[OSM-talk] Why PD is not better for business
frederik at remote.org
Tue Dec 8 22:32:53 GMT 2009
I would like to counter another often-repeated misconception about
PD (or CC0, or BSD) licenses, namely that these licenses are better for
business because they allow businesses to do what they want.
The matter arose in the follwoing exchange here on talk:
> As I've said many times before, if you thought about it for 2
> seconds it would be much better to move OSM to PD or CC0 for
> ***** and all the other companies so we could do what we like
> with the data.
> Yeah, but it'd be a *lot* better for some of "the other companies"
> (like, maybe 10^100) than it would be for *****.
It doesn't matter who said this because it is an idea that many people
in OSM seem to share: Do PD and big business will love you because they
can rip you off; do share-alike and be protected from such rip-off.
I fact, restrictions often provide a competitive advantage for business.
(Sure - some business models will not work with the restrictions but
The reason for this is that IP licensing is a very difficult terrain,
even more so if viewed internationally. Any share-alike license footed
in international IP law, like CC-BY-SA or ODbL, is necessarily complex
as well. What constitutes a derived work, what is substantial, how do
database law and copyright mix, what constitutes the acceptance of a
contract, and so on.
We need lawyers to navigate the complex legal system just like we need
tax attorneys to navigate the complex tax system.
Less restrictions favour individuals. Nobody will think twice before
using a public domain dataset for a project he's doing. More
restrictions favour an elite few who have fully understood the
restrictions and can work with them. And the elite few, that's generally
(large) companies. Because companies make money, they can afford
lawyers. They can afford to find out what exactly the restrictions are
and where the niche is that they can use. They have the means to design
their project in a way that fits the license. They can (for a fee) help
other navigate the license restrictions, or they can buy an insurance
that helps them mitigate the risk of accidental license violation.
This doesn't necessarily mean that share-alike is *good* for business,
but I believe that the difficulties that share-alike brings are prone to
hit a law-abiding hobbyist individual harder than a business giant with
a legal department (that's assuming both want to play fair).
Frederik Ramm ## eMail frederik at remote.org ## N49°00'09" E008°23'33"
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