While U.S. government publications are not subject to copyright and may be copied without legal issues, the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) takes a more proprietary approach and copyrights all its data and products, both its approximately 3,300 paper nautical charts and 160 publications. According to the UKHO, nearly 70% of international shipping uses UKHO charts as well as countless voyaging boats. With such a wide reach its not surprising that unscrupulous parties have tried to siphon off some profit for themselves. The UKHO has reportedly noticed a rise in counterfeiting and suggests to mariners that they should not use pirated UKHO materials due to "the dangers posed to the safety of vessels, crews and cargoes by counterfeit nautical charts and publications." The office is announcing that mariners have easy ways to detect official UKHO products: by looking for the "Flying A" watermark and a "thumb label" strip on the reverse with the Admiralty logo and other identifying information.
From the press release: The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has recently observed an increase in the number of counterfeit versions of its Admiralty charts and publications in circulation. Counterfeit documents do not satisfy the carriage requirements of the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), as they have not been issued officially by or on the authority of a Government, authorized hydrographic office or other relevant government institution. Their carriage may also fail to satisfy (and may be contrary to) the laws of Flag State Authorities and Port State Control, as well as increasing the safety risk for vessels, crews and cargoes. Furthermore, carriage of counterfeit documents is against the law in all countries that have signed the Berne Convention on copyright, which includes the vast majority of nations.
John Dawson, Head of Marketing at the UK Hydrographic Office, said: “The UKHO urges all purchasers, users, inspectors and regulators to be vigilant for counterfeit Admiralty charts and publications. Because counterfeit versions have not been through the same rigorous checking procedures as official Admiralty charts and publications, they cannot be trusted for voyage planning or navigational purposes. As well as failing to comply with SOLAS carriage regulations and possibly also Flag State and Port State Control regulations, the use of counterfeit charts and publications poses a serious risk to vessel safety.
“We are actively seeking to stop the production and sale of counterfeit copies of our charts and publications and have raised our concerns with the International Maritime Organisation, the International Hydrographic Organisation and Flag States. We also encourage anyone that suspects they may be in possession of counterfeit products to get in touch with us.”
UKHO has produced a simple guide to help users and inspectors to distinguish official Admiralty charts and publications from counterfeit versions. Official Admiralty charts bear the Admiralty ‘Flying A’ watermark within the paper and will carry a ‘thumb label’ strip on the reverse with the Admiralty logo, chart number, geographical area, barcode and date.
Suspect charts and publications can also be identified by comparing them against official Admiralty versions, where variations may be spotted in the look, feel and weight of the product, the colour tone and strength of the ink, the folds on charts and the height and binding quality of publications.
Anyone with suspicions over the authenticity of their Admiralty charts and publications is asked to contact the UKHO by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of the UKHO’s guide to identifying genuine Admiralty products can be downloaded from the UKHO website.