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

Andy Robinson Andy_J_Robinson at blueyonder.co.uk
Wed Mar 22 08:47:36 GMT 2006

Richard Fairhurst wrote:
>Sent: 22 March 2006 01:08
>To: talk at openstreetmap.org
>Subject: Re: [OSM-talk] BSD/CC-by/LGPL vs. SharedAlike - decide now and
>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.

I have some sympathy with this argument. By requiring everything derived to
be SA it might actually restrict the take-up and support of OSM. However I'm
also concerned that to move to a situation where an existing commercial
business can create a work based on the OSM content and sell it as if it
were its own (ie OSM is merely adding value to their business product) then
that really rather goes against the grain somewhat. Having said all that I'm
in favour too of the wish to be able to mash up different data into
something new and not to have to distribute the eventual whole as SA because
its difficult to see that all the add-in bits can or should go forward as

but then I'm no licence guru :(

>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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>talk at openstreetmap.org


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