[OSM-legal-talk] Viral can be nice

Albertas Agejevas alga at pov.lt
Thu Apr 22 09:37:24 BST 2010

On Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 09:50:50AM +0200, jamesmikedupont at googlemail.com wrote:
> 2010/4/22 Dirk-Lüder Kreie <osm-list at deelkar.net>
> > Am 22.04.2010 02:51, schrieb andrzej zaborowski:
> > No other data gatherer in the world has the manpower OSM has. Even if
> > our License was to be CC0 or PD, we still would have the best map data
> > around, simply because no one could really keep up with us. (Assuming,
> > of course, that the majority of future OSM Mappers would find that
> > license acceptable).
> >
> >
> I would like to say that the sharealike license is what builds trust for me.
> As a small contributor at least I know that I will be able to use the
> derived works. I really think that the sharealike clause is what builds the
> community, it is the glue that holds it together.

It also deters unexpected well-meaning users.  Consider FlightGear,
the open-source flight simulator.  Wouldn't it be great if they used
OSM instead of, or along with, VMAP0 for their scenery display?
Currently the technology is there, but they are reluctant to do that
because of the licence incompatibility, or more precisely doubts about
licence compatibility:


> For a large player it would be possible to take the data, invest a lot of
> resources in making a private branch, and there would be no sharing back.
> Stuff like that would really destroy the community.

I don't see this as a realistic scenario.  Google Maps have better
coverage than OSM in many areas.  Does it stop you from using OSM and
contributing to it?  Would it change your attitude if Google used OSM
to make their data set better?

> Only with a sharealike are the small contributing parties the benefactors.
> PD CC0 is great for huge organizations to publish data for all to use, but
> CCSA is great for building communities.

Personally, I would feel much better about contributing to an open,
unencumbered body of public knowledge, rather than a paranoid "they
are out to get us" share-alike community.

> I can only point out that the GCC compiler would not be what it is today
> without the sharealike clause, for that reason it has so many backends and
> frontends. Only after alot of fighting with apple/next in the old days did
> objective c get added into the gcc.
> http://wiki.gnustep.org/index.php/ObjC2_FAQ#Which_Compiler_Should_I_Use.3F
> ""The history of Objective-C in GCC is somewhat complicated. Originally,
> NeXT was forced to release the original Objective-C front end in order to
> comply with the GPL.""
> Without such a license there would be no Objective C, there are many other
> examples of contributions that are a result of sharealike. I can say that I
> have personally invested months of time into openstreetmap and would not
> have done so, or have gotten the data contributions without the sharealike
> license.
> What else would allow all these different companies to donate map data, if
> they knew that someone could just "run away with the ball"?

1. Software is a different field, an analogy is just that.  Analogies
often have their flaws.

2. Do the projects that use non-viral BSD, MIT, MPL-like licences any
worse off than GPL projects?  Apache? Mozilla?  X.org?  Python uses a
non-viral licence.  It has several forks and reimplementations
(IronPython, Jython, Stackless, unladen-swallow), which were funded by
different companies at different times.  There is a commercial package
by ActiveState, but it's not making the whole community weaker, on the

Viral licences have their uses (e.g. forcing wireless router
manufacturers to release the firmware contents, forcing NeXT to
release ObjJ, forcing Bruno Haible to contribute CLISP to the GNU
project), but my feeling in the case of OSM they just cause
uncertainty and doubt about any serious use of the data, even by
open-source projects.


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