[Osmf-talk] A huge vote of thanks to the license working group

Peter Batty peter at ebatty.com
Sat Dec 5 23:26:36 UTC 2009

I just wanted to propose a huge vote of thanks to the license working group,
who I think have put a massive amount of work into a very complex topic. In
all the emotional discussion of the past few days, I haven’t seen a point of
substance that hasn’t been addressed with a thoughtful and considered
response showing that the license working group has thought the issue
through. There’s no such thing as a perfect license (if there were we
wouldn’t have had all this work to do), but I believe this is a huge step
forward from the current license, which has a number of significant issues
that have been well documented.

I would also like to make a plea to the community to conduct these type of
discussions in a more civil and constructive manner. I have worked in the
geospatial industry for over twenty years. I’ve served on technical
committees for multiple international standards and have been on the board
of a major industry association – both of these were groups including
arch-competitors. I’ve been an officer of two public companies, served on
the advisory board of various other companies, and been president of a home
owner’s association that had to navigate some very difficult issues. So I’ve
been involved in a lot of tough decision making in large and small groups,
including a lot of groups with very divergent opinions. But I have never
been involved with a group that has as much animosity and unpleasantness in
the decision making process as I have seen since getting involved with

This is damaging to OpenStreetMap in multiple ways. First it makes it very
hard to get important decisions made, like this licensing change (or not).
Secondly, it really deters a lot of people from getting more involved with
OpenStreetMap, myself included (and several other people have expressed the
same view to me). It’s a good thing to have a vigorous debate but you can do
that in a respectful way, have a vote, accept the majority opinion, and move

I am frankly bewildered at why all these issues are suddenly being raised at
this last-minute stage when the new license process has been going on for
over a year. You can see the minutes of the over 50 license working group
meetings that have taken place this year alone at
http://www.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Working_Group_Minutes. It has proceeded in
a very methodical and thorough fashion, with plenty of opportunity for
people to offer their opinions through the multi-year process, which for
some reason the current vocal opponents have not taken advantage of. It has
certainly not been "steamrollered", there has been extensive opportunity for

I attended the State of the Map Conference in Amsterdam this year, and there
was an extended panel devoted to the new license proposal – surely the ideal
venue to make sure that active members of the community are well informed
about what is going on (in addition to lots of other communications on the
wiki and via email). There was a lot of discussion on finer points, but no
opinion at all voiced that the license working group was going in entirely
the wrong direction, which suddenly a vocal few are saying now. Why did
those people not speak up then (or earlier) if they disagreed so strongly
with the direction? Suddenly raising all these issues after a year of
detailed work has gone into the new license, and not before, seems
incredibly destructive to me.

I have sympathy for people in Australia and other places where we will have
to go back and renegotiate with entities that have given large amounts of
data subject to the current license. But the fundamental principles of the
two licenses are very similar, so I think in most cases if organizations
understand the multiple good reasons why the change is being made, I don’t
see why they wouldn’t give permission for us to continue to use the data.
And if we don’t get that permission in a few cases that’s regrettable, but
that possibility isn’t a strong enough reason to not make the change, in my
opinion. Incidentally, I have senior level contacts in several Australian
state mapping agencies and would be happy to volunteer to get involved in
those discussions if that would help (who are the agencies?).

I also think we need to keep the bigger picture in mind. While the license
is important, our primary aim is not to develop the world’s finest geodata
license, it is to create a fantastic free and open map of the world. I for
one will be glad to vote and come to a decision, so that more of the energy
of our finest minds can be devoted to figuring out more important things
like how to get more people mapping, how to further improve the quality of
our data, etc.

So please, let’s calm down, be civil, vote, accept the decision of the
majority, and get on with mapping. I have voted yes and I encourage you to
do so too. But whatever the result, I will continue to support OpenStreetMap
and I hope you will too, whichever way you voted. And thanks once again to
the license working group for the huge amount of work they have done on this
important issue.

Peter Batty - President, Spatial Networking
W: +1 303 339 0957  M: +1 720 346 3954
Blog: http://geothought.blogspot.com
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