[Osmf-talk] Contributor Agreement is Dual Licensing

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sat Dec 12 22:42:10 UTC 2009


Gervase Markham wrote:
> So the official position of the OSMF is that the upgrade clause in the 
> ODbL is not sufficient insurance against future eventualities, and that 
> the OSMF must acquire (joint) full rights over the data of all 
> contributors 

No. "full rights" would mean that OSMF can do what they want with the 
data. Instead, they are just asking for the right to license it using 
any "free and open license agreed to by a majority of active mappers", 
which is much more limited that "full rights".

> You are effectively requiring the equivalent of open source code 
> copyright assignment from all contributors. 

No; see above.

> "OSMF agrees to use or sub-license Your Contents as part of a database 
> only under the terms of one of the following licenses: ODbL 1.0, 
> CC-BY-SA 2.0, or another free and open license; which other free and 
> open license is chosen by a vote of the OSMF membership and approved by 
> at least a majority vote of active contributors."
> http://www.osmfoundation.org/wiki/License/Contributor_Terms
> There is a great deal about this which is strange. If the relicensing 
> happens, then all contributions at the time of the relicensing by people 
> who have agreed to the terms will be under ODbL 1.0 and CC-BY-SA 2.0 
> anyway.

No. If you look closely, the whole relicensing process as published 
today does not contain any element that puts the data under ODbL. 
Everyone just agrees, via the above statement, that OSMF may but the 
data under ODbL, and of course that's what they will do; but if the 
statement above would not contain the sentence about agreeing to let 
OSMF publish the data unter ODbL then there would be no legal basis for 

But now that you bring it up, the statement above has one funny bit and 
that's the mentioning of a version number ("ODbL 1.0"). ODbL has a 
built-in upgrade clause allowing anyone to take ODbL 1.0 licensed 
content and re-issue it, say, ODbL 1.1, but still, for clarity, the 
contributor agreement should say "ODbL 1.0 or later".

> Also, "free and open" is not defined by the document. If the vote is all 
> that decides whether a particular licence is to be changed to, then the 
> correct text would be simply "another licence". After all, if they've 
> voted for it, it must be free and open. Or who is going to step in and 
> tell them their vote to relicense under a not-free-and-open licence is 
> invalid? 

You are right in saying that the definition is unclear but I think that 
certain licenses are surely *not* free and open. Moving to such a 
license would not render the vote invalid, but it would IMHO 
automatically terminate the contributor agreement. If I give you my data 
under the contributor agreement and you change your license to something 
not free and open, then you cannot automatically use my data - it is as 
easy as that! I'd say that ambiguity about what "free and open" is 
doesn't hurt here; if OSMF were to move to what some consider a not free 
and open license by majority vote and still attempt to automatically 
take with it all the data, then some contributors will probably sue (and 
that's why OSMF would not do it in the first place).

It would be wrong to simply drop the words "free and open" because that 
would of course remove any right for an individual to sue should OSMF 
suddenly decide to go proprietary.

> And what authority will they appeal to for the definition of 
> "free and open"?

It would be the court of your choice.


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