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Licensing polling district data

As we previously posted, Democracy Club have a project to gather all the data on polling stations and polling districts in the UK.

To get this data we FOI’d every council, receiving mostly positive responses.

Some responded very quickly with the data in the exact format we needed, where as others pointed out they don’t actually hold the data in digital format (I really feel for these councils!), and other responded at various points in-between.

One of the interesting responses we had was that we needed to have a licence from Ordnance Survey. The argument goes that the council traced the polling district using a Ordnance Survey map, making the newly created shape a ‘derivative work’.

This could mean that Democracy Club would need to buy a hugely expensive licence in order to receive and use the data, and that in turn would put a stop to the whole project.

However, we’ve recently been in touch with Ordnance Survey, and have been referred to the new presumption to publish rules. It appears that polling district data may be capable of falling within the presumption to publish; see slides 34-38 at this link:

If polling district data does fall within the presumption to publish rules, the council will be entitled to publish it under the OGL3 licence, provided that it first notifies Ordnance Survey; see the guidance for further details.

Hopefully this will unblock data from a lot of councils that were understandably cautious about giving us the data we need.

As a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer so all of the above is based on my best understanding of the situation. Please get in touch if you have any corrections.

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