[OSM-talk] BSD/CC-by/LGPL vs. SharedAlike - decide now and forever

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemeD.net
Wed Mar 22 01:08:29 GMT 2006

Lars wrote:

> In the same way, we need to ask ourselves: What aim do we have
> with our contributions to OSM or similar projects?  And what
> licenses or other methods can best serve us to reach that goal?

For what it's worth...

I contribute to open geodata projects because:

- Cartography is an art. I really appreciate good maps, and am 
perpetually in awe of the work of the best cartographer-artisans (David 
Edwards-May, Mary Spence, Wendy Price all rate very highly in my book). 
I want to see more artists freed up to produce great maps, and 
widespread availability of geodata helps this.

- I need good geodata myself, for all manner of projects (free Internet 
mapping, charity print mapping, commercial print and Internet mapping). 
I can't afford Ordnance Survey fees. I would like, one day, to be able 
to draw maps as good as the cartographers mentioned above. Having 
access to SRTM and DCW has helped me a lot: and the more such free 
geodata, the better.

- I see huge amounts of datasets floating around the Internet that are 
just crying out to be viewed on a map. I have spent hours trying to use 
accommodation search engines when planning a weekend away... it would 
be so much easier if I could just browse a map.

So there are two reasons why I (personally) favour licences without 
complete ShareAlike provisions. One is technical, and relates to the 
last point - I'd like to be able to make "mashups" with non-SA data. 
But the major one is moral, and is this: cartographers (like any 
artists) have to buy food, pay rent, etc.; I think this is helped by 
permitting non-distributable art to be built from freely-distributable 

(After Imi suggested "Google GPL vs BSD" earlier today, I did. The 
Wikipedia article on the subject states "The only viable business model 
is then providing programming and support, instead of selling licenses 
for proprietary software; this is the approach Red Hat has been using." 
Which is great, but as a hopelessly romantic old leftie, I believe in 
an economy which supports artists as well as technicians. As well as in 
helping the poor. :) )

Right now, I think there are enough entrenched positions that I really 
wouldn't want to waste anyone's time with the whole GPL vs BSD 
argument. It _might_ be worth having when there's a valid 
geodata-specific licence. Several of us have simultaneously suggested 
basing this on the LGPL, which draws a distinction between a "work 
based on the library" (an expanded set of geodata, must still be 
ShareAlike) and "a work that uses the library" (a map or mashup, 
needn't be ShareAlike). I like this idea. But we're not there yet.

Until then, there are a couple of things I would love to see:

1. Clarification on what CC-SA actually means for geodata. I know it's 
clear to you, Imi, but some of us are not quite so well-versed in 
licensing lore and could do with your assistance. :)
     In particular, as I posted the other day, I'd like to know the 
list's collective opinion re: http://www.systemeD.net/stuff/sharealike/ 

2. Using Steve's new, whizzy, GPS trace manager, I'd love to see OSM 
contributors explicitly tagging each GPS track with a licence for that 
track. The wider OSM work with multiple authors is CC-SA, of course. 
But there's no reason why individual tracks, which have single authors, 
shouldn't also be licensed as BSD/public domain/whatever, depending on 
the author's preference.
     This would help to keep OSM as the world's single, central 
repository for GPS tracks. It avoids the fragmentation which would be 
caused by a second repository for BSD/PD-licenced tracks.
     (Maybe this could be made explicit in the UI, even with radio 
buttons? Could contributors set a "default licence" that would 
automatically attach itself as a tag? I dunno.)


P.S. thought for the day - are raw GPS tracks even copyrightable under 
UK law? I don't really want to think about that one...

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