[OSM-legal-talk] Attribution

Luis Villa lvilla at wikimedia.org
Tue Apr 29 16:56:44 UTC 2014

On Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 1:08 PM, Simon Poole <simon at poole.ch> wrote:

> There are some moderate complicated edge cases caused by  and there are
> some things that will not be possible with share alike and are not intended
> to be possible in the first place.

The problem is the gap between "what is not possible" and "what is not
intended to be possible". There are lots of use cases where those two
overlap pretty well, but plenty where they probably don't. This can cut
both ways; either unintentionally allowing things that were intended to be
prohibited, or unintentionally prohibiting things that were intended to be

This happens in every generic/general-purpose legal document, but ODBL
probably has it worse than most because many copyleft concepts simply don't
map very well into the data space. I've been working on a blog post on this
problem for a while; hopefully I'll get it out soon but I can't make any
promises :(

> Naturally anybody is completely within its rights to lobby for changes
> that would better fit their business model, but that does not imply that
> everything they claim during lobbying is an accurate description of our
> current licence.

Without commenting on/endorsing Alex's position, suffice to say that the
vast majority of lawyers I've talked with about the license, including many
with long experience in open software licenses, find the license difficult
to interpret. This is not entirely ODBL's fault - for example, underlying
concepts, like "substantial", are essentially undefined in the caselaw,
making it difficult to interpret what those clauses mean. (Compare with
some equivalent clauses about "derivative works" in copyright licenses,
which can rely on 100 years of caselaw as background.) But it is a reality
that slows, or in some cases stops, adoption of/contribution to OSM.

> Further I note there was 0 (zero) response to the proposed updated
> community guidelines that go a long way in clarifying a number of the grey
> areas, indicating that the whole upset is not about fixing real issues.

I am responding in small parts in the wiki[1], and in larger part in an
upcoming email. I would not take lack of response on a single mailing list
as a useful indicator of whether or not there are real issues or concerns,
especially since most lawyers who would be aware of problems would be
extremely reluctant to comment publicly on something that might impact
their clients.

Hope that helps explain the context/situation a bit-


> Simon
> Am 28.04.2014 21:26, schrieb Jake Wasserman:
>    > or giving data back when you fix things.
> This is a gross oversimplification of share-alike. And the imperfections
> in the license extend beyond geocoding. I don't want to rehash the
> arguments, as Alex Barth did <http://stateofthemap.us/session/more-open/>very eloquently at State of the Map US. Let's just not pretend the
> requirements are "simple", "tiny", or "little", but are instead complex and
> sweeping.
>  In any case, I agree with the larger point that OSM data users must
> comply with the rules as they exist and we should publicly call out their
> violations.
>  -Jake
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Luis Villa
Deputy General Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation
415.839.6885 ext. 6810

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