Commons:UK Open Government Licence

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Works of the core UK government[1] are not subject to normal civilian copyright, but have a special form, called "Crown Copyright"; most of these are available under the Open Government Licence (OGL), which counts as a free licence for the purposes of Wikimedia Commons.


Works under Crown Copyright lasts for 50 years from date of creation if published; 75 years if published commercially; and 125 years if never published.[2] Once the term of the licence expires, it is Public Domain world-wide. Though originally the UK government required a contract to licence any Crown Copyright works for wider use, and control was delegated to individual bodies, in 2005 the UK centralised control of almost all core Crown Copyrighted works under HMSO and created a so-called "Click-Use" PSI licence[3]. Under this licence, anyone could through a Web-based form register their use for free. However, this was considered "non-free" as even though a licence was given automatically at no charge, it required individual registration for use, and had other burdens. A small number of government agencies had a waiver from the Click-Use PSI process, generally because they sell their information commercially (see a list, below).

In 2010, the UK government changed how all new core Crown Copyright works without a waiver were licensed[4], creating the "Open Government Licence"[5], which is for the purposes of Commons a free licence and broadly the same as Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. In 2011 this was expanded further to cover additional works.[6]

What this means for Commons[edit]

Under UK law, each of the bodies listed below does not have the authority to consider how to license the Crown Copyright works it (i.e., its staff) create. In much the same way that under the US Constitution, the Department of Labor doesn't have the right to pick a licence other than {{PD-USGov}}: it's been picked for them, and it's OGL. Therefore, any work by one of the bodies listed below which they imply or state to be a work of their staff can be assumed to be under the Open Government Licence. For these works, you can just upload them and label them with the {{OGL}} template, which appears as such:

Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg This file is licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0 (OGL).
You are free to:
  • copy, publish, distribute and transmit the Information;
  • adapt the Information;
  • exploit the Information commercially for example, by combining it with other Information, or by including it in your own product or application.
You must, where you do any of the above:
  • acknowledge the source of the Information by including any attribution statement specified by the Information Provider(s) and, where possible, provide a link to this licence;
  • ensure that you do not use the Information in a way that suggests any official status or that the Information Provider endorses you or your use of the Information;
  • ensure that you do not mislead others or misrepresent the Information or its source;
  • ensure that your use of the Information does not breach the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

See the Open Government Licence page on Meta-Wiki for more information.


  • Those UK government bodies with a waiver will correctly refer to their works as "Crown Copyright", but due to the waiver these are not subject to the Open Government Licence.
  • Some UK government bodies incorrectly refer to their works as "Crown Copyright" when the body does not have Crown Status; despite their (incorrect) labelling, these works are not Crown Copyright, and so not subject to the Open Government Licence.
  • Some works may be incorrectly labelled under a different, wrong licence (this is often the case on Flickr which does not allow non-CC licences, where agencies sometimes select "CC-BY-NC-ND" even though "CC-BY" would be most accurate).
  • Not all works released or hosted by a UK government body were necessarily created by its staff or Minister (and so will be under civilian copyright, and not necessarily available under the Open Government Licence).
  • There are (confusingly) two similarly-named licences - the "Non-Commercial Open Government Licence" (for bodies exempted from the OGL which wish to release something for non-commercial use whilst restricting commercial rights), and the "Open Parliamentary Licence" (for the UK Parliament).
  • The Open Government Licence does not apply to items that have not been published officially, which would include leaked documents.
  • The Open Government Licence does not cover items owned by the Royal Household, which include coats of arms and other heraldic devices.

UK Government bodies relevant to this - those with Crown Status[edit]

These bodies' published works are all available under the Open Government Licence.
  • UK Government Ministerial and non-Ministerial departments - e.g. the Department for Education; HM Revenue & Customs; HM Treasury.
  • UK Government executive agencies - e.g. JobCentrePlus; the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; the Identity and Passport Service.
  • Other UK bodies with Crown Status - e.g. the Environment Agency or ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).

UK Government bodies not relevant to this[edit]

Bodies with Crown Status but a specific waiver from HMSO[edit]

These bodies' published works in general are commercially-licensed; however, they may choose to release some items under the Open Government Licence.
  • Met Office
  • Ordnance Survey[7]
  • Hydrographic Office
  • HM Land Registry
  • others

Bodies who are not Crown Status[edit]

These bodies generally have their own competence to licence their works; some may choose to licence under the Open Government Licence.
  • Parliament
  • Devolved Administrations
  • Local Councils
  • Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs, formerly known as "QuANGOs" - not Crown Status) - e.g. English Heritage; LOCOG; the Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  • Non-UK British administered areas - British Overseas Territories (Gibraltar, the Falklands, etc.); the Channel Islands; the Isle of Man.


  1. "Core UK Government" means a body which has Crown Status; see the list.
  2. Per the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, §163
  3. Per The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005
  4. What the Open Government Licence covers
  5. The Open Government Licence
  6. Under the the UK Government Licensing Framework
  7. But see also the Ordnance Survey's OpenData licence, which is identical to the OGL but pre-dates it by a few months.