License/Use Cases

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This page is intended for potential users of OpenStreetMap data to see how the license might apply to your particular intended use. OSM data is free and available for personal, group and commercial use. If you're not familiar with OSM, you might find the FAQ useful.

Introduction

OpenStreetMap's data is subject to copyright and database right, and is available under a license called Open Database License (ODbL). In a nutshell, ODbL is an attribution, share-alike license which says that if you publish works based on the data, you must attribute OSM, and if you enhance the data, you must share your enhancements back to the community. You have a choice between doing this by making available your derived database, or the method (code) you used to make it, or both.

The ODbL is written in clear English and has a good summary but data consumers may well have specific questions about its interpretation. To this end, the OpenStreetMap Foundation, as Licensor of the database, maintains a set of Community Guidelines which set out the OSMF's position (based on community consensus) on some points of interpretation.

The two key concepts for legal purposes are produced works (published works that use OSM in their production) and derivative databases (data sets which include data which is derived from, based or dependent on OSM's data in any way). How the license applies to your use case depends largely on which of these things you are doing.

In all cases, you do not have to pay for your use of OSM data, and you are free to charge others for your work and/or set your own licensing conditions, but any derivative database from OSM must be available to anyone who asks, for free. A "trivial" transformation of the database from one format to another is not a new database - see the guideline.

Case 1: I want to use OSM data in a purely internal application

ODbL only places restrictions on "public" use. If you are a company, and the map or app will only be visible to/usable by employees, this is allowed and you don't have to do anything.

Case 2: I want to publish something based on OSM and nothing else

There are many reasons you might want to publish your own maps, without adding any extra data besides the data from OSM:

  • You want to modify the visual appearance of the map to fit your own branding
  • Not wanting to display the business advertising that comes on the maps available from famous search engines
  • You expect a volume of use too high to be supportable by OSM's tile servers
  • You want to highlight specific types of features, or remove uneccessary detail by not rendering some types of features
  • Mini-map showing just your business location relative to one or two local streets
  • A map in the background to something non-geographic such as a logo
  • Artwork or artistic maps based on OSM's geodata

Alternatively you might want to use OSM data in an app, such as to provide routing or geocoding to end users.

The key point here is that you're publishing some OSM data without adding information from another source - adding, changing or removing features due to other information. It doesn't matter if you change the database structure to suit yourself, algorithmically modify the data (such as simplifying lines, detecting or merging closed polygons, or other generalisations for rendering), or algorithmically generate other data structures from the OSM data (such as generating Voronoi diagrams or calculating travelling distances) - so long as the only source information is OSM.

License requirements: If you just use the OSM database, with no other sources of information, then you do not have a derived database, but you are publishing a produced work. So, if your map uses a substantial portion of OSM you must attribute OSM in one of the ways described. (If your map/app counts as insubstantial, we'd be very pleased if you would still credit us for our contribution.)

Case 3: I want to publish something based on OSM and my own data

Most often this would be to publish a map which shows your data in a geographical context. It makes no difference whether this is on a web map, in a printed publication, as a graphic in a TV programme, or in any other media. Non-map examples include creating a spreadsheet or database that shows a public transport route along with information from timetables to illustrate arrival/departure times from certain places, or a mobile app to help users locate points if interest in the real world.

If you created your data without any use of OSM, and don't merge it with OSM, then you have a "collective" database, not a derivative database. However, if you have any data that was derived from OSM - for instance because you used street names from OSM, or you geocoded your data using the locations of roads or building shapes in OSM - then you are making a derivative database.

License requirements: In almost all cases the use of OSM data will be Substantial so you will need to credit OSM. (The attribution can be suitable to the medium, for example for use in a TV package a credit in the credits roll would be suitable since that is the industry-standard means of giving credit on TV.) If you create a Derivative Database, you will need to make it available.

Case 4: I want to publish something based on OSM and some data I obtained elswhere

You can publish/sell maps, databases and services which combine OSM's data and other datasets, including commercially available ones. You might want to:

  • Publish a map of business locations or other points of interest, or parks or other amenities
  • Sell a database showing locations of hotels for travel agents
  • Offer a routing service using OSM's data and other sources of data as well, to get more complete coverage

It makes no difference whether you store the data sets separately, or together in the same "database" software, whether that is a RDBMS, NOSQL, filesystem or anything else. So long as the other data isn't derived from OSM, the result is a Collective Database, not a Derivative Database. However, if you derive a further set of data that combines the two - an example might be a database that includes merged records that contain road names or lengths from OSM and the speed limit of the road from the other dataset - that database is derivative from OSM.

License requirements: you will need to credit OSM in any produced works (such as maps). If you create a derivative database, you will need to make it available. You must ensure that the license requirements of the third party data do not conflict with the license conditions of ODbL, for example the requirement to make the derivative database available free. Data with licenses that are "incompatible" with ODbL in this way cannot be used with OSM if the use involves publishing or conveying a derivative database. Many licenses, including the Creative Commons SA licenses, are compatible.

Case 5: I want to resell the OSM database

Well, okay! You can give/sell people the database, or parts of it, and impose your own contract/license of them if you want. It's fair for you to charge for the work you did selecting what to extract, or for hosting a download server. It makes no difference where you got the OSM data from - whether by just downloading a planet file yourself, or by analysing and extracting data from JPG map tiles or an SVG map that was produced from OSM - the data is still copyright and so the same license terms still apply.

License requirements: as you are publicly conveying the database, you must include a copy of ODbL, which will tell everyone that it's available for free.

Case 6: I want to sell people a geo database using OSM and other sources

License requirements: if the other data remains completely independent of OSM, then this is a collective database, so you must include ODbL and make it clear to your consumers which data was sourced from OSM. If any data is derived from both OSM and any other source, this is a derivative database and the comments in Case 4 apply.

Case 7: I want to contribute my data to OSM, then use that

In principle, you can turn any of cases 3-6 into case 2 by editing OSM to include the other data (or to remove something), and then using that for your application. This avoids the need for a derivative database, with the licensing requirements that would then apply to you. If you haven't contributed before, start here.

Contributions to OSM are governed by the Contributor Terms which you must agree to before making your contribution. OSM welcomes all contributions that would benefit the community. It reserves the right to delete contributions which can benefit only you. If your data describes physical features which exist on the ground, then they're certainly welcome. Deleting features that no longer exist on the ground is also welcome; deleting features that do exist because you don't want them on your map is, of course, unacceptable and likely to be reverted. Apart from these cases, the community will be happy to provide guidance via any of the many channels.

If your data set is substantial, there are import guidelines to advise on this.

Further Information

Contacts

OpenStreetMap cannot provide legal advice. However, the community welcomes questions and comments, since this is how we can improve our documentation.

Related pages