SABRE Maps/OS Copyright
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Copyright • Stitching scans • Calibrating maps • Creating map tiles
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In simple terms, Crown Copyright (for Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland maps) lasts for 50 complete years, so maps safely can be used on the 1st January after the 50 years are up. Government Copyright for Ordnance Survey Ireland mapping also lasts for 50 years. All other mapping has a copyright of 70 years or the life of the author plus 70 years for a work with a named author. This last clause means that all A-Z maps that specifically name Phyllis Pearsall are in copyright until 2066, long after later editions that do not have dropped out of copyright.
SABRE Maps can't use in-copyright mapping without the agreement of the publishers.
However, there is a query as to exactly when Ordnance Survey believed that the Crown Copyright expired on their maps that were reprinted with major or minor revisions.
The Crown Copyright problem
Annoyingly, the OS didn't actually put the exact date of publication on each map on most maps between about 1948 and 1988. The date that appears on maps (either with the words Crown Copyright or Made and published by the Director General of the Ordnance Survey) often is not the correct date of the map, but the date of the last full revision. Equally the so-called magnetic date showing the direction of magnetic north on a certain date was inconsistently updated, often to a point different to the actual date of the map.
Roads (and railways) are updated every major or minor revision (as well as every full revision), so there is every chance that a map may actually be from quite a number of years away from the copyright date.
For example, a One-Inch Seventh Series map Sheet 10 (Tongue) with a Crown Copyright date of 1959 may actually date from 1967 or from 1973, depending on the exact map revision.
Historic SABRE Maps position
The historic SABRE Maps position on this is based around guidance received from the British Library on the problem.
Their advice was that if a map that stated the copyright date on it as being more than 50 years old was used within SABRE Maps, then it was a legally defensible position if such a map was uploaded accidentally, and we believed that it was published more than 50 years prior. However, if/when we became aware that the "actual date" of the map was less than 50 years prior, then it needed to be removed.
SABRE therefore needed to err on the side of caution, and great lengths were taken to identify the "actual date" of the map as to identify whether the map could be used, and only if both the "copyright date" and the "actual date" were both more than 50 years prior would that map be scanned, georeferenced and uploaded.
Asking the question of OS
As more and more mapping became available to use, the Crown Copyright problem was revisited to confirm that the historic SABRE Maps position was indeed the correct one, or whether it could be relaxed so that we could use mapping from less than 50 years prior, as long as SABRE complied with the Crown Copyright date.
Case reference number CS-43307-B2K4F8 was therefore raised with the Ordnance Survey to get their official legal position on this.
Initial email query
Initial Response from OS
Legal Response from OS
It was later confirmed that "2016" in the response was a typo for "2015".
Present SABRE Maps position
With the responses received from Ordnance Survey as copied above, the position of SABRE Maps has changed. We will therefore be following the OS's legal responses that the only date to be concerned with regarding OS paper maps is the "copyright date" printed on the map.
This means therefore, that we are able to publish maps where the "actual date" on the map would ordinarily appear to indicate that the map is still in copyright; and therefore there may be OS map layers on which there are maps that are less than 50 years old but will still comply with Ordnance Survey's copyright requirements.
The map information header that gives the print date and the revision code will therefore carry not only the previous information where available, but also the copyright date for all layers dated later than 1967; as well as a link back to this page for information about the current OS Crown Copyright policy of SABRE Maps.