Open Data License/Community Guidelines

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Community Guidelines

This is a method for better defining certain legal terms in the specific and practical context of using OpenStreetMap data under the Open Database License, ODbL, and how we would like to intepret them within the OpenStreetMap project community.

As publisher of the OSM geodata base under the ODbL, the OSM Foundation gets asked to clarify how data can/should be used in certain situations. The OSMF's mission is to support but not control OpenStreetMap. OSMF's role as Licensor and publisher of the database should not involve dictating policy. To that end, we have evolved a process called Community Guidelines. On legal advice, what a Licensor says carries weight with users of our data and, potentially, to a judge. A court would make a final decision on the issue, however we hope these guidelines are helpful to avoid disputes arising in the first place and can be considered by the courts in coming to their verdict.

The OSM Community evolves a consensus of what we think is reasonable over time and produces a guideline (not the same as a definition, that is up to case precedent). The OSMF will then normally endorse and adopt that guideline as its official policy and allow it to incrementally improve or clarify over time. Read more about the full process here

It must be emphasised that these guidelines apply only to OpenStreetMap data, other publishers using ODbL for other data may have their own ideas! Further, the Licensor in this case is the OpenStreetMap Foundation and not individual contributors or anyone with potential third party intellectual property interest. While we actively encourage all OpenStreetMap contributors to take part in this consensus process, we do not make any formal votes and no contributor is obliged to agree with all the guidelines or be bound by them.

Endorsed guidelines

The following guidelines endorsed by the OSMF board 2014-06-06:

  • Substantial - ODbL uses the term "Substantial", OpenStreetMap's view of what is substantial in our context. "Substantial" is a term which comes from the European Database Directive.
  • Produced Work - "Produced Work" is a term used by ODbL to broadly separate something created from a database but not a database itself. For OpenStreetMap, this often means a map, but could be something else (a mug, a data visualisation...).
  • Trivial Transformations - where a change is made purely algorythmically without using externally collected (non-OSM) metadata. When is it so trivial that there should be no obligation to share the changes or how they were made?

We hope these two guidelines resolve questions that you have when you want to make a map and you want to use OpenStreetMap and some other source(s) of data.

  • Regional Cuts - The principle that a map provider can use maps from OpenStreetMap in one part of the world and not be obliged to share data from another supplier used elsewhere in the world has been established for several years. However, 1) this has never been formalised; and 2) there are some questions that remain about how small an area is reasonable when "mixing and matching".
  • Horizontal Layers - The principle that a map maker can make and publish a map made from several distinct horizontal layers without being obliged to share data from the non-OpenStreetMap layers has been established for several years and is much clearer with the switch to the ODbL. However this has never been formalised and an exact statement and examples will help potential OpenStreetMap users with incompatible sources.

The following guideline was endorsed by the OSMF board 2016-06-17:

  • Collective Database Guideline - This guideline provides circumstances under which OpenStreetMap considers use of an ODbL-licensed database with another database to form a Collective Database rather than a Derivative Database. Provides additional guidance for use with the Regional Cuts and Horizontal Layers Guidelines. Incorporated ideas from and adopted in lieu of the proposed Metadata Layers Guideline.

The following guideline was endorsed by the OSMF board 2017-08-24:

  • Geocoding Guideline - Sets out circumstances specific to geocoders and geocoding uses that do and do not trigger ODbL obligations. Heavily revised from the originally proposed Geocoding Guideline.

Less mature guidelines

These are areas the OSM Foundation License Working Group is still working on and is asking for input and guidance. They mostly focus on mixed data environments outside making traditional maps, i.e. you want to offer some kind of geodata-related service and want to use OpenStreetMap plus some other source(s) of data.

  • Indexing - If OpenStreetMap data is indexed, for example by a search engine, is that a Derivative Database?
  • "Fall Back" - You want to provide a service, say addressing, where you search an OpenStreetMap database first and then, if you cannot find the result, fall back, i.e. search another database. Are these databases separate and therefore Collective in ODbL language, or does the process you are using mean that you have combined them into a Derivative database?
  • Dynamic Data - Can/should providers of dynamic data, such car-park occupancy, use our static data, i.e. car parks, in their business model without triggering share-alike on the dynamic data?
  • Offering alteration files - The ODbL says can offer " A file containing all of the alterations made to the Database or the method of making the alterations to the Database (such as an algorithm), including any additional Contents, that make up all the differences between the Database and the Derivative Database.". What form should this file be in?