[OSM-talk] License to kill
tom at acrewoods.net
Wed Mar 4 11:31:23 GMT 2009
Just to say - thanks for writing out this funny long email.
I've been involved with debates over Creative Commons licenses and, boy,
people love to stick their oar in where it doesn't belong! I also know
Jordan, I had beers with him in Dubrovnik a couple of years ago, he's a
great guy and very committed to the common good. You're right, we should
all give him some slack and trust him.
You're never going to be able to mollify people who want to jump in during
the last of 15 stages and whinge that they weren't there are stage 1.
You're never going to resolve conflicting interests or help people
understand the legal (as opposed to logical context).
Just keep pointing at all the excellent info on the wiki at every stage.
Drive it home - hey, we're not at this stage and here is the process &
If you'll permit me to snipe from the sidelines without an offer of help,
here's a suggestion for the people management. When you set yourselves up
to have regular meetings, publish minutes, etc. then DO IT. Either scale
down your ambitions or up your game, but it is very unhealthy to have the
process break down, especially when the process is the wider community's
only way of keeping tabs on important questions like licensing. There is a
lot of bad feeling on the mailing lists so the Foundation needs to come out
and clear the air, deal with these issues, then people will be more likely
to understand and accept all your points below.
Then just keep pointing to the web page that outlines the structures,
processes and notes/minutes/FAQs etc.
Best of luck to you, Jordan and everyone else.
On Tue, 3 Mar 2009 20:28:32 -0800, SteveC <steve at asklater.com> wrote:
> Where to begin?
> Why don't we start with the beautiful community we've built and the
> stunning map can be the backdrop. On this canvas lets spread the
> pieces of the puzzle and see if we can put a few things together.
> We have incredible coders. We have mappers that stay up all night
> adding lakes in Bolivia from aerial imagery. We have people building
> community across mailing lists, forums and mapping events. We have
> user interaction people. We have stunning cartography from the planets
> best cartographers. We have a sysadmin team second to none. We have a
> volunteer board doing their best with the tools they have. We have
> fake bloggers so involved in their espionage they fake their own
> retirement and write in a different tone so you don't think it's them.
> But, we don't have a shed load of intellectual property lawyers with
> aeons of experience.
> Now that's important. Laws and licenses tend not to be written by
> sysadmins. Or Cartographers. Or even expert C++ coders.
> We're a funny bunch, us hackers. We can deconstruct a problem and code
> around it. We can avoid logic traps. Every day we decompose algorithms
> and we have no hierarchy other than our code. Is your code better?
> Then you're better. Am I a better coder if I have a degree in computer
> science? Probably not actually. But if I have 10 years hacking on
> Apache or something... then I have a flag to fly. And the wonderful
> thing about our skill as coders is that it applies to a lot of other
> area. We can make electronics if we want. Many of us know quite a bit
> about Physics or Chemistry. We know that coding is basically
> mathematics  so we tend to be good at that too.
> That logic and intuition we learn as coders is just incredibly
> powerful. We're like wizards with the secret spell and often the world
> lays as an open book to us, and we need not turn the page to know the
> ending of a story. Because we figured it out two equations ago. Or
> it's just like that other coding problem we worked on a few weeks ago.
> Or actually, it's like cantors diagonal slash and we can use that.
> Maybe if we treat the engine as if it were a misbehaving piece of
> code we can figure out the issue just by being scientific.
> And that's amazing. It's stunning. It's jaw-dropping. We see the world
> a different way, and we build incredible things like wikipedia, or GNU/
> Linux. Or we hack together a windscreen wiper which pauses between
> wipes . Or a vacuum cleaner that needs no bags .
> All that incredible skill very often, sadly, counts for nothing when
> we want to become managers. Or write licenses. Or diagnose our own
> illnesses. Or fall in love. All that logic and training doesn't help.
> And we really, really don't like that. We don't like to talk about it
> It's an Outside Context Problem . It's the boundary of our world.
> It's Godel, Escher, Bach. It's the knowing that there is something
> outside of our System of the World. We can't use C++ to manage
> people. We can't use logic to fight with a 2 year old having a
> tantrum. We can't use the scientific method when having an argument
> with our girlfriend, or boyfriend.
> And I'm going to have to disagree with many of you respectfully that
> all your coding, or writing, or mapping experience makes you a
> qualified lawyer. Why? Not because you don't have a degree in law. Let
> me say that again - I don't disagree with you because of your
> qualifications... just like I wouldn't disagree with you over a coding
> or logic problem if you don't have a degree from MIT or Cambridge. Law
> is about three things (at least in the societies I've lived in). One
> of them you can nail. You can nuke it from orbit. You will win like
> some vast chess match. The bit you can win is the logic.
> The logic of law, of licenses, of contracts... that is trivial. If the
> contract says pay peter £100 or $10 or €1 if he paints your bike shed
> blue then your logic will pay him. If there is a get out clause buried
> under mounds of legalese you can find it. You will exploit it. You
> will win like a champ. I have utterly no doubt. I've used it. I've
> sued people and I've won. And they deserved it.
> But what you don't have with all your power and logic is a
> understanding of case law. This would be pillar two in Steve's
> Understanding Of Law. This is where it all falls apart. Because where
> all that logic breaks like the crumple zone on a Ford Escort hitting a
> tree, is the real world. Logic dictates we should lock up 12 year old
> girls for infringing the copyright of Michael Jackson. Logic dictates
> we should lock up terror suspects without trial. Logic dictates
> breaking a copyright protection mechanism is a criminal offence.
> And that's all a bit crazy.
> Because here's where logic meets opinion. And that opinion is
> called... case law.
> Case law says, lets not bring the same thing to court lots of times.
> That's expensive and dull. So if this case here, lets call it A is
> like that case over there... B. And A was decided like this... and A
> is really like B... then B should be decided similarly to save a lot
> of time, effort, hassle, money, dullness.
> It turns out that if you watch movies about the cool lawyer saving the
> day they often spent 3 years looking at obscure case law from 1834
> . They use this to show the case is like that other case over
> there... and win.
> So why is it so hard and expensive to become a lawyer and why do they
> think they are so cool? Because they have a magic power and they are
> wizards just like you, but their power reins over a different domain.
> Sometimes you may clash and sometimes you may win. In general though,
> you are better at debugging than they are and they don't know anything
> about gcc compiler options. In turn.. .you don't have an in depth
> knowledge of intellectual property law or that case that was just
> decided last week by the supreme court.
> They, the legal guys, will read things like "s/foo/bar" and think it's
> s divided by foo, divided by bar. You may read "Without
> prejudice"  and think "great now we can have a conversation and
> not worry about the threats".
> All their power and majesty counts for nothing in our world. And all
> of ours for nothing in theirs.
> But it's not like we're not motivated right? We have money, we have
> time, and we have some of the smartest people on the planet and we can
> defend ourselves with dignity and grace as the pirate bay folks are
> doing right now. And we can attack when we want. But often we join up
> with lawyers who are really secret coders. They're pretty bad coders.
> But they give us some help and we give them interesting dwarves to
> slay and some street cred that they're friends have powers in another
> dimension to theirs. So on occasion, we help each other.
> This is one of those occasions.
> We have two of the most capable legal guys on the planet in this
> domain trying to help us. They want us to win. They want to see us
> take off and not fly on vapour.
> But what do we do?
> We blame Steve because he's evil. We blame the process because it took
> too long. We blame the working group for not being quicker. We figure
> the foundation must be culpable. We write long rants about how it's a
> dire emergency...
> But pause for a second.
> Close your eyes, take a deep breath. Open them and look around. Oh...
> there's that massive community we've built. Look over there, it's an
> amazing map we've built from a blank canvas in to the most stunning,
> best, most fantastic map on the planet. Birds are singing. Honestly.
> An angelic choir descends and something akin to the ITO! animation
> explodes and dances in front of you, completing a map of the world for
> free in front of your eyes. For *free*. For __FREE__.
> Now lets turn to the board and the working group. They're volunteers..
> but they haven't been doing their job! They've been slow! It took them
> so, so *so* long to get things done... But hold on nobody has been
> saying they could have done better... oh and we don't see any offers
> of help.. or offers to be on the group. Because it's a bit easier to
> stand on the sidelines and we like it here. But lets just question
> them, their reputations and priorities anyway... after all they
> deserve it for volunteering.
> Oh... hang on a minute most of the delay was actually due to
> consultation between lawyers in the other dimension. The other land
> where it's ok to take time to review legal processes in a quiet,
> informal, slow and deliberate way. Like how it's done by actual 'real'
> lawyers in actual 'real' legal firms.
> But! Hold on! We should see every draft of the license! Every time
> they add a comma, or review something! Every sentence! You're taking
> away our rights you evil volunteers!
> Yes we should in the same way that a lawyer should comment on your C++
> or ruby code after every 20 characters. They should comment on your
> mistakes, your lack of foresight. They should publish widely. They
> should blame you when it doesn't compile because you left off a semi-
> colon. If a function is half written, so be it! Release it anyway. But
> we don't tend to do things like that, do we? We do things like release
> the code by doing a subversion checkin... when we're reasonably happy
> with the code we've done.
> Ladies and gentlemen you just saw a subversion checkin of the license.
> Now you can blame me for being sometimes a little overzealous for
> allowing them the privacy and time to complete their work.. but I have
> a lot of respect for them and a lot of time for them. I believe by
> showing that we understood them. That I knew what I did not know. That
> I knew I wasn't a lawyer. That we weren't going to slap them with 300
> emails on every release... that we built something better. You can
> disagree with me. You can point to the projects you've built with
> 100,000 people in them. You can point to your legal buddies who are
> better than mine... but that was the decision I (and by the way the
> license team and the board) went with.
> Lets look at the other reason we did that. On any objective measure,
> legal time is worth more than my time. The last time I had to sue
> someone because the infringed my copyrights the guy was charging £250
> an hour. An hour! Insane! So every hour they spend looking at your
> comments is an hour not making the license better with the peer review
> from another lawyer. Or making £250. And they're doing this for us for
> If you were paid £250 an hour and worked for free for someone on the
> side... would you like to work on the Space Shuttle or a bicycle?
> Because what you're asking them to do is work on your bicycle because
> it doesn't have rocket engines. You don't understand enough about
> bicycles to know they traditionally don't have rockets attached and so
> you take up a lot of their time arguing about rockets... and not about
> your flat tyre.
> They're far too polite to say this of course.
> But, and you know this, we listened anyway. We worked hard to build a
> home around the license. Somewhere to vent your frustrations. We built
> another comment period in. Again. Jordan will take a look at your
> rocket plans and space lasers. he will take a lot of time and distil
> it down in to a puncture repair kit. And you know what the license
> will be better for it. And he'll thank you for it. And we will all be
> better off.
> So lets concentrate on that. Lets build a better process. Lets build a
> consensus. Lets understand that they know more about law than we do
> and act in a humble and respectful way. Lets help and become a
> volunteer. Lets put all these good ideas in to a plan. And lets build
> a better project.
> * I'm well aware that the above doesn't cover every single issue
> raised like whether you have a crack team of intellectual property
> lawyers ready to spring in to action, or you're not a coder. The above
> was a vast set of metaphors, taking it literally implies you're not
> cognizant of that. Re-read the stuff about logic not applying totally
> to love, management, law, war and so on ad infinitum.
> * Stop thinking that CCBYSA applies to OSM. It doesn't very well at
> all. Richard Fairhurst can tell you the 3.29 billion reasons why
> * Stop thinking Steve is Evil and out to own the license. If you spent
> more than 34 seconds thinking about it you'd realise that the best
> possible route for him would be Public Domain so he could do whatever
> he wanted. Really. Think about it. In fact I truly believe viral is
> better for the health of this project and I've fought hard against my
> own self interest on this.
> * Why hasn't Steve responded in 3 days and rah rah rah. Because I'm
> taking time to digest all your comments and it takes time because
> there are so many, there are repeats and there is the personal stuff
> to distil out.
>  see iain m banks
>  see hofstadter
>  see neal stephenson
>  see the zen of motorcycle maintenance
>  see turing or danny hillis or the diamond age
>  its really scary, see GEB
>  see dyson and his book
>  see flash of genius
>  see good will hunting
>  you really, really need to look that up if you don't know what it
> talk mailing list
> talk at openstreetmap.org
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