Note: The independent views in this blog are those of the Open Data User Group (ODUG) and are not an expression of the opinions of the Cabinet Office or the government.
ODUG has received a number of requests for DVLA and other vehicle related data and we are today publishing a new benefits cases calling on the DVLA to release its bulk data as Open Data under an Open Government License (OGL).
This example fleshes out public sector data licensing issues with the flavour of most of the big issues ODUG looks into.
In general, where there is a commercial model or cost recovery mechanism in place for Public Sector Data the incumbent licensing regime falls way behind the current needs of the data industry, which is moving in directions which many public sector data licensing organisations don’t understand, at a pace which they cannot keep up with.
My Generic License Agreement to use paid for Public Sector data
This license grants me the right to use some public data to develop
- Either general purpose or specific;
1.1. Products (which may be tightly defined); and/or
1.2. Services (which may be tightly defined to specify the data and/or parts of the data which I might add value to; or combine with other data)
- To my specific markets (which may be restricted)
- Using direct and/or indirect delivery channels (each of which might be separately licensed, with a different pricing structure, according to the end-user of my product or service)
- My products and services do not compete with certain existing licensees on generic or bespoke license agreements; and/or
- Compete with the data holders:
5.1. Own joint ventures;
5.2. And/or partnerships; which may generate a bit of money for the Treasury at the moment
- And I probably won’t even have the rights to joint ownership for any improvements which I make to the original data (correcting format errors for example)
My Generic License Agreement to use paid for Public Sector Data
Therefore the commercial licensing of our Public Sector Information could be described as old fashioned, complicated and burdensome. It was probably designed for 1990s Britain. So the data, funded by our taxes, does not generate a fraction of the value that it should for the Treasury and the licensing and administrative functions in place to support its commercial deployment waste galactic levels of time and resources, generating endless paperwork and commercial complexity for data holders, licensees and sub-licensees alike. I hope you get my drift in the ‘pro forma’ below.
The open data premise is compelling and valuable to the economy because it avoids all of the above:
All this complexity gets stripped away allowing public data to flow through the data ecosystem where it can, without restriction, be put to good use by innovators, businesses large and small, public sector bodies, charities, academics and the public.
Clearly our public data and its usage must protect individual privacy through suitable anonymisation where necessary. And this, content-based, aspect of public data re-use becomes the fundamental challenge, rather than the existing plethora of complex licensing terms and conditions, derived data restrictions, specific end-user audit and reporting conditions and so on.
The benefits case we are publishing today shows that the DVLA has a small number of bulk data licensees whose license fees are recouped by DVLA on a cost recovery basis. DVLA had previously set out that third parties could source their data from these bulk data licensees and our example start-up business did just this, and started to deliver an online ‘pay-per-click’ vehicle checking service.
However, following complaints by a market competitor (an existing licensee) the DVLA suspended the start-up’s business for two months, although they are now back-on-line with some specific DVLA imposed restrictions on the use of the data. This is an example of Public Data Licensing complexities stifling opportunities for growth. In my view TotalCarCheck (the start-up) are to be commended for their resolve and tenacity in keeping the business afloat rather than throwing in the towel. Hopefully their revenues will soon allow them to cover their legal bills!
Our proposal to the DVLA is that they should open up this data to the innovator and developer market on parity-for-all basis, as Open Data under an Open Government License. We believe DVLA could significantly reduce their costs, and that the maximum revenue loss to them would be around £0.5m per annum (they have plenty of other revenue). Their bulk data released as Open Data would be put to good use by innovative small businesses and freely available to public sector organisations too.
Come on DVLA – please get with the open data programme and help us create more opportunities for economic growth in the data product and services market!
Download the business case below.