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OS refuses access of MasterMap to Google

UK: Ordnance Survey (OS) has refused to provide access of MasterMap to Google. OS says the data in MasterMap is its most valuable topographical data and describes it as ‘spatial intelligence’. The move is considered as a major setback for Google’s mapping plans for the Great Britain.

MasterMap, described as the jewel in OS’ crown by the company, is a digital, nationwide map accurate to within one metre on the ground and updated about 5,000 times every day. It uses the services of 300 surveyors and two aeroplanes. ‘This is our premium product,’ said an OS source. ‘It is exact and constantly updated – in fact, down to the latest moved kerbstone.’

MasterMap is highly valuable and much in demand by utilities, local authorities and government departments, which need detailed information to assess taxes, grants and everything in between.

Moreover, Ordnance Survey is now a state-owned trading company with a hardnosed commercial approach. Local authorities have been told that no guide created by them based on MasterMap, however limited or local, is allowed on Google Maps.

‘The current Google terms in clause 11.1 allow it to reproduce, modify, publish and distribute royalty-free any data used in conjunction with their maps, whoever it belongs to,’ said a spokesman. ‘This means that Google is obtaining a free and perpetual licence to use other people’s or organisations’ data for the purpose of enhancing Google Maps.’

Google did not comment on the development, but a source pointed out that the contentious clause 11.1 states that Google does not claim ownership of the original content.

Google argues that it wants its users such as ramblers, hill-walkers and tourists to have detailed information, including nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest. This last group alone covers 3,500 square miles, or seven per cent of England.

Google is also barred from showing local authority guides to points of interest and even where weary walkers can find a bench to sit.

To the annoyance of Google’s top management, such material is freely available on rival platforms such as Bing, owned by Microsoft, or Yahoo. However, according to Ordnance Survey and Natural England – the quango charged with looking after the countryside – these online operators, unlike Google, do not insist on having the rights to such information.

Google’s GBP 15 billion a year revenues dwarf the GBP 114.3 million of OS. But an organisation that has survived a fire at one HQ (the Tower of London in 1841) and being bombed out of another (in Southampton in 1940) is unlikely to surrender easily.

Source: Mail Online