Open Data License/Substantial - Guideline

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Community Guideline - Substantial


The Open Data License defines a term “Substantial” which is then used in the License to define a threshold about when certain clauses come into effect.

The definition of “Substantial” led to a lot of questions and uncertainty within the community and it was felt that specific OpenStreetMap guidance was needed. Question were raised in the What constitutes a Substantial extract section of the Open Data License/Use Cases article.

In ODBL 1.0 the definition of “Substantial” is:

Means substantial in terms of quantity or quality or a combination of both. The repeated and systematic Extraction or Re-utilisation of insubstantial parts of the Contents may amount to the Extraction or Re-utilisation of a Substantial part of the Contents.

What we would like to do is encourage as much as possible the worry-free use of our data for personal projects, local community and local educational projects, for commercial projects where our data is either a very small adjunct to the main thrust of the product/service or where the commerciality is clearly cottage-industry.

What we don't want to see is folks taking large extractions of our data and using some arbitrary definition of Substantial in order to avoid attributing us or contributing back map data improvements. That would make us very unhappy!

So, we have focused on what "insubstantial" rather than "substantial" means. We've set the boundary we are happy with at basically: village map OK, town map not OK. If your intended use is obviously larger than our guideline, well, you'll have to consult your lawyer. Or better still, just attribute us and contribute back any data improvements ... then everyone is happy!

The guideline and examples

Status: Endorsed by the OSMF board 2014-06-06. Read the formal text.

Open issues, use cases, discussion

Any text here is not part of the formal or proposed guideline! If there is anything you are unsure about, put it here and it can be discussed.

  • I believe that we should not attempt to define insubstantial as it:
# sets a level by which we are sending the message to our contributors that if they do not reach this level, then their contributions are insubstantial; and
# weakens our position if this does ever get challenged in a court.
We should focus our attention on making it easy for end users to use our data and conform to the Attribution and Share-Alike clause. We should also focus on Trivial Transformations as "when does Share-Alike kick-in?" is a more common question.
--RobJN (talk) 23:27, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  • I think this is a doctrinal/high-level strategic issue, but nevertheless good to have a public discussion about. With that in mind, the answers to your two points are yes and qualified yes ... but that is the objective.
On the other side of the coin, no one can now use some other criteria that they self-interestedly come up with, take a much larger extract and say, "We thought you would not mind". Well, yes we would! And we have strengthened our position with a public indisputable record to say so. I'll re-work the intro to make this clearer. By the way, this is the guideline that led to the whole concept of Community Guidelines around 2009. From recollection, (and it was a while ago!), the major mailing list concern was indeed about setting up a marker to say something about what we felt what was NOT Ok ... and at the same time giving general clarity. I personally feel that FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) is a legitimate commercial tool but not an option for us as we have a mission obligation We started it [OSM] because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive, or unexpected ways.
-- MikeCollinson (talk) 11:37, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
  • I have now edited the Background section to make it much clearer that part of the point is that we will not be happy with self-interested definitions of Substantial being used to avoid attribution/share alike. I hope this more directly meets your concern.
-- MikeCollinson (talk) 13:52, 2 June 2014 (UTC)