[Talk-GB] OSM Contributor Terms vs OS OpenData Licence

Robert Whittaker (OSM) robert.whittaker+osm at gmail.com
Mon Apr 18 14:12:53 BST 2011

I've just declined the new OSM Contributor Terms (CTs), because I've
previously made edits based on OS OpenData, and my understanding is
that the Ordnance Survey (OS) OpenData Licence is incompatible with
the current version of the OSM Contributor Terms (1.2.4).

I appreciate that licence discussion really belongs on legal-talk, but
I thought I should post this here about this UK-specific issue -- in
order to prevent people signing up to the new CTs without realizing
the potential incompatibility with OS OpenData-derived content. My
reasoning for the incompatibility is as follows:

The OS OpenData License [1] clearly states that any sub-licences must
include a specific attribution requirement, and must also enforce a
similar attribution requirement on any further downstream usage.

However, clauses 2 and 3 of the OSM Contributor Terms [2] require
mappers to grant particular rights to OSMF for future and past
contributions. In particular, these rights are sufficient to give OSMF
the ability to release contributions under a licence that need not
require any attribution (it need only be "free and open"). There is no
mention in the CTs of enforcing any attribution requirements in
possible future OSM licences.

(The facts that a vote of contributors are required for such a change,
and that OSMF would clearly do their best to remove any infringing
content before re-licensing are immaterial here. The right to
distribute the data in the future with no attribution requirement is
included in the rights grant required by clause 2, but this is not
permitted under the terms of the OS OpenData Licence. There is a
requirement in the CTs that OSMF will attribute sources, but no
requirement for this to be passed on to downstream users by whatever
licence OSM data is released under.)

It is regrettable that OSMF is placing the burden of working out
whether contributed data is compatible with the CTs and licences on
individual volunteer mappers. So it's up to you to make your own
decision on whether you're able to make the rights grant specified in
CTs Clause 2, for any particular source. When you're reading the new
terms and considering what to do, you may or may not come to the same
conclusion I have done above with regards OS OpenData...

As to where this might leave the use of OS OpenData in OSM if I'm
right, I'm not sure. A recent post from an LWG member [3] suggests
they'd like mappers to be able to use imports / derived content if
they are compatible with the current licence as long as they don't
overly burden future licence changes, but haven't figured out a formal
mechanism for allowing it yet in the CTs.

I think it is most unfortunate that OSMF are pushing ahead with these
CT changes without clarity on the status of such imports in general,
and OS OpenData-derived content in particular. OSMF/LWG are still
waiting for a legal review of the OS OpenData licence and how it
interacts with ODbL and the CTs. Nevertheless, it seems clear enough
to me that OS OpenData is incompatible with the current CTs for the
reasons outlined above. I am also unconvinced that the attribution
requirements of the OS OpenData Licence are compatible with those of
ODbL and DbCL, though that is debated by others. I think we'll have to
wait for the outcome of the legal review, and to see if/how LWG will
modify the CTs to allow OS OpenData-derived information to be
contributed (if this turns out to be necessary and desirable).


[1] http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/opendata/docs/os-opendata-licence.pdf
[2] http://www.osmfoundation.org/wiki/License/Contributor_Terms
[3] http://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/legal-talk/2011-April/005964.html

Robert Whittaker

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