey data that would otherwise only be available under a chargeable commercial licence, for the purposes of performing their public task. Local government and other public sector organisations use Ordnance Survey data under the terms of this licence. Please note that Northern Ireland is covered by Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland and we haven’t considered this licence here.
  4. Ordnance Survey’s Data Exploration Licence
    • The Data Exploration Licence enables short-term access to Ordnance Survey data that is otherwise only available under a chargeable commercial licence, for the purpose of developing ideas, prototypes and performing trials. Startups and SMEs often use data under the terms of this licence, for example those working with Geovation community.
  5. Ordnance Survey’s Commercial Licence
    • We have included the Ordnance Survey Commercial Licence to give reusers an indication of whether use of the data in each case would be permitted after completion of the development phase. (In the development phase exploratory activities may be permitted under the Ordnance Survey Data Exploration Licence, see 4).
  6. Google Maps Platform Terms of Service
    • Google Maps is a widely used commercial geospatial data source and we have included a high-level indication of permitted use for each use case in the summary table for the Google Maps data licence. We have not provided full answers for Google Maps at this time.

For each of the above we have focused on the core permissions and requirements. While we have not examined  exemptions,other valid uses, ethics or other legislative requirements, you should also consider these areas when you plan to use data.

This document includes general guidance and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice about what action to take, please contact an advisor or solicitor.


Data licences typically require you to acknowledge the source of the data you are using. We have not provided detailed guidance about how to attribute individual data sources in the use case answers. We have instead provided some general guidance on attribution for OGL, ODbL, Data Exploration and the PSMA in Annex 1: how to attribute data.

You should always check the relevant documentation for the data you are using to ensure you comply with requirements for your use.


Annex 2: definitions/explanations explains some of the terms used and associated with data management, licensing and reuse.

What’s not included

This guide is not a comprehensive checklist of everything you need to consider when you access, use and/or share data.

The ODI has produced other guidance that may help you consider how you access, use and share data:

You will still need to ensure you comply with relevant legislation (eg data protection, equality etc), and consider any ethical issues that may arise from your use of the data, alongside complying with the licence itself.