[The UK] Ordnance Survey (OS) is trundling along nicely, fulfilling its cartographic duties, covering its costs and making a profit for the Government, which owns it. But that could change completely on November 21 if agreement is reached on new European legislation.
As things stand, OS funds its existence by charging people for the right to use the information it creates. Its data underpins commercial enterprises from computer games to satellite navigation systems as well as public services such as emergency planning. However, European proposals contained in the Inspire initiative — designed to join up information about weather, land and water across Europe to assist effective decision-making — would mean that all of its data would have to be made available free, says Vanessa Lawrence, OS’s director-general and chief executive.
“We cost £100 million a year to run,” she says. “We don’t make massive profits but we make enough to cover our costs, pay the Government a 5.5 per cent dividend and to invest in what our customers want. If we move to free data then it would be taxpayers’ money which is used to pay for our work, and I believe that our taxes should not be used for things that can be sustained in other ways. I feel strongly that we should be able to continue the job we do in the way we do it.”
Lawrence describes herself as the custodian of OS, supports the Inspire initiative’s aims and says that she’d be happy to give away some information; she just doesn’t want to give everything away....
Meanwhile, INSPIRE is going to be voted on November 21. Counting down...
Peter Suber at 11/02/2006 02:50:00 PM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.