[Osmf-talk] ODbL - and why I think we should use it

Henk Hoff henk at toffehoff.nl
Fri Dec 4 13:20:29 UTC 2009

With all the other work I had to do, I couldn't keep up with the mailthreads
about the new license. So here's my [amount] cents.

I'm not going to repeat why CC-BY-SA is not the best license for us. Looking
at the responses, most of us agree on the need to change the license to
something else.

At the SotM09 I've talked to a director of a commercial mapping company. He
said that he liked the ODbL license but we should get rid of the share-alike
clause. Then it would really be a good license, according to him. Yeah
right! I that scenario this commercial company can use our data to make his
data-set more accurate, and keep his improvements of the mapdata closed. I
do not want my efforts to be reduced to free labor for commercial companies.
That's even worse than slavery; they at least got housing and food. Even if
that was at it's bare minimum or lowest possible quality. It's more than

Everybody says we should be nice to each other and respect each other as
they are. But with all those good intentions, we still are not able to
achieve world-peace. The same with the discussion about license. If we were
living in an ideal world, most of us (if not, all of us) would be in favor
of Public Domain; were everybody can do everything with the data, no
restrictions whatsoever. However, in the real world not everybody has the
same sincere and honorable intentions that we want. It would be just plain
naive (some people would use stronger qualifications) not to deal with that.
That's why I want to have attribution and share-alike in our license. These
elements will not prevent "friendly" people from using OSM data and at the
same time gives us means to deal with the "unfriendly" ones.

I know of several companies (not the mapping company mentioned above) that
would like to use OSM data, but are hesitant because of the very vague
boundaries of the SA clause in our current license. Result: they ended up
buying data from TA, to be sure they wouldn't be sued for infringement of
the license.

Looking at ODbL: it's in spirit the same as CC-BY-SA, but without the
problems (regarding factual data). That's how an IP lawyer in Italy
described it. You won't get much guarantees of a lawyer (except of "I'll
send you a bill"), that's an occupational deformation. That being said: I
haven't heard of an IP lawyer who has stated that ODbL is not better than
CC-BY-SA for factual databases.
Also what I've heard is that the above companies that bought TA data are
very likely to switch to OSM data when it's available under ODbL.

Yes, I've talked with Frederick and others at the SotM09 about ways how the
questions could be formulated. The main objective here (as I understood it)
was to give people a way of also saying what they really wanted in a
license. E.g. I'm ok with ODbL, but I really want it to be PD.
We've discussed this thoroughly within the LWG and came up with the survey:
what elements of a license do you want to have for OSM (share-alike,
attribution, commercial use, etc). By knowing that, you then can choose a
license accordingly. That should be input for further discussion about
licensing after we've made the choice for yes or no to ODbL over CC-BY-SA.
The problem with a three-way answer (or even more answers), is that it is
irrelevant. Soon, the membership will be asked if they agree with a change
of license from CC-BY-SA to ODbL. If they agree, then the only relevant
question we need to ask to all contributors: do you want to make you
contributions available under this new license.
To make it possible for members to make their preferences known, we're going
to have a survey. The outcome can be used for future change-proposals.

Again, the question now is: Is ODbL better than CC-BY-SA for OSM (looking at
the "problems" we've addressed when starting this whole discussion about
license-change years back). Every project manager knows that changing
scope/principles during project is recipe for disaster.

Getting somewhere is best done step by step. Not one giant leap. Rome wasn't
built in one day either.

ODbL is in spirit the same as CC-BY-SA, but way better suitable for factual
data like OSM. Let's take the first step in getting towards our ideal world
and fix the problems we have with our current license. ODbL might not be
unbreakable, but it's at least far more solid (for our purpose) than what we
have now.
After this, setup a new list of challenges and get those fixed.

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