[OSM-legal-talk] viral attribution and ODbL

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemeD.net
Tue Apr 20 17:12:50 BST 2010

TimSC wrote:
> I am beginning to conclude the ODbL is a bloated, confusing mistake.  
> We would be better serviced in our project goals by a simpler  
> license i.e. a public domain-like license.

Public domain is unequivocally simpler. For many of us it is also "the  
right thing" to do - see the wiki userbox for details. I, and many  
others, have always wanted OSM to be PD.

But in five years, we have never been able to obtain clear agreement  
for this. There is a significant number (probably a "large minority")  
of contributors who will not consent to any licence without  
share-alike. Their beliefs are heartfelt and therefore sometimes very  

So the main choices are:

a) Persist with CC-BY-SA. Most people with an awareness of data  
copyright law, including CC themselves, believe this is unsuitable.

b) Given that project-wide consensus for PD is unlikely to be reached,  
fork the project and create a PD OSM, starting with PD datasets and  
contributions from PD-supporting users. This may be possible, and  
there's nothing to stop you or I from doing it, but no-one has  
seriously attempted it.

c) Move to another sharealike licence which is more suitable for data.

OSMF has chosen to follow c) and has managed it, thus far, with a  
surprising amount of consensus given our fractious community. I think  
they've done well and am grateful to them, and LWG in particular, for  
the thankless hours they have put in. If you would like to promote b)  
yourself you are very welcome to do so, and I suspect many people  
would support you; nonetheless, past mailing lists suggest that, if  
OSMF were to do so, it would almost certainly result in the implosion  
of the Foundation.

I think your characterisation of ODbL as "bloated" and "confusing" is  
grossly unfair. It has been drafted by people with significant  
knowledge and experience in this area of law. It is complex. Database  
IP law is complex. You have come to the conclusion that a PD  
declaration is easier, and I agree with you, but to criticise the  
licence itself for that is unjust.


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