[OSM-legal-talk] Q&A with a lawyer

Peter Miller peter.miller at itoworld.com
Wed May 13 07:36:55 BST 2009

On 13 May 2009, at 01:36, Matt Amos wrote:

> On Wed, May 13, 2009 at 1:15 AM, Frederik Ramm <frederik at remote.org>  
> wrote:
>> ...and
>> Peter Miller's concerns are legit: If you are the licensor, then,  
>> under
>> 4.4.d...
>> "Licensors may authorise a proxy to determine compatible licences  
>> under
>> Section 4.4 a iii. If they do so, the authorised proxy's public
>> statement of acceptance of a compatible licence grants You  
>> permission to
>> use the compatible licence."
>> ... you get to choose what the compatible licenses are, don't you?  
>> So I
>> can take the planet file, add a node thereby creating a derivative
>> database, publish it with me as the licensor, and under 4.4 d declare
>> that I am myself the proxy who determines license compatibility,  
>> and one
>> second later proclaim that the BSD style license is compatible with
>> ODbL. Yay! Where can I sign up ;-)
> hmm... that does seem to be a problem. would it solve the problem if
> 4.4a iii were removed? would that prevent any reasonable use case, to
> not be able to distribute a derived database under anything other than
> ODbL or later versions "similar in spirit"?
> given that OSMF is the original licensor, holding the database rights,
> it wouldn't prevent OSMF choosing a new license. assuming, of course,
> that the terms of the contributor agreement are upheld regarding

Firstly, is it reasonably to described the OSMF as the original  
licensor? Sure .. the OSMF is probably going to be the original  
licensor of the aggregation of individual OSM contributions to the  
main OSM dataset however on the wider stage this will not always be  
the case. There is both the situation were OSM bulk-imports some data  
from another source into OSM that is published as ODbL where the  
original data owner can not be contacted which I would hope would be  
possible, and then there is also the situation where a bit of OSM data  
is combined with a lot of other ODbL data into another dataset and the  
a bit of that dataset is combined again with another dataset and so on  
where the OSM element ends up as a very minor element of some other  

For example... an individual OSM contributor finds a useful dataset of  
the locations of ancient trees that someone has published based on  
their own research using ODbL. That OSM contributor should be able to  
import that into OSM without needing to get permission from the  
original author, in just the same way as one can use a CCBYSA  
photograph within a book without seeking permission. The author is  
just added to the list of major contributors to OSM in the 'notices'  

Then.... someone else publishes a global database of place-names  
database from OSM which includes all places from OSM together with a  
geocode and the boundary polygon for the place if we have one. This  
person actually publishes a whole load of different cuts of the data  
that people might find useful including world coastline, rivers etc  
(possibly this person is Frederik?!). They don't know which of the  
original bulk OSM contributions were used in each of these cuts so  
include the full list of OSM notices in each of these derivative  

Then... someone uses the place-names database for a project they are  
doing somewhere in the world where they take a cut of the OSM place- 
names database for place-names for the area of interest and combine it  
with a cut of the OSM coastlines database  and also with an ODbL  
database of sightings of butterflies and an ODbL dataset of weather  
events and publishes that as an ODbL dataset.

This process continues and the OSM dataset is now far from the  
'primary' dataset.

Do we want to allowed this sort of thing? If not then are we not being  
'non-free? If yes then we need to accept the implications of being a  
modest step in chain of data and  we have to ask what controls on the  
ODbL that flows from OSM we can reasonably expect to maintain.  
Removing the right for anyone else to migrate to a new license in the  
situation that ODC is not able to do so would clearly be  
inappropriate, especially as we can't be sure that OSMF will still  
exist in 50 years!

How do other organisations deal with this situation and can we learn  
from them?



> voting, etc...
> cheers,
> matt
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