Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by British Committee on Map Information and Cataloguing Systems (OS 18)

  BRICMICS has dealt with the Ordnance Survey on behalf of all those who consult Ordnance Survey products within a library setting. As such, the Committee has in recent years found itself often in contention with OS representatives over such topics as copyright fair dealing, use licences, prices and quality of OS products, and use of OS products for planning appeals, among many other topics. The Committee has been pleased in the past year to witness a review by OS of its pricing structures for use of its mapping data in libraries, local authority setting and educational institutions. This has resulted in a more fair and realistic approach to pricing many of its digital products, especially for those users who fall outside the business customer framework. However, we do also note that a constant vigil must be kept on this issue, as recent price increases to some of its small scale paper products has had a detrimental effect and is felt to be prejudicial to academic and public users, who are not well funded. While the prices for digital mapping are decreasing, prices for paper products are considered to be already at the upper limit of commercial viability. This is a particular problem since concurrently, over the past year, Ordnance Survey has become somewhat sloppy in its legally required deposit of paper products in the Copyright Libraries, which cuts off the last resort for users without funds to purchase conventional paper maps.

  A second issue which BRICMICS has needed to discuss over many years with OS is OS's eccentric interpretation of the Copyright Act. Until recently OS tended to appoint non-specialists to their copyright enforcement section with the result that OS publicly adopted positions that were not consistent with the provisions of the 1988 Act, particularly as related to fair dealing.

  Lastly, the demise of OS's Consultative Committee structure has already resulted in ties with the user community being cut. The current inquiry into the HMSO regulatory framework relating to Crown Copyright proposes that charities and educational institutions would be required to pay for OS licences on the same basis as firms working for profit. This is an issue about which BRICMICS would have had lengthy discussions with OS; however, we have only heard about it through peripheral sources. There has been anecdotal evidence that OS representatives to the university community were unaware of the proposal and its implications, and that Higher Education, the Library Association and the British Cartographic Society were not listed among interested parties consulted. The latest consultation documents on any subject appearing on the OS website are dated April 2001. Thus OS's promise, as it concluded the Consultative Committee process, to find other means of consulting with users, is off to a very poor start.

  The Committee feel that the other topics of the inquiry are outside the scope of our interest and expertise.

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