[OSM-legal-talk] OS coyright issues

Lars Aronsson lars at aronsson.se
Wed May 10 14:24:04 BST 2006

Richard Fairhurst wrote:

> This is a really difficult one to try and answer, mostly because 
> it's a lot less black-and-white than many of the copyright 
> issues we're dealing with.
> It's important to remember that OS cannot copyright facts,

Perhaps even more important is that copyright is not chess, or any 
other gentlemen's sport.  It's a lot more like warfare.

In chess, the winner is No. 1, the loser is No. 2, but the one who 
tries to cheat or break the rules never gets any prize. Following 
the rules is far more important than winning or losing.  What one 
"can" and "cannot do" is important in chess.  Not so in copyright.

Some people argue that you "cannot" patent software or algorithms.  
"Just watch us do it", say IBM, Microsoft and Amazon.com.

Similarly, when we start to argue about what can and cannot be 
copyrighted in cartography, even if we try to follow those rules, 
we can never expect the Ordnance Survey do do so.  We must assume 
they'll do (or try to do) what it takes to secure their position.

They could drag us to court on some false claims.  Even if they 
know beforehand they'll lose the case, the legal process might 
kill us, and that would be their goal fulfilled.  Copyright is not 
the game, it's just one tool in a vast toolbox.

In the late 1980s, some Estonians told me this story: "Estonians 
convince Gorbachev to give them national independence for just one 
day.  In the morning, Estonia declares total war on Sweden.  In 
the afternoon they surrender without conditions."  That's how you 
win a war.  The real war was not on Sweden, but on the USSR.

We need to keep an eye on the enemy, not on the rules.

  Lars Aronsson (lars at aronsson.se)
  Aronsson Datateknik - http://aronsson.se

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