[OSM-legal-talk] Copyright status of OSM map data - publishable memo for USA
80n80n at gmail.com
Thu Dec 8 14:30:58 GMT 2011
On Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 1:20 PM, Ed Avis <eda at waniasset.com> wrote:
> I asked two attorneys in the USA to look into the question of whether the
> map data falls under copyright. Please see earlier messages in this
> thread for
> details of how the lawyers were chosen and the question asked.
> They produced a written report which they asked me not to distribute
> because of attorney-client privilege. I have sent a copy of that report
> to the
> LWG and the OSM board, and I am happy to share a copy with anyone who'd
> like to
> see it, but I think it is necessary to have some results which can be fully
> public. To this end the lawyers have produced a public version which does
> mention OSM by name, although the issues addressed are those relevant to
> You can see the report at
> This is good work Ed. Very clear and seems to address, full-on, most of
the issues surrounding the topic.
There's a word missing in the last line of section 2 (b). I guessing from
the context the missing word is 'enforce'. In case it isn't, could you
seek confirmation from the authors?
Some of the conclusions I get from this (and others are welcome to draw out
other conclusions and loose ends) are:
* Maps are copyrightable, even when stored and represented as a database.
* Facts are not copyrightable, but the creative bar is very low and if any
originality is involved ("selection, coordination, or arrangement", "no
matter how crude humble or obvious") then anything except the raw facts is
* Tracing from maps, and from GPS tracks, is most likely copyrightable.
Although the GPS tracks are unlikely to be copyrightable.
* Individuals contributions will have copyright status if they pass the
orginality test ("selection, coordination, or arrangement", "no matter how
crude humble or obvious").
* If the map is considered to be a compilation then all contributors, as
joint authors, have joint copyright ownership.
The hanging question in my mind is, if we assume, for the moment, that
every contributor has joint copyright ownership, what rights would they
actually have? Do they have full and unrestricted copyright in the whole
compilation? Are they bound, or limited, by any of the terms or conditions
that they agreed to when signing up? Are they in any way limited by the
CC-BY-SA license grant? Would the Contributor Terms deny them any of their
joint ownership rights?
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