[OSM-legal-talk] ODbL and publishing source data

Ed Avis eda at waniasset.com
Tue Nov 29 10:42:26 GMT 2011

Eugene Alvin Villar <seav80 at ...> writes:

>Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, every digital file is
>a database of bytes

Yes, I suggest that legally speaking this is likely to be the case.

Certainly any digital file that is in a documented, structured file format
with certain fields in certain positions has just as strong a claim to being
a 'database' as, say, the OSM planet file.

>The European definition of a database is "a collection of independent
>works, data or other materials arranged in a systematic or methodical
>way and individually accessible by electronic or other means".
>Individual pixels comprising a typical image (say a PNG map tile) are
>not independent works. Each pixel cannot stand on its own and aren't
>useful unless considered together with its neighboring pixels to form
>an image.

That makes some sense but you are implicitly taking the individual pixel as
the level of granularity.  If you took the OSM planet file as your example
once again, you could state that neither the individual co-ordinate numbers like
50.1234, nor individual tag strings like 'highway', have any independent
existence.  They must stand together with other data items to form a complete
object such as a node, which even then may not have much meaning without others.

Richard F. noted that "audiovisual works... as such" are not databases.
I imagine it is an open question whether this means photographs and other
pictorial images, and whether it applies to images with a defined schema such
as heatmaps (which can equally well be considered as a database of co-ordinates
mapped to values) or to diagrams and maps with a defined schema and a strict
correspondence between pixel co-ordinates and geographical position.  (I also
note that "as such" is a weasel phrase which European law may wiggle through,
as with the exclusion of computer programs "as such" from patentability.)

In general I think that introducing the concept of "database" into licensing
causes more problems than it solves, and tends to muddle more than it clarifies,
but that's just my opinion.

Ed Avis <eda at waniasset.com>

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