[OSM-legal-talk] Are CT contributors are in breach of the CC-BY-SA license?

Francis Davey fjmd1a at gmail.com
Sun Apr 17 20:23:48 BST 2011

On 17 April 2011 19:29, 80n <80n80n at gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm not clear about what you mean here.  Can you spell it out please?
> What does 'it' refer to in this sentence? why do you say obviously?
> And in what sense you mean can?

Sorry, all I meant was that there is nothing to stop you *doing*
something whether it is legal or not.

There's a point to this pedantry (or at least part of one). Its often
confusing to talk about being able to do X or Y when what's really
important is what the legal consequences of it might be. I am sorry if
I was less than clear.

>> (3) CC-BY-SA does not give you the authority to sublicence under an
>> arbitrary licence, so you would have no authority to give the licence
>> in CT 1.2.4 or something like it and that grant of licence would be
>> void as against the original copyright owner (though binding on you)
> Ok, but can you explain what "void as against the orginal copyright
> owner" means?  Does it mean the grant of license has no effect on the
> license granted by the owner of the orginal work?

I meant that the grant had no effect on the legal rights of the
original copyright owner. It won't stop them from enforcing any right
that they were able to enforce before the grant.

> This point seems to me to be the crux of what I was trying to
> understand.  But it leads to the subsiduary question, is the act of
> submitting content to OSM an act of distribution or publication as
> defined by CC-BY-SA?

Well, assuming we are worried only by copyright (since CC-BY-SA says
nothing about database rights) then the first question is what acts by
a contributor might require the permission of he copyright owner (or
they would otherwise infringe) then the second question is: does
CC-BY-SA give that permission.

If I obtain a work subject to copyright then contributing it to the
project involves: (i) an act of copying (or reproduction); (ii)
possibly an authorisation; and (iii) possibly an act of making
available to the public (depending on whether the work was public or
not beforehand).

For simplicity lets assume (iii) doesn't apply as it will not in most cases.

So, reproduction requires the permission of the copyright owner.
CC-BY-SA grants a right to "to reproduce the Work", so reproduction by
the contributor won't infringe the copyright owner's copyright because
the contributor has permission via the CC licence.

"distribution" and "publication" aren't terms used in UK copyright law
for classes of activity that require permission of the copyright
owner. You can find a list of acts restricted by copyright at:


"distribution" is a term used in the EU Copyright Directive (in article 4):


and corresponds to s16(b) and s16(ba) in the Copyright Act. But you
are more likely to be concerned with the rights in article 3
concerning communication to the public.

"distribution" is a permitted act under CC-BY-SA under 3(d).
Restricted by 4(a) as only being under "this license" (USians don't
know how to spell :-).

"distribution" doesn't appear to be defined under the CC licence, but
it seems to me that the sense of 3(c) and 3(d) must be wide enough to
permit distribution in the EU/UK sense.

A contributor's uploading of a work would not, on its own, amount to a
"distribution" it seems to me, but the contributor is almost certainly
engaged in a joint enterprise with others (including the OSMF) to do
so and again almost certainly authorises it as well. So the
distinction probably isn't very important.

>> Does that help?
> Yes that helps a lot.

I'm glad. I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to give this any serious
thought, so all the above is rather impressionistic and off the top of
my head. There are subtleties.

I can't see any difficulty with contributing your own work to OSMF.

Francis Davey

More information about the legal-talk mailing list