[Talk-us] SOTM-US geocoding/share-alike discussion

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sun Oct 21 08:58:10 GMT 2012


    on talk-us there was a mention of Carl Frantzen's recent three-part
article with SOTM-US coverage, 
and his mention of "OSM moving away from his open-source roots".

Apparently, this refers to some unfortunate statements at SOTM-US about
share-alike being bad for business or something, and Frantzen mentions
that a couple of businesses have set up an informal group to discuss
which bits of our license they don't understand or want clarification
on. As far as I know, nobody who knows anything about OSM seriously
suggested that we "move away from open source", it was just a phrase
unfortunately reported.

I am still rather surprised to hear about this as a side note of SOTM-US
coverage instead of here on this list where license discussions should
be at home. I would urge anyone who is unclear about anything with ODbL
and/or who believes that any community norms we have must be refined, to
discuss that here on this mailing list - whether it's for business or
personal use.

Looking through past discussions in the archives of minutes of our
Licensing Working Group, it seems clear to me that OSM data under ODbL
is unlikely to ever be available for "no strings attached" geocoding; we
won't ask for your customer database just because you geocode with OSM,
but you will have to adhere to some rules nonetheless.

LWG has never actually made a decision on geocoding, and all mentions in
their minutes carry big disclaimers ("This is a summary of our
discussion and should NOT be construed as a formal statement of
position"). Under that disclaimer, the 20120515 minutes contain the

> To be able to claim that the remainder of the record, (often
> proprietary business information or personal information such as a
> patient record) is not virally touched by geocoding against OSM ODbL
> data needs a distinction to be demonstrated. This distinction needs
> to be a clear and logical general rule or principle. It also needs to
> be acceptable to the OSM community. At the moment, we feel this does
> not exist.

In the same notes there's a discussion of a "like with like" principle
which means that "Whatever is used in the (reverse)geocoding look-up is
virally touched, but nothing else."

The 20120522 meeting notes contain a link to a concept paper


and explicitly say: "To improve it, and test the rationality of the
ideas expressed, we need and welcome real-world cases of geocoding and

So I guess anyone who wants to use OSM in a geocoding scenario should
read that and submit their opinion, here or to LWG.

Personally, I've gone on record as an advocate of a non-share-alike (PD) 
license for OSM but the project as a whole has decided to have a 
share-alike license and I accept that; I don't think that "geocode as 
much as you want without sharing any data" is possible with the ODbL 
data set.


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

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