[OSM-legal-talk] Database and its contents

Francis Davey fjmd1a at gmail.com
Tue Nov 23 20:27:28 GMT 2010

On 23 November 2010 19:50, 80n <80n80n at gmail.com> wrote:
> To be precise a database right is earned when there is a "substantial
> investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting" the contents of the

Yes. I was deliberately avoiding side-tracking the discussion onto the
nature of the investment - I'm keen to avoid sounding like I am

> database.  Has the OSMF done enough to earn that right?  Most obtaining has

That's a good question and a tricky one. How much is "substantial" is
not well settled in the case law - but many European jurisdictions
seem to be quite generous at finding the existence of a right with
relatively modest levels of investment.

"substantial" could mean "not merely trivial" or "a large amount".

But your question does not exhaust the enquiry - has OSMF a database
right (or could it obtain one)?

Its entirely possible for a large number of people to work together on
a project so that *jointly* they own a database right in a jointly
created database. I don't know much of OSM's history, but I'm guessing
that it started out like that, without any clear assignment of rights
between the contributors (looking at a history of the CT's suggests
this), so that what you may have is a joint work.

If the contributors licence their database rights to OSMF then OSMF
will have sufficient rights to sublicense under ODbL (assuming lots of
other things are true as well - I'm just looking at the ownership

I think it would be easy enough to defend OSM being a database and
there being a database right in its data. Who "owns" it may be less
important, unless you try to sue for infringement of course, but as I
understand existing policy, that is not OSMF's intention.

> been done by contributors who are not members of OSMF and have no connection
> with OSMF. As far as I know OSMF has no verification function and certainly

They have _some_ connection in that they contributed to OSM with which
OSMF is connected.

> doesn't make a substantial investment in verification.  As for presenting
> they host a server running Mapnik and provide a planet dump and some APIs.
> Their only investment is the cost of the hardware[1].

Quite. There's obviously a question of what "substantial" means - see above.

> In much of the database rights literature there is often a reference to the
> $ value spent to create the database in question.  Presumably this is
> relevant to whether the right has been earned based on a substantial
> investment.  How does OSMF measure up on this, having spent just a few
> thousand dollars on hardware?

Hard to say, although investment does not have to be of money, but of
resources, so lots of people working hard in their spare time as
volunteers counts.

Francis Davey

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