[Osmf-talk] Should there be ethical standards for corporate members?

Christoph Hormann chris_hormann at gmx.de
Sat Feb 9 16:46:45 UTC 2019

On Wednesday 30 January 2019, Frederik Ramm wrote:
> What are our expectations regarding the behaviour of corporate
> members in OSM and in the OSMF?

(Belated answer here after being reminded by weeklyOSM)

Currently i have no expectation because i know there are none that can 
realistically be assumed to be met - at least not specifically for 
corporate members in contrast to corporations in general.  The other 
side of this is that it also means there is no assumption of good faith 
for collective corporate member activity in OSM in my eyes as it would 
apply to actions of individuals.

What i would however indeed expect from the OSMF is to make sure that 
the actions of corporate members do not clash with the goals of the 
OSMF and the interests of the OSM community and i would very much 
support requiring acceptance of documented standards for becoming a 
corporate members and violation of such standards as grounds for 
terminating membership of corporate members.  And i hope my introductory 
comment illustrates that this would also be an advantage to the 
corporate members - it could even be presented as a significant 
additional benefit of corporate membership, that corporate members are 
companies that not only contribute financially but that have also been 
certified by the OSMF to have agreed to certain standards of 
interaction with OSM.

Corporations/Organizations have both the option to make donations to the 
OSMF and to become corporate members so imposing some standards on 
corporate membership would not prevent them from supporting the OSMF if 
they for some reason cannot accept these - it would just limit the 

Care would need to be taken to make sure such standards are not 
abused for political or cultural discrimination of organizations in 
becoming members.  Such standards should be limited on aspects of 
direct significance for OSM and not involve any moral judgements beyond 
that.  So aspects like minimum wage, work safety, environmental 
protection or discrimination of various sorts - as important as they 
are - should have no place in such standards.  OTOH a rule like 
companies need to employ locals for systematic mapping efforts rather 
than remote mappers is something that could be discussed.

Fields i would think could be well covered in such a rule set:

* standards of communication with the OSM community (publishing a 
working non-discriminating contact channel for inquiries and complaints 
from the community and respectfully reacting to any on-topic input 
received this way).
* standards of compliance with the OSM license, appropriate reaction to 
complaints about this.
* compliance with community conventions regarding any activities in the 
community (map editing obviously but also participating in 
communication channels for example), being open and transparent about 
any direct or indirect corporate involvement in the project.

I am not for rules against negative remarks on OSM in public.  I don't 
really think that is necessary and it is not in the interest of OSM to 
suppress or discourage critical discourse about the project.  A 
corporate member should be free for example to publish a report on data 
quality in OSM even if that sheds a bad light on OSM.

What i could well imagine is a standard that corporate members agree not 
to mis-represent OSM in their public communication, i.e. making 
factually incorrect statements.  This would give the OSMF and the OSM 
community a possibility to counteract such statements below the 
threshold of threatening legal action.

The main problem i see with the whole thing is however that i have 
doubts that the OSMF is currently able to develop a meaningful (in 
other words: not whitewashed to a level of being fairly pointless) 
ruleset and bring this to being actually adopted.  On the other hand 
this would also make it a good opportunity for the OSMF to actually 
show this is possible and proove me wrong. :-)

Christoph Hormann

More information about the osmf-talk mailing list