Legal soap-box

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A place to state one views on difference licence approaches.

Entries on this page should be written and signed by individuals.

Please do not modify or comment on other peoples statements on this page other than to point our verifyable factual errors. In all other circumstances pleaselet them stand as written and make your own one clearly highlight your own personal view.

Any resulting discussions should occur on legal-general.

Entries in each list should be kept in alphabetical order (so please add your entry at the appropriate place).

In favour of Share-Alike


I believe that if end-users can take from OSM without giving to OSM then there will be a significant number of major players that will do just that; they will treat OSM as a source of information to improve their products and would view supporting OSM as being a way of supporting their competitors. By way of example, Google have already decided to create their own version of OSM (Google Map Maker) and have decided not making their data available to the general community because (and I am guessing here) they don't want to help their rivals. I would go further and suggest that most public companies are required by the law to maximise the value to their shareholders, and that if they (Google or others) actively supported their rivals by providing substantial amounts of data voluntarily to a project like OSM then they could be criticised for damaging the share price. This failure of cooperation is generally known as the 'failure of the commons'. The Linux case was different in that IBM had proved with OS2 that no amount of work on a proprietary operating system could un-seat Microsoft, and soon everyone who was not Microsoft was forced to adopt a cooperative approach based on Linux. Personally I am interested to see what happens if Google end up with an excellent complete map of India. Will TeleAtlas and Navteq also do the same job, or will everyone who is not Google (Yahoo, Microsoft etc) decide that they have to adopt a cooperative approach and will that lead them to OSM. None of this would happen if the licence was PD. Signed PeterIto 12:30, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

In favour of Public domain


Here are the arguments for Public Domain :

  • Anything else makes the lawyers rich.
  • The data will be used more. Most people who contribute to OSM do so because they want to publish their observations / knowledge and NOT because they want to change the commercial copyright system.
  • If Tele-Atlas, Nav-Teq or Google uses our data, it will leak out and journalists will report on it. This will be excellent publicity for OSM.
  • Share-Alike contains a number of loop-holes. (PD does not make false promises) :
    • A commercial mapping company can extract a small amount of facts from OSM into his maps with SA taking effect. Either because the SA license allows it or because of Fair Use / Fair Trading provisions. If those facts takes his map from 99.5% complete to 99.8% complete it saves him a lot of effort.
    • We have to allow some forms of layering and some data owners (e.g. wireless coverage data) can then legally layer their data on ours even though some of us wouldn't like it. This due to the fact that we must publish our license now even though we don't know how data will be used in the future.
    • If a publisher has a use for OSM but has reservations about SA, a commercial mapping company can undercut us by offering him an OSM quality map at very small "price". Weather or not the "price" is attribution or something larger, OSM will loose.
    • If a company only allows their clients to access their OSM derived data on the internet, they can prevent wholesale downloading of their data. Furthermore, if there is a close relationship with the client, it's not in his interest to contribute anything back to OSM because it will sour the relationship with the company prompting the company to reduce service and increase prices.
    • A company may protect their data by intentionally making their data hard to import into OSM. Examples include using an incompatible tagging or encoding scheme, only providing their data in hard copy format and using different projections. Then it may be easier to just collect the data using the traditional survey method. Signed User:Nic


For me the best reason to support public domain is to have a license that is easy to understand, and hard to misunderstand. Legal protection of databases is rather complex, especially when covering different jurisdictions, and not very well understood. Public Domain is easy to understand, does not try to overstate any rights, does not require a contract (only a license) and is without loop holes (but some will argue that PD is in itself a single large loop hole). Gustavf 15:04, 9 November 2008 (UTC)

"does not require a contract (only a license)" Public domain is not a licence and cannot be licensed. Chriscf 09:06, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

Frederik Ramm

I believe the Share-Alike cause only sounds good on paper. It will take us ages to find a halfway legally watertight representation of the idea of Share-Alike, and by the time it is written down, it will definitely have a lot of loopholes (e.g. doesn't work in certain countries, susceptible to various workarounds) and on the other hand there will definitely be some things that most of us would like to allow but which won't be possible. Considerable resources will be tied down in finding and implementing the license, and in going after people who are viewed as being in breach of it. If someone wants to circumvent our license (or feels forced to do so by his stockholders or whatever) then there will be ways. It's just not worth all the hassle. There is a reason why the ScienceCommons people do not recommend share-alike licenses for Geodata; they are not stupid. Apart from this very pragmatic view ("even if you like the idea of Share-Alike it won't work"), I firmly believe that Geodata should be free (as in the air that we breathe) - it should simply be available to anyone. I would like to see OSM as the spearhead of this, rather than going down some one-way street where 10 years from now, when all government Geodata is free as in air, people will say "oh well, OSM, you know, there's just too many restrictions on that, I'd rather just use the government dataset which is almost as good and comes without strings attached". --Frederik Ramm 00:22, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

See also