[OSM-legal-talk] Interesting use case of combining OSM with proprietary data

Christoph Hormann chris_hormann at gmx.de
Fri Jan 12 00:37:56 UTC 2018

On Thursday 11 January 2018, Kathleen Lu wrote:
> I don't have access to the locked Nature article, but the description
> from the first link suggests that they are using a derivative
> statistic calculated from the Google road network instead of the
> network itself: "The game-changing improvement underpinning this work
> is the first-ever, global-scale synthesis of two leading roads
> datasets – Open Street Map <https://www.openstreetmap.org/> (OSM)
> data and distance-to-roads data derived from the Google roads
> database
> <https://developers.google.com/maps/documentation/roads/intro>..."
> "Distance-to-roads data" sounds like a data type that is not in OSM
> (they might have been able to calculate it from OSM, but evidently
> chose not to), which would be an example of non-sharealike use under
> the Collective Database Guideline:
> [...]

Then you have probably misunderstood what they are doing.

They are using OSM road data and Google road data to generate what they 
call a "friction surface" which is essentially a raster map indicating 
how fast you can move at every point of the map - faster on roads, 
slower elsewhere depending on relief and landcover.  This friction map 
you can download on:


You can see in that map that they are using OSM road data and that they 
are also using data that is not in OSM.  Based on this friction map 
they are doing the accessability calculations.

Of course it is possible that the OSM road data and the Google road data 
is available in different forms originally - as you write the wording 
indicates they have proximity information on the Google roads and not 
the actual geometry.  But they merge it to generate the friction map, 
for that it does not matter in what form the roads data exists, and i 
don't really see how you can argue this creates a collective database 
and not a derivative database - because if that is not a derivative 
database (combining two incomplete data sets to create a more complete 
data set to use) what is?

> (And frankly, I can't see Google cooperating with this project if
> there were sharealike implications for their proprietary data, so I
> have to assume that their lawyers vetted the use and confirmed they
> datasets were used together as a Collective Database.)

I have considered that but since Google does not carry any legal 
responsibility in that this does not seem like a valid argument - on 
the contrary:  If they have doubt about the legality of this kind of 
data use this is the perfect trial balloon to test how far you can go.  
And if Oxford University gets screwed over this that is not their 
problem.  If not and this kind of data combination becomes widely 
accepted this would OTOH open the door for a lot of applications that 
would depend on circumventing share-alike.

Christoph Hormann

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