[OSM-legal-talk] Refusing CT but declaring contributions as PD

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemeD.net
Wed Aug 24 14:52:35 BST 2011

There's a curious statement in the LWG minutes for 2nd August

> Folks who have declined the new contributor terms but said their
> contributions are public domain.
> There has been a suggestion that such contributions should be
> maintained in the current OSM database even after a switch to
> ODbL.
> A very small number of contributors have declined the new
> contributor terms and asserted that the their contributions are in
> the public domain.  This does not mean that the collective data in
> the OSM database is public domain. Their 'PD' position contradicts
> the explicit decline. Therefore the LWG takes the position that
> their contributions cannot be published under ODbL without
> acceptance of the contribut[or terms].

(I think the two contributors affected by this are Tim Sheerman-Chase and
Florian Lohoff, but there may be others.)

I'm a little puzzled by this. "Asserting that one's contributions are in
the public domain" is saying, in the words of the disclaimer used on
Wikipedia and on the OSM wiki, "I grant anyone the right to use my
contributions for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such
conditions are required by law".

Therefore I don't see any reason why the data cannot be included in OSM.
The contributor has given a grant of all rights - not just copyright, but
any database right or indeed other right that might exist. There is no
difference between (say) TimSC's PD data and the TIGER PD data, but we're
not requiring the US Census Bureau to sign the terms.[1]

The minute says "Their 'PD' position contradicts the explicit decline",
which seems to me to be true legally but not "politically". There are
people who do not wish to enter into a formal agreement with OSMF, and
though I think they're mistaken, they doubtless have their own reasons.

What am I missing? What exactly is meant by "the collective data in the
OSM database"?


[1] I am diplomatically ignoring the fact that there is no proof that US
Federal data is public domain _outside_ the States ;)

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