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SABRE Maps/OS Copyright

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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

Most OS Seventh Series maps have revision codes that look like this, B/* in this example, which dates the map to 1966 rather than the 1962 copyright date

Annoyingly, the OS didn't actually print the exact date of publication on most maps from 1948 until 2015. The date that appears on maps (with words such as Crown Copyright, Made and published by the Director General of the Ordnance Survey, or Printed by the Ordnance Survey Office) often is not the correct date of the map, but the date of either the last full revision, or the first printing of that map. 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

I have a query regarding the exact copyright position of the OS with regard to old, out-of-copyright mapping.

I understand that Crown Copyright protects works for 50 years after the date of publication. However, when reprinting with minor revisions on, say One Inch Seventh Series mapping, the date printed next to the copyright symbol is not changed from the date of the last major revision of that map. This means that often the "copyright date" and the "actual date" do not match.

Which do OS consider to be the correct date for copyright purposes?

In this fictitious example:

1. "B" revision of a map was printed in 1965; with a latest revision date shown of 1965 and a "Crown copyright 1965" printed on the map.
2. "B/*" revision, printed 1968, latest revision date shown 1968, but as it is a minor revision, "Crown copyright 1965" printed on the map.
3. "B/*/*" revision, printed 1973, latest revision date shown 1972, but a minor revision so "Crown copyright 1965" is printed on the map.

Would OS consider the first example only to be out of copyright as at 1 January 2018, or all examples? Which of these therefore, could be published in a georeferenced form on the Internet without breaching copyright?

Initial Response from OS

From: Customer Services
Received: Mon Jan 22 2018 11:30:45 GMT+0000 (GMT Standard Time)
To: xxx
Subject: CS-43307-B2K4F8 RE: Historic OS copyright TT:001990937

Hi xxx,

Thank you for your message and query about copyright on historical Ordnance Survey mapping, and in particular for your clear explanation and example which are appreciated.

To be absolutely certain I have referred the details you provided to our legal department to investigate and advise. We will be in touch by Wednesday 7 February 2018 at the latest with either a full response or an update. Your enquiry has been allocated the reference CS-43307-B2K4F8. Please quote this in any further correspondence on this matter.

Thank you for taking the time to raise this matter with us. I am sorry I cannot provide an answer at this stage but I would like to assure you that we will be in touch in the near future.

Kind regards,

Ben Humphries 
Customer Service Adviser
Customer Services, Ordnance Survey

Legal Response from OS

From: Customer Services <>
To: xxx
Sent: Wednesday, 7 February 2018, 13:35
Subject: RE: CS-43307-B2K4F8 RE: Historic OS copyright TT:001990937

Hi xxx,

I am writing to inform you of the outcome of the investigation into the applicable year for calculating the length of copyright protection for Crown Copyright on Ordnance Survey paper maps.

Our legal team have looked into this and have provided the following information: for printed Ordnance Survey maps, the year that counts for the purposes of calculating the length of Crown Copyright protection is the year in which the map was first published, rather than the dates of subsequent revisions. The applicable year for copyright protection is displayed on the map in the Crown Copyright statement i.e. “© Crown Copyright [YEAR].”

Crown Copyright protection lasts for 50 years from the year that the mapping in question was first published. Accordingly, if a map was first published over 50 years ago it can be copied or otherwise used without a licence from Ordnance Survey. So, in your hypothetical examples, all three maps became out of copyright at the end of 2016 and can be copied used without any licensing from Ordnance Survey being needed (for further clarification, please see the page on our website).

I trust that this information is helpful, and thank you for your interest in Ordnance Survey.

Kind regards,

Ben Humphries 
Customer Service Adviser
Customer Services, Ordnance Survey

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.

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