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4 Open Government Licence

The Open Government Licence (OGL) is designed to enable any public sector information holder to make their information available for use and re-use under its terms. The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) has developed this licence as a tool to enable information providers in the public sector to license the use and re-use of their information under a common open licence. The Controller invites public sector bodies owning their own copyright and database right to permit the use of their information under this licence.

The UK Government Licensing Framework (UKGLF) adopts the Open Government Licence as a licensing model which encourages the re-use of a broad range of public sector information. The Open Government Licence is available online and is a simple licensing mechanism, which:

  • can be adopted across the UK public sector
  • is the default licence for a wide range of information owned by the Crown (see section 4.1.1 )
  • covers copyright and database right
  • is interoperable, with widely-used models such as Creative Commons and Open Data Commons
  • supports the inclusion of machine-readable description and semantic web properties
  • does not require registration or charge
  • has as few restrictions as necessary

4.1 What the Open Government Licence covers

The Open Government Licence applies to:

  • any information that an information provider and/or rights owner offers under its terms and conditions; and
  • information owned by the Crown specified in the Controller's offer (see Section 4.1.1).

Where a public sector body wishes to license its information under Open Government Licence, it should insert a visible statement asserting this and, where possible, provide the Open Government Licence URI (Uniform Resource Indicator)  in the information. The Open Government Licence requires licensees to include an attribution statement, usually specified by the information provider, in any use of the information.

The Open Government Licence does not apply to information where copyright or database right have expired, or where information does not attract copyright or database right (otherwise known as works in the public domain).

4.1.1 Information subject to Crown copyright and Crown database right

The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office (the Controller) manages Crown copyright and Crown database right, on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen. Further information about the meaning of Crown copyright and Crown database right can be found in Section 3.

Crown information licensed under the Open Government Licence

The Controller offers information which is subject to Crown copyright and Crown database right, or to copyright or database right which has been assigned to or acquired by the Crown (Crown information), for use under the terms of the Open Government Licence. This information includes:

  • Crown information previously made available under the Click-Use Licence (the PSI Licence, also known as the Core Licence or HMSO Class Licence, and the Value Added Licence); and
  • source code and software originated by the Crown.

Crown information not included in the Controller's offer

  • Information covered by exemptions in the Open Government Licence;
  • source code and software that has been developed from a source that is subject to an open source licence (see section 5 below); and
  • Crown information that is licensed by specific Crown organisations under a delegation of authority from the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, where that information is not expressly offered under the terms of this licence.

4.2 Why is a licence necessary?

A licence is simply a mechanism that gives people and organisations permission to re-use information and other material that is protected by copyright or any other form of intellectual property.   A licence provides clarity on a number of issues, particularly, around the rights being granted, what users and re-users are permitted to do and under which legal framework and authority this falls. Permitting use and re-use under the terms of a licence also ensures that users are aware of the need to use the information in a responsible manner and not in ways which mislead others, misrepresent the information or suggest endorsement by the public sector.

4.3 How the Open Government Licence works

Under the licence re-users are able to republish information or produce derivative works.  The main requirement placed on re-users is to attribute the source of the information. 

The Open Government Licence is suitable for the licensing of any public sector information protected by copyright or by database right. This includes written material, data and source code.   The Open Government Licence summarises the terms and conditions under which the information can be re-used, regardless of whether the information is subject to copyright or to database right. It is a clear and simple assurance to re-users that they have permission.

You can access the Open Government Licence online. Public sector bodies should stipulate that their information is made available under the Open Government Licence and provide a link, where possible.

Further guidance on how the Open Government Licence works can be found on our website.

4.4 Interoperability with other licence models

The Open Government Licence terms have been aligned to be interoperable with the latest versions of the:

  • Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which covers copyright;
  • Open Data Commons Attribution Licence, which covers database right and applicable copyrights.

Creative Commons and Open Data Commons have developed licence solutions that are recognised by the information community and used across the world. It is important that the licensing model for re-using UK public sector information is interoperable with those licence models, so that information can be mixed and re-purposed easily. Information does not recognise geographical and jurisdictional boundaries. For these reasons, the Government has worked closely with Creative Commons and Open Data Commons to ensure that the Open Government Licence is interoperable.

4.5 Machine-readable licensing

Machine readability in the context of licensing means the ability for a computer to extract a description of the terms and conditions from a licence document.  This allows, for instance, a computer program to query whether a machine-readable licence permits commercial re-use, or whether it requires an attribution statement.  Given this ability it then becomes possible to quickly determine whether two datasets are licensed under compatible terms and conditions.  As such it is seen as an important step in enabling the large scale integration of datasets from different sources.

For these reasons the Open Government Licence includes a summary of its terms in a simple, machine readable format which will continue to be developed as more descriptions and ontologies become available.

4.5.1 Hyperlinks to the Open Government Licence

It is helpful to tell search engines, like Google, that the link to the Open Government Licence is to a licence, and not a general link. There is a special way to do this in HTML, by using the rel="license" attribute. This will flag up with web crawlers and other internet users using automated systems that the information is subject to a licence with particular terms and conditions which can be found by following the link.

Where, possible, information providers should point to the permanent identifier for the Open Government Licence by embedding the following link:

<a href="" rel="license">Open Government Licence</a>

Alternatively, where information providers do not use the rel="license" attribute, they can put in a simple hyperlink:

<a href="">Open Government Licence</a>