[OSM-legal-talk] Implementing the licence change

ant antofosm at gmail.com
Wed Jan 18 17:13:30 GMT 2012

First of all I must say that I highly respect the work of everyone who 
has been actively involved in the licence change, including the LWG 
members, the writers of licence change inspection programs and everyone 
involved in discussions.

I have been watching the process for more than two years and have ever 
since been a supporter of the change.

However, especially since the switchover date has been announced and the 
phase of remapping has started, I have become more and more skeptical 
about the way things are going on. I want to discuss a couple of 
concerns I have.

1. The black box

As far as I can see the details of the implementation of the licence 
change, i.e. of what is actually going to happen on April 1st, are not 
known - or at least not revealed. Correct me if I am wrong.

Particularly, the wiki page „What is clean?“[1], which has been said to 
be the binding document, is in its current state not sufficient to serve 
as a reference for any measures regarding the cleaning of data:
* The considerations in the section „Edge cases“ are only a random 
selection of cases that have been discussed. Neither conditional 
stetements like „if it can be seen not to influence the current version“ 
nor questions like „Can you copyright the state of something not being 
there?“ (rhetorical?) are helpful. The list somewhat lacks a systematic 
* The „deletion paradox“ is, as it has been pointed out on the 
discussion page, no paradox at all (rather it depends on the strategy of 
* The section „What taints data?“ repeats the above-mentioned list, but 
is differently (better) structured and different in content. Statements 
in this list, however, contradict, or supersede, previous statements („A 
tag modified by a non-agreeing mapper is tainted“, whereas: correcting a 
tagging typo is not tainted). Furthermore the list contains 
instructions, which should not be the case in a mere specification of 
what is clean. The clause saying that intermediate versions should be 
created during remapping (a) does not belong here and (b) is 
questionable, as it is based on assumptions regarding the implementation 
of switchover, which has not yet been decided upon.
* There should be rationales explaining for each statement why it is so 
and not different.

Basically I think that this document needs a rewrite that shall contain 
unambiguous statements preceded by precise definitions. In order to get 
there, however, we must of course have a discussion.

2. Getting clear about taintedness

IANAL. But I like to approach problems in a systematical manner. For 
example, I recently asked myself the question, „What is a copyrightable 
object in OSM?“. I think this is a fundamental question to answer if you 
discuss licence topics.
Is a node copyrightable?
If yes, what's copyrightable about it?
What's copyrightable about a way?
Is the list of references to nodes copyrightable separately from the 
way's tags?
Are references to nodes atomic? (I.e. Is a single reference 
copyrightable? Or is only the list as a whole?)
Sorry for the rhetoric, but these questions do bother me. I believe they 
have to be answered prior to discussing which kinds of modifications to 
what object have what effect (-> taintedness). And when that has been 
settled, we can talk about measures.

All in all I think that the approach to the whole thing so far has been 
too pragmatic, just like identifying edge cases and modeling something 
around it. Of course, this might somehow work and the result might even 
be satisfying, but to me it doesn't seem appropriate in a legally 
significant matter like this.

3. Remapping

Considering that neither the definitions of what is clean and what is 
tainted nor the technical details of the implementation have yet been 
finalized, it seems unreasonable for me to remap. I don't want to 
discover later that I have done unnecessary work. Besides, current 
remapping practice is completely based on the available inspection tools 
that implement - more or less precisely - a taintedness policy that is 
still in draft status. For this reason I also refuse to use the 
odbl=clean tag.

Now I could elaborate a lot more. But the purpose of my post actually is 
to start a discussion, and I am asking you. Me too wants the licence 
change to be a success. So let's go.


[1] http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Open_Data_License/What_is_clean%3F

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