Open Data License/Use Cases

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This page describes a number of typical core Use Cases for OpenStreetMap data which have been prepared in order to test the proposed (ODbL) against real situations. The Use Cases were reviewed during two conference calls. The answers have been copied from the following documents:

  • A legal review of the original Use Cases prepared by lawyers acting for the OpenStreetMap Foundation
  • 6th May 2009 - Conference call with Legal Council. Open Issues and some of the items from Use Cases. - Q&A text.
  • 11th May 2009 - Second conference call with Legal Council. Notes available
  • 9th March 2010 - Clean-up of outstanding areas based on License Working Group's understanding from various emailed responses from Legal Counsel.

Discussions of Use Cases should take place on the legal-talk mailing list.


Using map images created from OSM Data

These Use Cases are about various things people may want to do with images created from OSM data.

Using OSM data in a raster map for a book, newsletter, website, blog or similar work

A user should be able to publish a raster map/image created from OpenStreetMap and include this as part of a printed publication or on the internet or similar. They should acknowledge OpenStreetMap either below the image or at the start/end of the document or elsewhere where the viewer/reader would reasonably expect to find it. They can license the image using any appropriate license, including full copyright, ccbysa and Public domain. The image should be restricted to disallow people from reverse engineering a database from the image. It should be able to use multiple images to serve a 'slippery map' front end.

Q: how can the image be both public domain and restrict someone else down the line from publishing it without attribution or from reverse engineering a database from it?

The basic argument, as the License Working Group understands it, is that there are layers of IP (Intellectual Property) rights. For example, if you take a photo of a sculpture and release the photo as public domain, anyone can use the photo as they wish, but it does not give them the right to reproduce the sculpture. So, 1) yes, it is hard too restrict someone else down the line from publishing it without attribution, but 2) if someone tries to reverse engineer the map, i.e. recreate OpenStreetMap data, then the original license still applies. Note: Since the original question was asked, the explicit "reverse engineering" clause mentioned has been removed from ODbL 1.0. This is due to the potential for conflict with, especially, the CC SA license stance that there should be no other restrictions on a creative work (map) so licensed. Subject to any future resolution by CC themselves as to whether this is really an issue, it can be re-instated in future versions.

Using OSM data for the production of a hand-made map

A user should be able to produce a hand-made map derived from OSM data and add additional elements, remove others, move things around so they look better (avoiding overlap etc) and style the map. The designer should not be forced to make the edited raw data available and it should be possible to license the resulting maps in any way that is preferred.

Q: If the person notices errors in the OSM street or POI data and corrects these in their image should they be required to offer that data back to the community? We suggest that they should and the easiest way might be to enter the data into OpenStreetMap during the process.

Public use of the Produced Work would require the ODbL notice and public use of the Derived Database would require redistribution.

Q: Should their 'artistic reinterpretation of the factual data' have to be made available? we suggest that it should not.

No. The process of creating a Produced Work does not need to be revealed beyond the Derivative Database, so any artistic interpretation involved does not have to be made available.

Using OSM data to produce vector format images using SVG/KML/Postscript etc

A user should be able to create vector based mapping using a format such as postscript, svg or kml which are both able to produce rendered images but which also give easy access to the underlying vector data (thereby making it easier to reverse engineer a database). There should be protection to ensure that any systematic collection of vector data, or other reverse engineering techniques of substantial amounts of data should be considered as a Derived Dataset and be covered by 1) below.

Q: Is a vector map a Produced Work or a Database or both?

Beyond the definition in the ODbL, this would have to decided by a court and influenced by community guidelines.

Q: what license can be used?

This is covered by the outcome of the previous question and the previous "licensing produced works" question.

Q: What attribution is required, that for a Produced Work, or for a Derivative Database or both? If the attribution of a derivative database is required then will that be practical within a small svg/kml file?

Covered by the previous two questions.

Using OSM derived images on a small device, such as mobile phone

When a map or visualisation is used on a device with a small screen the licence should allow for the ackowledgement for the Dataset to appear on a dialog page, an about page or on a credits page rather than on every page.

Yes, the ODbL would cover and permit this example. The ODbL’s notice requirements provide for flexibility with regards to how notice is provided: “You must include a notice within, on, or as part of the Produced Work reasonably calculated to make any Person that uses, views, accesses, interacts with, or is otherwise exposed to the Produced Work aware that content was obtained from the Database, Derivative Database, or the Database as part of a Collective Database (the “Source”), and that the Source is available under the terms of this License.”

Using a map derived from OSM data within a TV news package

The license should allow a map/image/animation generated from OpenStreetMap data to be shown in a TV news story. The user may however supply credits on an associated website rather than within the program itself.

This use case produces no derivative database, it is only about attribution in a TV news context.

Putting the attribution in the credits of the programme is probably "reasonable", as it is the industry standard method of giving attribution. To remove doubt, the publisher can simply state that this is OK. For this, and other cases, a set of community guidelines for attribution have been started, further input is welcome there.

Use of maps in Wikipedia and Wikitravel

When OSM maps are incorporated into a page on a site such as Wikipedia and Wikitravel, the entire page, including the OSM map, can then be licenced under the GFDL or CC-SA (respectively).

Yes, there are no license restrictions on Produced Works (other than the restriction in 4.6 that restricts users from reverse engineering Produced Works to re-create the Database and place it under a different license), although notice must be given that also makes the user aware of where he/she may obtain the Database.

Nothing in GFDL, or CC-SA, etc. restricts reverse engineering to re-generate a database (under the terms of the original GFDL, or CC-SA licence) -- this suggests that the ODbL licence is inherently incompatible with GFDL, and CC-SA? Also, clause 4a of the CC-BY-SA 2.0 legal code says "You may not offer or impose any terms on the Work that restrict the terms of this License ...".

Such compatiblity (of Produced Works) with share-alike licenses is of high importance to us and if there is any risk of clash between the share-alike licenses' demand "you may not impose any terms that restrict..." and the reverse engineering clause then we need an amendment to ODbL. The problem is explained in detail on Open Data License/Suggested Changes#The "licensing Produced Works" problem.

Covered by previous question about licensing produced works.

Distribution of maps in Linux distributions

Can maps rendered from ODbL data be packaged by Linux distributions? In particular, are maps rendered from data licenced under the ODbL distributable with GPL applications, e.g. KDE Marble, KGeography, etc.

Covered by previous discussion. Since GPL doesn't cover data, it should be OK.

Use Cases regarding the extraction of data from OSM for various purposes

Geocoding moderate amounts of information using OSM data

The licence should allow people to geocode moderate numbers of photographs, blog postings, microblogs such as Twitter or Jaiku, articles such as a Wikipedia article from the dataset. It should allow people to geocode moderate numbers of addresses possibly for inclusion in electronic business cards such as The hCard, which includes coordinates for addresses (see for more information). They should be able to licence the resulting work in any suitable manner, including as public domain, ccbysa, and all rights reserved without acknowledgment to the Dataset.

Q: What does moderate mean? What would definitely be 'substantial' and what would definitely be 'in-substantial'?

Covered by LWG / ML guidelines.

Geocoding large amounts of data and then using it

The user runs their substantial database of addresses (100K+) through OSM to derive the geocodes. They wish to distribute this geocoded addresses within their business and to associate businesses but wish to keep the data confidential. They then later want to put pins in on-line maps in response to enquiries to their web site.

Seems to be covered by the definition of Publicly for the internal distribution. Second part (Public use of a Produced Work) would require public redistribution of the Derived Database.

Using data to create or augment a business directory

Business has minimal information about companies. OSM has information about opening times, contact details, location, relations etc. Business makes searchable database to create directory of businesses for each region. Customers of their database can correct and update their records, for a fee.

I believe this example would be considered a Derivative Database under the ODbL, would be covered under the license, and certain obligations would be triggered if the Database were publicly Conveyed, or if a Produced Work based on it were publicly Used. However, this example seems to indicate that the Database is neither being publicly Conveyed, nor being used to create a Produced Work that will be publicly Used. As such, charging a fee to use the Database in the manner described appears to be permitted under the ODbL (see, e.g., Section 4.7(c) and the definition of “Convey”).

Extracting moderate numbers of points, area and linear features

The licence should allow people extract a small numbers of points, areas or linear features by tracing on using mechanical means (ie KML, shape files) without acknowledgement and then license the resulting data in way they choose.

Q: When would then 'derivative database' clause kick in?

"Substantial" - LWG / ML guidelines.

Q: For the avoidance of doubt, would repeated extractions of in-substantial amounts of data and then the aggregation of these elements into one single dataset later, even if these small extracts, and were done by different people constitute a Derivative DB.

Yes. See reverse-engineering clause (section 4.7) and section: 6.2 repeated extractions.

Extracting road centre-line data for bus routes from OSM data based on lists of bus stops

The license should allow a transport agency to build exact bus routes based on road centre-line data from OSM and from bus timetables (which are copyright). They then wish to provide these routes to other agencies as vectors (kml or shapefiles etc). The license should allow for manageable attribution and avoid a long list of sources.

Q: Assuming that the above was deemed to be a Derived Database then would all the notices from the DB be required to be attached to the output file? If so the this might be burdensome.

Attribution notice covered by section 4.3, which would seem not to be burdensome.

Converts GPS data to lists of streets and when they last gritted

The license should allow a local authority to covert GPS trails from gritting lorries into a database of streets and when they were last gritted. Both the names of the streets and the length would be taken from OSM. The authority would then publish this list as a spreadsheet giving street name, length and the time of last gritting.

Q: Again, is the spreadsheet a database or a produced work or both?

Covered by previous question about "vector format images".

If is a derived DB then where should then notices be attached?

Covered by the license: "If it is not possible to put the required notices in a particular file due to its structure, then You must include the notices in a location (such as a relevant directory) where users would be likely to look for it." - for derivative DBs or "You must include a noticeassociated with the Produced Work reasonably calculated to make any Person that uses, views, accesses, interacts with, or is otherwise exposed to the Produced Work aware that Content was obtained from the Database, Derivative Database, or the Database as part of a Collective Database, and that it is available under this Licence." - for Produced Works.

Use Cases using OSM data and also other data sources

On-line map service using OSM data together with other data sources

The User wishes to combine OpenStreetMap data with other data sources to use on a web based service. The additional data could be one of nasa height data, public transport schedules, census data or many others. They may not wish, or may not be allowed to release the other data source as ODbL; it may for example be only available under '(C) all rights reserved' or on a 'non-commercial' license etc. The user does not improve or modify the OSM data, but does convert it into a suitable format for their application.

OK - Collective DB, but still requires the notice.

Overlaying OSM maps with information without need to contribute back

A group of 8 year old kids spend a day in a local park mapping out locations where they find butterflies. They map this information using an OSM map and stick a copy on their local park's noticeboard. They do not wish to be expected to contribute this information back to OSM.

  • For the purposes of this use-case would rubbish bins be a better example than butterflies? User:80n
OK - Collective DB. Maybe not Substantial, but still needs the notice.

Overlaying OSM maps with confidential information

A wildlife group wishes to map the location of endangered species. They wish to overlay nest sites or other information which would compromise the safety of the site if released. They wish to use OSM as a map base without having to contribute back.

OK - Collective DB, no Public use.

Using OSM mapping data together with confidential data for analysis purposes

The user wants to produce analysis from a combination of OSM data and public transport schedules. They will produce analysis of transport performance but do not want to show this to a public audience for commercial or data protection reasons.

OK as long as there is no Public use. Depends on whether the analysis is considered a derivative database or a produced work. More information is necessary to be more precise about the answer. Community guidelines can help here.

Freely distributing OSM data without registration/user tracking

The licence should allow OSM data to be distributed freely and anonymously via an API, from a download site or on a DVD and in other forms. Programs may automatically download updates and merge them into another database, to again produce images or derived datasets which can then be downloaded in turn as described above. Users should not be required to register an account or click some "I agree" page each time one accesses an update.

From the description provided, this example seems to fit within the ODbL’s permissions so long as all appropriate notices are provided.

Embedding OSM data into other products/applications

Using OSM data in a computer game together with other data sources

The user wishes to use OSM data together with other significant distinct datasets to support a computer game. An example of this would be a flight simulation where the OpenStreetMap Dataset is used for land use, natural and man made features, and is combined with other potentially copyright material, including aeronautical data, airfield data, DEM (more likely SRTM based), description for various planes and other structures and they do not wish to, or would not be allowed to release the other data as ODbL. During the import of OSM data some information will be selectively included, other elements will not be required, the data will be reformed into an proprietary format which the publisher does not wish to disclose. The user wishes to protect the rendered scenery produced by the gaming code as (C) 'all rights reserved'. The data on the games DVD or download file will be encrypted or otherwise unusable. They will acknowledge the OSM data source along with other authors and contributors in the conventional place.

OK as long as the games company also provides an offer of the open derivative DB free from technical measures in parallel (see Section 4.8b). Otherwise, its explicitly disallowed.

Q: In addition to a general response to this use case, please clarify if the selective import of OSM data be considered a Derivative Database even though no changes or improvements have been made to the data. We do not consider it necessary to publish a derivative database given that no changes have been made to the actual usable data.

Covered by the definition of "Derivative Database" - extraction and re-arrangement mean that the selective import is a Derivative Database and, if publicly conveyed or publicly used, would need to be redistributed.

Using OSM data in a Sat Nav System

The user wants to use OSM data in a satnav system. They need to be able to convert the data into a confidential proprietary format that works with their routing software which they don't want to disclose.

Due to the "technical measures" section, a non-confidential, non-proprietary version would have to be redistributed also.

Distribution of data in Linux distributions

Debian Linux wish to distribute OSM data within their main distributions? Is it acceptable in terms of the Debian Social Contract?

There doesn't seem to be anything in the Debian Social Contract which would make it not acceptable.

Providing data to Sub-contactors to produce a DVD

The licence should allow a games maker to create a production run of DVDs and this in itself should not be considered to be "publication" so the share-alike clause for any Derivative Dataset should not come into force (yet). This should come into force once the DVDs are publicly distributed.

This would come under internal use and would be OK.

Negative Use Cases (that should not be allowed)

A Commercial map company using OpenStreetMap data to plug gaps in their commercial products

A commercial map company uses OpenStreetMap data to plug holes in its own data which it then supplies as its own database with acknowledgement. They may have done this to add detail, such as footpaths, zebra crossings or to add territory to their dataset and sell it. They do not make improvements to OSM data, but don't share their commercial data with OSM arguing that this is a collective Dataset and they are not changing the OSM component.

The argument would have to be settled in court. Community discussions and guidelines can provide best-practices which are pretty strong in court. The best approach would be to put examples out there.

OSM in Google Map Maker

We would like to avoid someone like Google loading the whole of OSM into their Map Maker system, where Google then lay claim to any further improvements made by users. It is ok for them to load OSM, but improvements must then be shared back.

Yes, such use would be prohibited under the ODbL.


To use OSM mapping to add places to Wikimapia. Example area:

There seems to be no information about licencing on wikimapia and no agreement between people adding data and the project.

Would require any derivative database to be ODbL licensed.

Frequent non-substantial extracts

A third party wants to integrate OSM data into their database without being bound by the licence. They take a non-substantial amount and integrate it. A week later, they take another non-substantial data-set and integrate it. They continue accumulating data from different areas under the non-substantial clause.

The licence should clarify that the total amount of data taken from OSM decides whether it is a substantial use, regardless of the time span and the number of imports involved.

Repeated extracts are covered in the license.

Snapshots of mobile device applications

As mentioned above (images on small devices), the attribution and license only need to be available in an about dialog or similar. What if somebody takes a snapshot and publishes it, with no dialog visible?. This would be an easy way to get rid of license and attribution.

Example: Traveling salesman screenshot.jpg

The screenshot is a Produced Work. Is probably covered by fair use exemptions in your jurisdiction's copyright law. If not, then you need to check the license under which the application's UI elements are distributed (e.g: the icons) as this may limit your options for distributing the screenshot. By distributing the produced work (screenshot) then you will need to include the database notice/attribution and an offer of the data (dump, diff or instructions) used to create the screenshot. If the application is rendering the data, it might not be Substantial anyway. If the application is displaying tiles then your rights (assuming no fair use) would be governed by the rights granted on those tiles, not the ODbL.

Map composite from OSM and commercial data

I did not found this use case: Is legal creating map composite from different source (free/commercial)?

I.e. I get commercial data about oil-well from customer. I analyze pollution on the oil-well. I will create map from

  • oil-well
  • oil-well pollution analysis
  • OSM topographic data, crop of the area in ESRI Shapefile format
  • SRTM contour line

and print them and give it to customer on CD as PDF, ESRI Shapefile. I declare topo (c) OSM, pollution (c) my, oil-well (c) customer, contour (c) NASA.

OK. The other items have no dependency on or interaction with OSM layer. License provisions for the OSM layer should followed: A PDF may (or may not) be a Produced Work (see produced work guidelines), in which case you would have to include an offer of the OSM-derived data used to create the map. This may be limited to the OSM data itself, or include other data which was used to modify it. If the OSM data was rendered without modification then it is not necessary to release the other data sources. An ESRI shapefile may be considered a database for the purposes of the ODbL, which would require that you distribute the data under the ODbL to your customer. This may not be possible if a single shapefile contains several sources of data which cannot be released under ODbL. If separate shapefiles are used then there should be no problem, although the OSM-derived shapefile would be ODbL licensed. --Matt 17:33, 22 December 2009 (UTC) with slight modification MikeCollinson 18:31, 9 March 2010 (UTC)


add details here

Sueing someone

  • A contributor has found a publication that clearly violates the new license.

Is he able to sue the publisher because he has the copyright on part of the data?

Yes, where the publication includes his or her data. An OSM contributor licenses data to the OSM Foundation but does not transfer ownership. They are therefore legally free to initiate their own actions appropriate to their jurisdictions.

  • There is a publication that clearly violates the new license. Is the OSM Foundation able to sue the owner?
Yes. Legal advice is clear on this. However, following the practice in other open intellectual arenas such as software, the OSM Foundation may elect to follow the less costly and very effective "Name and Shame" of transgressors.

Legal definitions

The license relies heavily on a number of important sorts of Work: the Derivative Database, Collective Database and Produced Work and the interpretation of the above Use Cases often rely on the use of the terms. This section explores the boundaries between these. These examples refer both to these terms and to more detailed implemention details to explore the implications of the license for some applications.

Can one selectively extract data from the full OSM dataset without creating a Derivative Database

During the creation of many Produced Works the first stage is likely to be to create a smaller more manageable dataset stored in a more convenient form and only containing the data from OSM that is relevant to their needs. This might result in a new smaller Database or a arrangement of a selection of the full dataset in the main computer memory. To be clear this process will not involve adding additional content to the database although it might include the rejection of badly formed data using an automatic process or even the correction of some data by an automated process - for example to reject non-closed polygons or to automatically close them. This process should lead the creation of a derivative database.

See [[1] for futher comments and suggestions.

Covered by the "substantial" / "non-substantial" guidelines.

Can one freely arrange data within a Collective Database as appropriate for the application

When a programmer is working with OSM and data from other sources and thereby creates a Collective Database they will want to be free to arrange the combined data in the most appropriate form for their purpose. We believe that this should be allowed so long as merged database itself is not being published.

The non-OSM parts of a collective database do not need to be published.

If it is necessary to publish the Collective Database then it should be possible to use the Parallel Distrubution clause to use an optimised merged format internally and provide a public version where the data is kept distinct.

The parallel distribution clause may also be used.

Can one adjust the OSM data automatically while building a Collective dataset

When merging OSM data with data from other sources it might be necessary to modify the OSM data (or the other data) to make it fit together well.

For example one is matching up churches in the OSM dataset with a (C) library of photographs of churches of which most have rough geocodes. Some churches may exist in OSM but not in the library and some in the library but not in OSM and some will exist in both but the position will be different. The programmer will create a computer program to reconcile these differences with the aim to create a computer model with a feature for every church together with a photograph. The combined data would be partially derived from a (C) source so the programmer would not be able to release it to OSM. Is this allowed.

As long as the derived database isn't publicly used, or used to create a public produced work.

When is something a Derivative Database when is it a Produced Work and can it be both

Is a large KML file a Derived Database, a Produced Work or both. It could be considered as a vector description of an image or as a database and any KML file can be used as either. If it is a database then what notices should be provided with it.

Is a large SVG file a derived database or a produced Work of both? same questions as above

Similarly for a pdf file containing a vector description of a map.

Even when publishing a Produced Work, user is obliged to publish the underlaying database (section 4.6 of ODbL).

Should be clarified by community guidelines.

What constitutes a Substantial extract

The license allows the free extraction of non-substantial amounts of data. People will be allowed to extract anything below this threshold and use it completely free of any restrictions. See Substantial - Guideline for details on this point.