[OSM-legal-talk] New to the list - writing your own license

Matt Lee mattl at gnu.org
Sun Apr 1 03:51:03 BST 2007

Hi everyone, I'm new to the list, though perhaps not so unfamiliar to 
some of you. I joined after finding this list from Richard's blog. I 
found Richard's blog for the first time today after stumbling upon some 
CPC-related stuff on Wikipedia. I forget how I got there, it had 
something to do with waking up beforehand.


My background to all of this is primarily software, and my work with the 
GNU Project, and prior to that a lifetime of usage of free software and 
public domain software, but also I am heavily interested, as a comedian 
and author of how concepts of 'freedom' should be applied to creative 
works and other types of data, including maps.

I'm also not a total n00b to OpenStreetMap, as I took part in the 
Reading mapping weekend last year and proved my ability to ride a tiny 
bike and eat a lot of chili.

 From my point of view, we have too many licenses and licenses are 
confusing because they are primarily slices of legality that exist to 
serve a particular 'set' of rules on what you can do. Legalese might be 
fun for some of us, but for the majority it's hard work. The easiest way 
I find to think about a license, is a list of dos and don't. So, 
thinking about mapping information and the kind of data that 
OpenStreetMap makes, I'd ask the following questions.

* What are we producing?

* What purpose does it serve to the general public?

* What purpose does it serve to a smaller group of people, such as the 
community of people who want what we're producing or might adapt it in 

* What methods should be in place to ensure this information stays 
useful to the people we're producing it for?

So, if we look to apply these questions to an existing known solution - 
free software, we wind up at a situation where we pick a license with 
copyleft or not. I'd argue for copyleft in virtually all situations, 
except things like codecs.


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