[Talk-GB] The curious case of USRN 20602512

Mark Goodge mark at good-stuff.co.uk
Wed Jul 15 10:03:05 UTC 2020

On 15/07/2020 08:35, osm at poppe.dev wrote:
> We wish to refer you to the Adopted Roads map for this information. 
> This can found via: 
> http://maps.ealing.gov.uk/Webreports/Highways/Adoptedroads.html You
> are free to use this information for your own use, including for
> non-commercial research purposes. It may also be used for the
> purposes of news reporting. Any other type of re-use, for example
> publishing the information, issuing copies to the public or
> marketing, will require our permission as copyright holder. If you
> intend to re-use this information in this manner you must apply to
> us. ***

This is the FOI get-out; they can refer you to existing published 
information and therefore don't need to give a direct answer in the 
response. Unfortunately, that doesn't help with finding an 
ODbL-compliant source of the name.

> Secondly, lookig at that map, the adopted road scheme REALLY thinks,
> that this road is called "Fairfield Road". Darn.

Well, it would, because the Adopted Roads list will match the NSG. In 
fact, it's the source of the information that Ealing submits to the NSG.

> So, now my question is this: The response said "If you intend to
> re-use this information in this manner you must apply to us.". Is
> this a process that I want to go through (given, I ever find out who
> "us" is) and then put the answer under
> https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Permissions?

I suspect it would be fruitless anyway. They'll just refer you to the 
existing mechanisms for getting access to the NSG. But even if you were 
to pay the cost of that, it won't deliver the data in a suitable licence.

In any sane world, of course, the idea that the names of roads should be 
subject to any form of restrictive license would be deemed utterly 
absurd. In fact, I'm reasonably confident that it wouldn't survive a 
legal challenge in this world. While the creation of a map, is, clearly, 
a work subject to copyright, a simple fact - and the name of a road is a 
fact - isn't. And a list of road names, created for the benefit of those 
who use and maintain the roads, has no independent economic value and 
therefore doesn't meet the criteria for database right.

The rulings by the European Court of Justice in the William Hill and 
Fixtures Marketing cases are relevant here - essentially, the court 
concluded that if a list of facts (eg, a list of football matches, or 
horses entered in a race) is a necessary part of administering the 
competition, then that list of facts isn't subject to database right as 
it has no existence independently of the competition's functioning. And 
I'm pretty sure that a court would apply the same judgment to a list of 
street names. Councils have a legal obligation to maintain the canonical 
list of street names in their territory, and, in any case, having such a 
list is essential to the way that the council operates. So the list has 
no independent existence apart from that legal and operational 
necessity, and therefore doesn't qualify for database right.

But, of course, OSM can't include data on the basis of a legal opinion. 
It would take an actual court case to establish the fundamental openness 
of street names, and OSM doesn't want to be the organisation which is 
part of that case. So, at the moment, we're still stuck as far as 
directly reusing names from the NSG is concerned.


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