[Talk-us] Facts about the world

Minh Nguyen minh at nguyen.cincinnati.oh.us
Sat Apr 4 20:49:44 UTC 2015

On 2015-04-02 17:41, stevea wrote:
> Simon Poole writes:
>> Up to now OSM has drawn the line in such a way that stuff that is
>> signposted and is observable on the ground is fair game (with some
>> exceptions, I believe the GR issue is still unsolved).
> Yes, all of that is fair game.  Though I don't know what "the GR issue"
> is, and ask you to please clarify.
>> If you are using
>> a collection of facts, be it a list, a map, a file on a computer or
>> whatever, we have to now always taken the, fairly high ground, position
>> that you either need explicit permission (by agreement, licence or
>> similar) or that the use of the source is clearly not subject to
>> copyright any longer. Forgetting about other rights, regulations etc
>> that may exist for the purpose of this discussion.
> When a "collection of facts about the world" are data published by a
> government (around here, those are our employees), ESPECIALLY if/as one
> is in a jurisdiction where geo data published by us (via the government)
> are explicitly prohibited to be encumbered by copyright or onerous
> "Terms" -- as I do -- then use of those data flowing into OSM should be
> absolutely uncontroversial.  As the explicit example I used in the
> instant case, road/rail crossing data published by our PUC that became
> reverse-engineered names of subdivisions sufficient to tag
> nastily-tagged TIGER data (just plain wrong, but better than nothing and
> an OK starting place) so they are more correct is a perfectly valid use
> of such data.  I believe anybody in any of the 49 other states can do
> this, but I am not as familiar with their Public Records Acts (or/stare
> decisis/) as I am California's.  Nor am I an attorney.  But I can read
> and make these determinations.  In fact, I believe any reasonably
> intelligent adult can do so.  If we can't, it is incumbent upon OSM to
> help us do better.  Erring on the side of "high ground" safety might be
> a good place to plant an initial flag, but if it's location is wrong and
> we need to move it to a more accurate place, we must do so.

Not every state's public records law is as generous as California's. For 
instance, the Ohio Attorney General's office publishes an annual 
Sunshine Laws Manual [1] that interprets the sunshine law as providing a 
right for public inspection and "authorized copying" of public records, 
but not necessarily a right to create and distribute unauthorized 
derivative works. Assuming that position is correct, we can't 
automatically treat a PUCO publication as a potential import source. 
Unfortunately, Ohio is no exception. That said, I'm nobody's idea of an 
IP lawyer and I'd love to be proven wrong in this instance.

Moreover, I think Simon and Frederik are arguing from the perspective 
that compliance with U.S. copyright law is necessary but insufficient 
for OSM. To European contributors, concerns over copyright are 
compounded by concerns over moral rights and database rights, hence the 
requirement for explicit permission. I'm uncomfortable with the notion 
of imposing European legal restrictions on American imports, but this 
discussion is more about what *should* be included than what *may* be 
included. A Wikipedia administrator would swiftly delete a perfectly 
copyright-free article about your backyard swing set for being 
"unencyclopedic"; likewise, the OSM community can decide that 
large-scale inclusion of certain outside sources would take the project 
too far from its founding mission.

OSM started out with the do-it-yourself, clean room approach of 
on-the-ground surveying. It offers the strongest guarantee of legal 
compliance and appropriateness for OSM -- no legal analysis required. 
All of us certainly hold such efforts in the highest esteem, but I do 
see an argument for letting contributors be resourceful in other ways, 
to *carefully and judiciously* incorporate other sources, as long as 
they do their best to document their work.

[1] http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/YellowBook

minh at nguyen.cincinnati.oh.us

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