[Talk-GB] Ordnance Survey

Tim François sk1ppy14 at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Apr 6 22:22:41 BST 2010

Um, not sure if this is the done thing on these here lists, but I'd like to thank you for putting the time in to write that email. It made a lot of sense to me, a relative newbie, and in general it's good to see that so many people care about OSM whatever the different opinions may be.

Also: there's an IRC channel? Don't tell me anymore, otherwise I'll never get any work done...


--- On Tue, 6/4/10, Richard Fairhurst <richard at systemeD.net> wrote:

From: Richard Fairhurst <richard at systemeD.net>
Subject: Re: [Talk-GB] Ordnance Survey
To: "talk-gb OSM List (E-mail)" <talk-gb at openstreetmap.org>
Date: Tuesday, 6 April, 2010, 22:02

Tim François wrote:

> Also, be aware that a discussion is also ongoing in the discussion  
> page: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Talk:Ordnance_Survey_Opendata#Attribution 
>  (you may be aware, just making sure!)

...and we had quite a lengthy discussion about it on IRC earlier, too.

The following is my understanding of how it can work.

The new Government licence terms (including OS OpenData) are  
specifically designed to be compatible with the CC-BY family of  
licences. The one cited is CC-BY 3.0, but there's nothing that  
conflicts with CC-BY-SA 2.0, which is of course what we use.[1] The  
Government, and OS, have gone out of their way to make sure that we  
can comply with the OS licence by fulfilling CC licence terms. So  
let's look at what those terms say.

CC-BY-SA 2.0 says:

> If you distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly  
> digitally perform the Work or any Derivative Works or Collective  
> Works, You must keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and  
> give the Original Author credit reasonable to the medium or means  
> You are utilizing by conveying the name (or pseudonym if applicable)  
> of the Original Author if supplied

and continues:

> in the case of a Derivative Work or Collective Work, at a minimum  
> such credit will appear where any other comparable authorship credit  
> appears and in a manner at least as prominent as such other  
> comparable authorship credit

This is what we're talking about here.

Crucially, it is no different from the problem we have with any  
contributors. You or I could demand that, as rights-holders[2] in the  
data which we post to OSM, we should be individually "given credit"  
every time the data is used. Indeed, the letter of the licence appears  
to say that.

We do also know that CC licences were certainly not designed for data,  
and not expressly for mass collaborative projects either. Spatial law  
as a discipline is in its infancy; so is open-source law. Open-source  
collaborative spatial law? I suspect there's only one lawyer in the  
entire world who even begins to understand that.[3] Whatever. The  
point is that a licence cannot be read as an isolated text: it exists  
within a rich legal system.

The crucial line in the clause above is "reasonable to the medium or  
means You are utilizing".

Now anyone with the mis^Wgreat fortune to read legal-talk will  
recognise that, within our rich legal system, this is the whole  
"substantial" caboodle twice over. Firstly, like "substantial",  
"reasonable" is a "how much?" argument, not a binary one. Secondly,  
the "substantial" question itself is relevant: if it ain't  
substantial, it ain't protected, therefore you don't need to attribute.

If you print an OSM map of Charlbury, CC-BY-SA might say you need to  
attribute me, because I did lots of it. If you print an OpenCycleMap  
small-scale overview of the UK National Cycle Network, it might tell  
you to attribute me and Gregory W, at least. But, and this is a big  
but, it only needs to be "reasonable", at the same prominence as "any  
other comparable authorship credit". If you're publishing a glossy  
large-format printed atlas that names the individual surveyors you've  
employed, you probably need to name me and Gregory too. If you're  
distributing a little iPhone app, you can simply link to OSM, where  
the contributors should be listed.

This is a rather long and winding e-mail, but I hope you can now see  
where I'm going.

The important thing is for us to get our own house in order about  
attribution. We've often been able to get away without it - mostly  
because OSMers by tradition waive their right to attribution[4],  
though also because many map views do not involve the substantial work  
of one contributor. Large-scale data derivation challenges both of  
these reasons.

The first step of getting our house in order is to correctly attribute  
those contributors who require attribution. Earlier today I committed  
a new, clearer, and more compliant copyright notice to the core (Rails  
port) site. It presumably needs to wend its way through OSMF  
committees for approval or otherwise, but you can see it on the dev  

    (linked clearly from the LH sidebar at all times)

This, I believe, would put OSM in compliance with the OS and other  
licences [5].

The second step is to help end-users comply with attribution  
requirements. I believe that, in the vast majority of cases, a link to  
OSM (where the attribution will be clearly displayed) will be  
sufficient. Not only will it usually be "reasonable to the means",  
most imported data is rudimentarily factual and therefore does not  
pass the "substantial" test [6].

However, it is possible to imagine a scenario where explicit  
attribution would be required - especially if we were to relax our  
evolving disdain for bulk imports (a disdain which I share). If, for  
example, we were to nuke all our existing river data (which we  
shouldn't) and import StreetView-derived rivers, a rivers-only extract  
from OSM may require OS attribution.

The copyright statement (linked to above) puts the onus on the end- 
user to comply: "it may be reasonable to credit them". This is  
perfectly acceptable, but we could aim to do more. At its simplest  
this would be a set of community guidelines on "how to attribute"; if  
there was the will for more, it could include some automated analysis  
of source= tags.

That's the theory and I hope it's some help. I don't see any reason  
not to trace from OS data, but I think we do need to do a little work  
in improving our own standards of attribution, and supplying the above  
notice is my attempt to do something about it.

Can I close this far-too-long epistle with two pieces of realpolitik?

The first is that the Government _wants_ this data in OSM. The idea of  
releasing open data is that it's used openly by geo hackers, and we  
are the biggest set of geo hackers in the country. We should comply  
with the licence, of course; but we shouldn't think that there are  
hawk-like Government lawyers waiting to trip us up on a tiny  

The second is that we already have a problem. New Zealand and Canada,  
I believe, have both had imports from massive attribution-required  
datasets (LINZ and GeoBase/GeoGratis/Canvec). There are probably  
others, and there will be more.


[1] FWIW I believe it is also compatible with ODbL
[2] disregarding for now the old "is it copyrightable at all?" argument
[3] and you know who that is :)
[4] though until we move to ODbL, we will have problems if anyone  
decides they do want to be attributed
[5] I also believe it provides much more clarity to potential data  
users about our licensing, and indeed it's something I've been wanting  
to do for ages, aside from attribution issues
[6] ...and bear in mind that OS's attribution requirement is drafted  
to cover their cartographic copyright, which we are not touching,  
regardless of any rights in the data
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