[OSM-legal-talk] Attribution

Luis Villa lvilla at wikimedia.org
Tue Apr 29 19:37:27 UTC 2014

On Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 10:51 AM, Richard Weait <richard at weait.com> wrote:

> On Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 12:56 PM, Luis Villa <lvilla at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> [ ... ]
> > But it is a reality that [ fear of a Share Alike obligation(?)]* slows,
> > or in some cases stops, adoption of/contribution to OSM.
> Slows contribution to OpenStreetMap?  That sounds incorrect to me.
> ODbL and particularly Share Alike _encourage_ contribution to
> OpenStreetMap.

It depends on the circumstances. Here's an example of a case where it can
stop contribution:

Company X would like to build a tool that combines mapping data +
third-party data of some sort. Company X is perfectly happy to use OSM as
the mapping layer and contribute fixes/changes/improvements back to OSM
under ODBL - that is consistent with their ethics, business model, etc.

However, Company X interprets ODBL to mean that they can't use OSM with
that third-party data without putting the third-party data under ODBL. And
since they don't own/can't license the third-party data under ODBL, they
use some other mapping source instead of OSM.

Net result: a company that sees improving OSM as something they'd like to
contribute to walks away instead, because they can't make the non-OSM parts

It is impossible to know how many companies are in this sort of situation,
of course; I suspect that it is actually a large number but it is hard to
prove. In any case, I mostly wanted to raise the point that in some (many?)
cases copyleft is a two-edged sword, *especially* in a world with many
diverse data sources.

To be clear, this isn't an unsolvable problem: Mike's attempts to clarify
the limits/reach of ODBL are admirable and should help with minimize the
number of good-faith participants who face this problem; I hope to be
helpful there. But there is still a long way to go, some of the problems
are outside the scope of OSM's control (like the EU's ambiguity about what
"substantial" means), and some of them are just always going to be inherent
in the notion of copyleft on a database.

We as OpenStreetMap contributors see "improving the data" as a core value.

As you should! Just be aware that there is a class of people who would be
genuinely happy to help improve the data, but who can't share everything
because of their reliance on third-party databases whose license terms they
can't change. (There is also a large class who simply want to share on
their own terms/own timeline; they can also be useful contributors but that
argument is exactly as old as copyleft and I'm not going to refight that
particular fight here :)

> * I hope that I have parsed your intent correctly, Luis.  The
> paragraph I trimmed also discussed copyright case law and lack of case
> law for "substantial" in this context.

Yup, you got it right. To be clear, I would like this not to be a problem;
and I'm not saying it should end discussion about copyleft. I'm just
reminding everyone that in practice this issue is extremely complex, with
copyleft sometimes excluding potential contributors. (I have reason to
think that the issue is *more* complex for data than for software, but that
argument is a long one more appropriate for a blog post than this email.)

On Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 11:34 AM, derrick nehrenberg <
derricknehrenberg at gmail.com> wrote:
> I have heard and read some describe OSM as 'data'. I usually remain on
the sidelines as an
> observer, but Richard W.'s comment reminded me of something I have
thought more than
> once. OSM is open data, but I think that is an inadequate definition,
because it is much more
> than that. It is a "community of open data contributors" as well.

Absolutely! I come from a long line of copyleft communities :) And I
completely agree that without community, the data itself isn't terribly
interesting. But...

> In my view, share-alike is an integral requirement for joining the
community. Without
> it is certainly conceivable that the data would grow bigger and better,
but I can also
> envision how dropping the requirement would eventually lead to the demise
of the community.

... the evidence from the very large permissive communities (Apache, Rails,
JQuery, Wikidata, etc.) is that copyleft is not an integral requirement for
forming large communities of people who want to share online. This is
probably *especially* true of communities that have reached a certain
critical mass and strength of community, so that they are self-sustaining
based on community and technical norms rather than legal ones.

Hope that helps explain where I'm coming from-

Luis Villa
Deputy General Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation
415.839.6885 ext. 6810

NOTICE: *This message may be confidential or legally privileged. If you
have received it by accident, please delete it and let us know about the
mistake. As an attorney for the Wikimedia Foundation, for legal/ethical
reasons I cannot give legal advice to, or serve as a lawyer for, community
members, volunteers, or staff members in their personal capacity.*
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