[Tagging] Who has the last word over the access tag?

osm.tagging at thorsten.engler.id.au osm.tagging at thorsten.engler.id.au
Tue Apr 27 03:25:57 UTC 2021

What this really comes down to is a question of sovereignty, specifically de jure vs de facto sovereignty in cases where they don't match. 

The access tag is meant to document legal access restrictions. Legality is, in the end, defined by whoever holds sovereignty over the territory. Sovereignty at the highest level is in the end simply a contest of force. If you can hold it against all comers, it's yours. "International Law" is a fiction that only binds sovereigns that voluntarily submit to it, or which lose a contest of force, at which point they aren't sovereign anymore.

Based on your fable, the "self-proclaimed island government" is claiming sovereignty over that island. If nobody has successfully contested that claim in half a year, I would say de facto sovereignty has been established.

OSM documents that world as it is right now. If it has been established that the island government is currently holding de facto sovereignty over that territory, then their word is law, and the access tag should reflect that: access=public

But it's also a fact that, as long as de jure and defacto sovereignty are not being held by the same sovereign, what is legal is contested. If there is a desire to record that, I would of the top of my head recommend something like:



access:contested=private at whoever

-----Original Message-----
From: Frederik Ramm <frederik at remote.org> 
Sent: Sunday, 25 April 2021 21:50
To: Tag discussion, strategy and related tools <tagging at openstreetmap.org>
Subject: [Tagging] Who has the last word over the access tag?


this is a fable built on a real-world case. Please don't guess what the real-world case behind this is; it doesn't matter. Do me a favour and discuss the fable.

Let's assume you buy a large plot of land and a nice holiday home somewhere on a pacific island. You travel there regularly and enjoy the beautiful landscaped garden. You put up "Private property - no trespassing" signs and hire a couple of guards to ensure nobody enters your property. Consequently the paths in your garden are mapped in OSM as access=private.

One day while you are in your home country there is a coup on the pacific island, and the self-proclaimed island government nullifies all foreign land ownership. Your guards go home and someone pulls out the "No trespassing" signs. Random people start enjoying your garden and the local police are watching.

Let's say this goes on for half a year. The island government has no international backing but they control the island de-facto. You say that the property is still your property no matter what the criminals of the island government say. You take out a one-page ad in the island newspaper saying that the decrees of the island government are null and void and that you will sue anyone who enters your property.

Still, every day people are walking across your property and the police are waving happily.

Are the paths in your garden still access=private?


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

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