[OSM-legal-talk] Content Licence for OSM Data

Robert Whittaker (OSM lists) robert.whittaker+osm at gmail.com
Tue Mar 12 18:45:10 UTC 2013

My understanding of the ODbL is that it covers an overall database,
but not individual contents within it. So in order to use an ODbL
database you also need a license (or other permission) to use the
contents. Conversely, when offering a database to others under the
ODbL, if you actually want them to be able to use it, you also need to
provide a suitable licence for the contents. See the ODC FAQ at

In particular, the licensing instructions at
http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/odbl/ suggest you need to include
both the ODbL for the database, and a licence for the contents. The
suggested form is:

"This {DATA(BASE)-NAME} is made available under the Open Database
License: http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/odbl/1.0/. Any rights in
individual contents of the database are licensed under the Database
Contents License: http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/dbcl/1.0/ "

However, on the OSM license page at
http://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright only the Open Database Licence
is mentioned. There is no mention of any licence for the contents.
Should we be specifying a content license for the OSM data on that
page? If so, should this be the Database Contents License (DbCL)?

(The DbCL is mentioned in the contributor terms, and there is a
reference at http://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/License/About_The_License_Change#The_documents
, but neither explicitly says that the OSM contents are indeed
licensed under this licence. I also guess you could take the view that
there are no rights in the OSM contents since each is individually an
un-copyrightable fact. But to be on the safe side, to create an level
playing field in all jurisdictions, and to re-assure potential users,
I'd have thought it would be better to provide an explicit license for
the contents anyway.)

Any thoughts?


Robert Whittaker

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