Does UK Government Grok the GPL?

This is really quite interesting. It seems as though the UK government are starting, finally, to get the whole “Commons” thing.

There is this Government Department/Quango(?) called the Office of Public Sector Information (OSPI for short). Yep, I’ve never heard of them either. Not until I saw this tweet from Glyn Moody last night at any rate. The OSPI’s remit is (according to their website) as follows:

Operating from within the National Archives, the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) is at the heart of information policy, setting standards, delivering access and encouraging the re-use of public sector information. OPSI provides a wide range of services to the public, information industry, government and the wider public sector relating to finding, using, sharing and trading information.

The merger of OPSI with the National Archives in October 2006 enables the combined organisation to provide strong and coherent leadership for the development of information policy across government and the wider public sector.

OPSI has an important role as a regulator of public sector information holders for their information trading activities. The Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS) founded on the principles of openness, transparency, fairness, compliance and challenge helps re-users of public sector information to know that they will be treated reasonably and fairly. OPSI also investigates complaints against public sector information holders made under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations.

OPSI provides the Click-Use system for obtaining a licence to re-use Crown copyright and public sector material through an online licensing process and is responsible for the Information Asset Register (IAR) that lists information assets held by the UK Government with a focus on unpublished material. OPSI also provides a secretariat to the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI), which advises Ministers on how best to encourage the re-use of public sector information.

Operating from within OPSI, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO) continues to exist and fulfil its core activities including responsibility for the publication of legislation and the management of Crown copyright.

Got that? Good. Although I’m still not sure I know what they “do”. I can see they are “at the heart of information policy” but anyway, let’s assume they do something important and worthy within the huge bureaucracy that is UK Government. The big news is they now have a blog! Called perspectives. The most interesting article (from 3 so far) on their new blog is this one where they introduce a new “Licensing Model” and are, more importantly, soliciting feedback:

The Government’s response to the Power of Information Taskforce’s recommendation 8 stated that OPSI was developing a new licence model, building on the success of the Click-Use Licence. We thought it would be good to post our initial thoughts about what the new licence terms could look like here on our blog for your comments.

Here’s the bit that caught Glyn’s eye and makes all us Freedom lovers go weak at the knees…

• The new licence terms are compatible with other standard licences such a Creative Commons and GNU GPL;

How interesting. I am not sure that I understand the full implications of the new license and what content/information it really pertains to, but the description of their remit above would suggest that it could be far reaching. Anyway, here is the license they propose in full below, but please don’t make specific license comments here, comment about the license over there, where the OSPI will see them.

Terms and conditions


This licence explains how you may re-use a wide range of public sector information and what conditions apply. Under this licence the term information means any content, including any part of such content, whether in writing or stored in electronic form or as a sound, visual or audio-visual recording, other than computer programs and software.

What you can do

1. You can copy, publish, translate into other languages, adapt, mash and convert to Braille and other formats for people who are visually impaired.

What information is covered

2. All Crown copyright information can be re-used under this licence apart from the specific exemptions listed below.

3. Information produced by other public sector organisations as listed at [link to be inserted].

What information is not covered

4. Crown copyright information produced by government departments and trading funds that are responsible for licensing the re-use of the information they commission or produce. Details of these organisations can be found at [link to be inserted]

5. Information where re-use is not permitted for policy reasons, for example the HSE Health and Safety Law poster.

6. Information that is exempt under Freedom of Information legislation and the Environmental Information Regulations.

7. Personal information about named individuals.

8. Official imprints, public sector organisation logos, badges, crests and insignia of the armed forces. This includes the Royal Arms unless they form an integral part of the information that you are re-using.

Your obligations

9. You must:

• Re-use the information accurately
• Acknowledge the copyright and the source of the information, for example the title of a report and the name of the department that issued it.
• Not re-use the information in a deliberately misleading way.
• Not re-use the information for promotional or advertising purposes; not to imply endorsement by a government department or other public sector organisation.
• Not mimic the style and appearance of the original information, for example by replicating the look and feel of a published document or a departmental website.


Your use of the information covered by this licence is entirely at your own risk. OPSI makes no warranty, representation or guarantee that the information is error free.

Governing law

This licence is made under the laws of England and Wales and comes under the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.

There are a couple of comments already and they cover the obvious.

Not being a lawyer I am not sure if I quite “get” why they (we?) need a new license though? Why could they not simply use any of the CC licenses as appropriate?

Anyway, if you spot anything in the detail or wish to simply make your voice heard, you know where to go.

The Economics of Free: For Free

Remember the short piece I posted about the Radio 4 programme “In Business” a couple of weeks ago? Well, very kindly, the programme’s editor has provided me with a transcript of programme to

please use as you wish, but it has not been checked for accuracy. Good luck.

I have just read and listened again and didn’t find anything glaring although I did fix one rather amusing typo: “Linux Colonel” to “Linux Kernel”. It was sent to me as a Microsoft .doc file. I opened it in and exported it as a PDF so it should be readable by virtually everyone.

This programme does provide some excellent answers to the types of questions we repeatedly get asked in our day-to-day business:

  • “How do they/you make money from Open Source”
  • “Why should you/they give it away?”

So for those of you who get asked these sorts of questions and would like some non-technobable answers from a rather reputable source to use, the transcript can be downloaded in it’s entirety, for free, from our website here. On that page, there is also a link to the BBC’s permanent archive so the podcast can be retrieved too. As an interesting titbit, in his email with me, the editor said that about 600k people download the programme every month!

And just to whet your appetite, here is quite a nice quote from Chris Anderson – the editor of Wired

… Microsoft’s financial success is about taking a product whose underlying economics are zero, the marginal costs of reproducing software is zero, and charging $300 for it. You know incredible net profit margins. Unfortunately, economics always wins. People recognised that the underlying economics of distributing software were zero and so they were like okay, so Microsoft is getting monopoly profits because they are in fact a monopoly. What we need to do is break the monopoly. Not, as it turns out, by regulation and regulator, but instead the marketplace broke the monopoly.

If you are involved in any way with the promotion of FOSS and/or CC then this really is well worth listening too and or reading,

And although the editor didn’t provide any specific license conditions with the document, I plan to repsect the BBC’s copyright, and provide suitable attribution when and where we use snippets etc; something like this perhaps.

BBC R4 In Business 08/01/2009

I’m an avid R4 listener, it’s by far the best radio anywhere; apart from The Archers of course… “Eauw Neauw” (The Open Sourcerer dons asbestos suit).

Anyway, over on Laney’s Blog Iain highlighted the most recent edition of Radio 4’s “In Business” (IB) programme. I do listen to IB quite often but had missed this one, so thanks Iain for pointing it out.

IB is a pretty bloody interesting programme generally, but this one was a great programme. It discusses in some detail both FOSS and Creative Commons and this makes an excellent introduction to both subjects for the non-technically minded listener. When the script is combined with Peter Day’s wonderfully full and rounded voice and enquiring mind, it makes a great podcast and listen again.

It’s a 30 minute programme. You can download the podcast (mp3) from here (I’m not sure how long it will remain available so I’d grab it for posterity if you want to) and you can also listen to it via the streaming iPlayer.

However, for me, there were certainly some really good snippets and quotes I’d love to be able to use to help promote FOSS to my customers.

An idea struck me whilst I was leaving a comment on Iain’s original post.

On behalf of my company, I have requested of the In Business team, that I might use snippets/transcripts of the programme, and also I asked if they will release this programme under a suitable CC license. After all, the discussion during the second-half of the podcast is all about the CC and Peter is clearly enthused by the subject, so I think it would be a good idea for the BBC to do this.

The contributor for the section on CC is James Boyle who is Chairman of the Board for Creative Commons so I doubt he would object 😉

Of course, if the BBC won’t/can’t release it under a CC license, that will also make an interesting follow-up post too…