Licensing & Copyright

Open Government Licensing

Historic England (HE) will make available the terrestrial database records from the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) for inclusion in Historic Environment Records (HERs) pursuant to the Open Government Licence v3.0 (OGL) and shall also grant permission for the database rights it holds in the NRHE terrestrial records to be incorporated into the same.  Once incorporated they will be part of the database rights that the host body has in the HER.

It should be noted that NRHE contains third party copyright material in the form of direct quotes from published material in the description; whilst it is allowable for a database to incorporate third party copyrighted material there are rules that need to be followed.

Where HE has incorporated material which is the copyright of third parties into its records the [Local Authority/host body of the HER] must ensure this use complies with current copyright rules before incorporating the same into the HER. Text incorporated into a database from a published work remains in copyright if it is within 70 years of the author’s death and in such cases:

  • An individual quote from a work in copyright can only be allowed up to a maximum of 50 words in length whilst multiple quotes from the same source must not total more than 300 words. If a quote (or quotes) exceeds these limits then it must be edited down to remove unnecessary portions of text.
  • Any quotes must be properly cited.
  • The quote must comprise material which is in the public domain and extend no further than is required to fulfil its intended purpose (in this case the description of the building or site which is the subject of the record being incorporated into the HER).

Some quotes from published material will only become third party once they have been included in the HER as they are the copyright of HE. In such cases HE will retain the copyright but permit its use by Local Authority/host body of the HER under the terms of the OGL. This includes Crown Copyright material (for example quotes from RCHME reports) and in such instances this will also be made available through the provisions of the OGL. In these cases it is permissible for the quotations to exceed the normal length restriction for copyrighted material.


With regard to the spatial information (GIS data) being licensed, this data has been put through the OS Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) licence exemptions process by HE and will be issued under the terms of OGL v3.0. This means that, as with the information from the database, the [Local Authority/host body of the HER] that receives the data can work with it under OGL terms which will continue to apply, provided it is kept it as is. Once the [Local Authority/host body of the HER] changes or alters the spatial depiction, either by incorporating their own depictions or editing the depictions to include additional areas, it is no longer exempt (in effect becoming part of the Local Authority/host body’s HER record) and will then fall under their own individual PSMA licence and will no longer be covered by OGL. All PSMA covered Local Authorities/host bodies of HERs are encouraged to exempt their spatial data to make the licensing easier.

After the commencement of incorporation of the NRHE data into the HER in order to comply with the provisions of the OGL the HER must carry an attribution statement. This statement must say as follows:

This record includes National Record of the Historic Environment Information provided by Historic England on [insert date data provided] licensed under the Open Government Licence.’

The link must be included, as a hyperlink when used digitally or written out in full if printed. This should also be included when information from the HER is used or supplied.


Examples using third party copyright

For illustration here are some hypothetical examples to help you spot any third party copyright issues you may encounter in NRHE data. Whilst the publications referenced are real the examples of their use in NRHE entries are not.


A quote from a work which is out of copyright

A quote of 120 words is made in the description for a monument record and referenced to ‘Excavations in Bokerly and Wansdyke, Dorset and Wilts, 1888-1891’ by Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers, 1882

A quote of this length would exceed the limit for copyright, however as Pitt-Rivers died in 1900 this work is now out of copyright so a quote of any length is acceptable.  


A quote from a work which is in copyright but allowable

The record Pulteney Bridge in Bath contains a direct quote which is 26 words long from the Pevsner Volume for Bath discussing the possible reconstruction of the north side of the bridge. This is in copyright as the book was published in 2003, however as it is less than 50 words in length and directly relevant to the record for the bridge it is permissible provided it is fully referenced Foryth, 2003, Pevsner Architectural Guide Bath, Yale University Press, p.82.


A quote from HE Copyrighted Material allowable under the OGL

A record for a school includes several paragraphs lifted from ‘England’s Schools 1962-88: A Thematic Study’ by Franklin, Harwood, Taylor and Whitfield (2012). The longest quote is 60 words in length. Although this work is in copyright it is a report by Historic England for the purpose of the NRHE to HERs project HE has agreed that this is made available under the terms of the OGL.


A quote from Crown Copyrighted Material allowable under the OGL

The record for Bulwick Church in Northamptonshire contains a long description taken from the RCHME Inventory published in 1984. This is in copyright and is Crown Copyright as it was published by the Royal Commission. Although it exceeds the normally permissible length it is permissible to include under as it is being supplied under the OGL. It should be fully referenced RCHME 1984, An inventory of the historical monuments in the County of Northampton. Volume 6: architectural monuments in north Northamptonshire, RCHME, pp23-25.


A quote from third party copyrighted source which exceeds the quotation limit and requires editing

The record for the Londinium basilica contains a quotation from ‘The Roman City of London’ (1965) by Ralph Merrifield. The Author died in 1995 so the work is still within copyright (i.e. within 70 years of his death). This quote therefore has to be edited so that it is within the word limit or paraphrased to cover what Merrifield views of the Basilica were without actually quoting him. In either case this still needs to be fully referenced Merrifield, R., 1965, The Roman City of London, Ernest Benn Ltd London, pp132-136.


A quote from third party copyrighted source which exceeds the multiple quotation limit and requires editing

The record for Seahenge contains multiple direct quote quotes from ‘Seahenge: a quest for life and death in Bronze Age Britain’ by Francis Pryor (2001) totalling 350 words. As all the quotes are directly relevant to the record this is only permissible if they are edited to reduce the overall length to under 300 words and each quote is fully referenced or paraphrased to cover what Pryor’s  views of Seahenge were without actually quoting him. In either case this still needs to be fully referenced, Pryor, F., 2001, Seahenge: a quest for life and death in Bronze Age Britain, Harper Collins London, each quote or summing up of his words must be reference to the appropriate page numbers.


List Entry Description incorporated into an NHLE entry

The record for the Parish Church of St James in Lancing, West Sussex reproduces in full the list entry from the 1984 ‘Greenback’ listing volume. Older listing volumes such as this one do not include a copyright statement but are Crown Copyright. This is allowable as the material is being made available under an OGL, including in cases such as this where the quote exceeds the 50 word limit, provided the list entry is referenced to the listing volume, not the current online NHLE entry as this may differ.


If a list entry description itself contains a quotation which is in copyright this can also be included provided it is relevant, less than 50 words and it is itself referenced as well as the listing volume.


Poem on a Memorial

A memorial includes the text of the poem September by Ted Hughes and this is repeated in full in the text which records the entire inscription. Ted Hughes died in 1998 so his work is still in copyright. Instead of repeating the text of the poem in the HER record it should be changed to say ‘the inscription includes the text of the poem September by Ted Hughes (1963).