[Osmf-talk] Future of DWG work, copyright, vandalism

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Thu Jun 7 10:13:08 UTC 2012

Dear OSMF members,

    I would like to hear your opinion about two aspects of DWG work and 
how we would like to handle that kind of work in the future.

DWG's daily work falls largely in three categories:

1. Vandalism

Usually starts with someone complaining about someone else breaking 
things. Sometimes involves blocking the "vandal", often it is later 
found out that it was a misunderstanding and not true vandalism, but we 
do occasionally have people who continue with a new account as soon as 
we block them.

2. Copyright

Usually starts with someone complaining about someone else uploading 
data in violation of a third-party license (e.g. tracing from Google 
imagery); often requires just a little email and reverting data.

3. Dispute

Users complaining about each other's work - e.g. whether the name tag of 
something should by in cyrillic or not, whether something is a track or 
a footway, whatever. Sometimes results in edit wars or even one party 
starting to vandalize stuff.

Most of these issues can be solved with a little patience and talking to 
people - for now. There are two issues where I am unsure how to handle them.

A. Suspected Copyright Violations

Only yesterday I received a long-ish message of one user who noted that 
someone else was mapping nature reserves, the boundaries of which did 
not seem to be available anywhere. So the user sent a message to the 
other guy asking for the source, and the other guy said something about 
copying data from a sign somewhere, and upon further inquiry got caught 
up in contradictions.

So the situation is: There's some data in OSM which is not *clearly* 
from a non-allowed source; the original contributor refuses to specify 
the source (or cites a source that we cannot verify); someone thinks 
that this might be a copyright violation.

We simply do not have the manpower to actually research cases like that. 
We need a simple policy that allows us, or ideally the community, to 
deal with such cases.

Such a policy could for example be one of

* "Data for which no credible source is given in the changeset or on 
request by the contributing mapper is subject to deletion. The mapper 
must demonstrate, on request, that his source is legal. If the mapper 
chooses not to tell us his source then we must assume it is not legal." 
(In many cases the "credible source" could be "survey" but the boundary 
of a protection area might not always be surveyable.)

* "We only assume a copyright violation when we actually see that the 
mapper has contributed something that looks identical to a known 
unsuitable source, or where the rights owner contacts us; if someone 
suspects someone else of copyright infringement, we ask the suspect 
whether they can confirm that their sources are legal and if they say 
yes, then that's sufficiently diligent."

* "We only act if someone - rights owner or other mappers - presents us 
with incontrovertible proof that data has come from an unsuitable source."

This is a balancing act which has to satisfy three goals: First, it must 
not be too much work for us; second, it must prove to the outside world 
that OSM takes copyright seriously and does not ignore problems; third, 
it must not place too much burden on the mappers.

Essentially, what I'm after is some sort of general procedure (maybe 
even flowchart) of dealing with (suspected) copyright violations.

B. Continuing Vandalism

As I said initially, most vandals aren't really vandals, and most real 
vandals go a way after you block them once or send them a message. If 
that doesn't help, I usually send them a second message explaining how 
the law in their respective criminalizes computer vandalism, and this 
(plus the implied "we know which country you're from") often helps. But 
not always; there are people who just go on. There was an user in Norway 
who created fantasy bus routes all the time; we blocked him and told him 
that what he was doing was illegal in Norway, but he continued. He has 
now signed up using the account name "Adolf Hitler" and continues his 
funny little game in London 
(http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/changeset/11789344). It's not a big 
deal, he only does it once a month and it is reverted easily enough, but 
if he were more resourceful and invested more time, he could create more 
harm. We don't currently have a problem with people like that but I 
foresee that they will become more of a problem in the future, that's 
why I am thinking about it.

There are three things we can do:

* technical measures - try to profile the vandal and disallow signups or 
edits that match the pattern.

* policy measures - stop giving full edit privileges to every new user; 
instead, make it so that new users have some limits such as so-and-so 
many edits per day, or only make edits within a certain range of your 
home location, or you have to be "vouched for" by at least two other 
mappers before you can edit for real, whatever. One would have to find a 
policy that takes the fun out of vandalism while not being a turn-off 
for real mappers.

* legal measures - pay lawyers to go to court and request the real 
address of the IP number that vandalizes our data, then send nasty 
letters to people and demand money. (I imagine that most vandals must be 
kids who would be in for trouble with their parents once they start 
getting recorded letters.) If the movie industry can do it, so can we, 
provided that vandalizing our data is indeed illegal. This might require 
"hardening" the process first, i.e. getting legal advice for updating 
our CT to include wording that makes it clear(er) that edits not founded 
in reality are considered vandalism, and it might also require 
lawyer-approved notices to be sent out by DWG (instead of my usual 
informal "hey, stop that, we don't like it").

I'm not very fond of either of the latter two - policy measures always 
have a ring of "you have to prove to us that you are a good guy before 
we let you contribute", and legal measures are probably expensive (would 
you want your OSMF donations to be used to pay for legal advice at 
£200/hr?) and can appear draconian ("Great-Grandmother, 85, bankrupted 
by OpenStreetMap for letting child use computer...").

But I fear that the New Testament approach to vandalism ("If someone 
vandalizes Oslo, let him vandalize London as well...") won't do either. 
I would prefer that we make our minds up about all this *before* we have 
to use it.


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

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