Open license questions

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This wiki page was used for discussion and development of the move to the Open Database License. It is not only not legal advice, it is likely to be inaccurate and/or incomplete, and only of historic interest. Please do not use this page as a reference for what you can or can't do with OpenStreetMap data.

Many of the questions below were formerly part of the Legal FAQ page, but have been moved here as they are questions without answers. Some of the information on this page may be outdated.

At what level does does copyright subsist in OSM data?

  • Are raw GPS tracks copyrightable? -- Richard
  • Are nodes copyrightable? --Rob Myers 18:40, 1 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Does copyright subsist in the compilation of OSM data.

Relicencing contributions

  • Can I relicense my own contribution to an other company/foundation/project with a different licence. The licence can be more restrictive or less restrictive than the OSM licence.

Database Right

  • Who owns any database right in combined OSM data?
  • Can OSM(?) claim the database right over GPS tracks?
  • Can OSM(?) claim the database right over nodes?

Moral Rights

  • Do contributors to OSM have moral rights over the contributions?
  • If so, do moral rights extend to GPS tracks or Nodes?

Geodata Licensing

  • Are there any sound license in the spirit of CreativeCommons that is specialized for geodata?
    • Or if not (and that sounds likely), can you give us any general guidelines for creating one? -- Richard
    • There's the Talis Licence: It is based on the database right rather than copyright, so it won't work outside the EU. It seems good but it doesn't seem to have been written by a lawyer. I'm not sure how it would relate GPS data to maps, or how maps based on Talis data could be combined with other information. --Rob Myers 18:53, 1 March 2007 (UTC)
    • The Talis Community License has now, with the funding help of Talis, been morphed in to Open Data Commons - the first license to apply the Creative Commons CC0 protocol. This license is specificly designed for the open sharing of 'data'. - RJW
  • Can you give hints to existing court decisions, practical problems etc. regarding to geodata?
  • Are there a legal clarification on the status of extracted data? As far as I know, statistical data (e.g. word usage data) derived from a source like wikipedia is not covered by the copyright on the corpus. It wouldn't surprise me to find there was similar legal protection/exemption for certain kinds of analyses of spatial data. But there might not be. -- Tom

Derived Works

  • What would be the interpretation of "derived work" in the current CC-By-Sa when it comes to geodata?
    • Is a website which just include an CC-Sa map to be licensed under CC-Sa?
    • When the site is embedded within the map?
    • When the site interacts with the map?
    • What about a technical independent, transparent layer over a CC-Sa map (like Google Maps Layers)?
    • Where is the border? When does it count "derived", when not?
      • May be worth printing out this example to illustrate the question. -- Richard
        • Yes, this is a very good illustration of the use cases for print, web and mash-ups. --Rob Myers 18:57, 1 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Suppose I look at a copyrighted map to find the best way to get from London to Isle of Wight and memorise it. Suppose the map shows me a really good route that saves me 90 minutes. Suppose I then I travel there using that route but at the same time record the route using GPS and then use that information to make a map, have I infringed any copyright?
  • Does plotting a point on a map (selecting a set of co-ordinates using a map for reference, or by clicking on an electronic map) create a derivative work? If the points are sourced from GPS or something, then you already know the lat/lon of the points. --Rob Myers 22:31, 6 March 2007 (UTC) , adapted from a comment on OSM-Legal by SteveC.


  • Has anyone successfull enforced a license like CC-Sa with geodata? Are there substantial problems with this?
  • Who would coordinate any action for breach of licence?


  • What is the liability of OSM contribitors for damage caused by use of OSM data?
  • What is the liability of the OSMF for damage caused by use of OSM data?

BY-SA Attribution

A town map may be the product of many individuals (a recent mapping weekend in London involved 40 people). This may make "reasonable" attribution difficult, even impossible, in some media.

  • Would it be OK to get contributors to request that OSM receive attribution instead of them? There are provisions for this in the license.
  • Failing this, would it be OK to provide a URL to a licensing page that had the attribution on there? This seems to work with the license URL provision of the license.

3rd Party data

  • Does copyright (or database right) subsist in tracings of aerial photos? What about tracings of maps?
  • If we make a Google Maps (or similar) mashup that lets us see OSM data over the top of their photos, and we use this to spot missing roads, can we add those roads if the mashup will let us click to add points? (like the NPE Maps GPX thing


The OSM servers are located in the UK, and updated by people in many countries in the world, and used by people in other parts of the world. This raises a couple of jurisdiction issues, when the laws vary in different parts of the world.

For example using lists of street names from other sources may be permissible in the US, but not in the EU or Australia. A US contributor and US user may be okay, but UK law may be breached just by hosting the data in the UK. Using 50-year out of copyright data may be okay in the UK, but a unknowing user in the US may be breaching the law where a 70-year rule applies.

If just survey methods are used things a simpler, but when other Potential Datasources are used then jurisdictional issues may arise.

Background information