[OSM-talk] Results from license debate - assing (c) to OSMF

David Earl david at frankieandshadow.com
Wed Jul 18 19:46:14 BST 2007

Much of the license debate seems to hinge on what is a Reproduction, 
what is a Derived Work and what is a Collective Work. And that's because 
it isn't really clear in the CCbySA text.

Let's turn the debate upside down: let's decide what we want the license 
to do for us, not what (we think or a lawyer thinks) the license 
requires us to do. The debate then is about what our purpose is rather 
than the minutiae of the words of someone else's license. We seem always 
to be unnecessarily bashing ourselves with the most restrictive 
interpretation of the words rather than asking ourselves what it is we 
actually want to license to do for us.

Rather than asking a lawyer whether they think the license covers this 
or that case, I think we should be asking a lawyer whether by explicitly 
allowing or denying any particular or general case we remain compatible 
with the CCbySA license, how to word any explicit clarification, and 
confirming that the clarification or definition then becomes part of the 
obligation of the licensee downstream.

That obviously first requires us to decide what it is we actually want.

Example: I would like to obtain a lat/lon by reference to some rendering 
of the OSM(*). If I embed the lat/lon in the EXIF of the photo, I'd like 
the resulting photo to be considered a Collective Work so I am not 
obliged to make the photo available through the OSM license (and it 
could also have its own pre-existing restrictions). But if someone 
extracts the lat/lon from the file, then what they do with that is 
subject to the OSM license because that part of the Collective Work is 
Derived. If they take two such photos and draw a line between their 
locations, that line is CCbySA (or whatever), but none of the photo 
pixels or other metadata are.

CCbySA is open to interpretation on this point, let's say that's what we 
mean in an explicit clarification of our license rather than take 
whatever a lawyer might decide the existing vague words mean. We control 
the license, it doesn't control us.

Another example: I print an OSM rendered map with some additional 
symbols on it: say the layout for an as-yet-to-be-built housing estate. 
The position of those symbols is not derived from OSM data but from some 
other source (e.g. a direct ground survey). I would like to _assert_ 
that this is also a Collective Work, so that it _may not_ be photocopied 
or the locations of the extra data picked off the map, but that it is 
quite in order for someone to trace the OSM parts of the map and use 
those alone, or photocopy with the additions sno-paked out, the result 
being subject to CCbySA.

_You_ might want to argue that such a map _should_ be freely 
photocopyable (and thereby put off anyone who wants to do 'printed 
mashups' but is constrained by or sees value in requiring protection in 
their data), but the point is we can have the debate over that, not 
about whether the endlessly disputable words in the license allows 
whichever position one wants to support. (I don't believe a lawyer is 
necessarily in a better position to interpret these words that us, and 
would probably be conservative in interpretation which if we adopted 
that interpretation would sometimes amount to shooting ourselves in the 

At a more general level my opinion is that we should _define_ as a 
collective work _any_ combination with other data sets, irrespective of 
reproduction technology or medium, but that the attribution we require 
obliges the publisher to make clear which parts are OSM and therefore 
CCbySA, and which aren't. So if someone prints a map book from OSM and 
adds Lye Street, they must point it out so they can't trick me: so I can 
erase it before freely photocopying the rest of the book; and they can 
claim copyright only over Lye Street, not the rest(**). (Machine 
readable presentation is easier because the data is more separable).

Your opinion may be different, but at least we can argue about the 
principle, not the words, and then explicitly clarify the license (or 
change it if we must, with all the ramifications and heartache that will 

Providing our explicit interpretations are compatible with CCbySA, we 
don't need to ask everyone to agree to anything, though of course if 
someone disagrees so strongly with the stated interpretations, they are 
always free to opt out and remove their contributions (if they can 
disentangle them from others).


(* Any rendering of the map is itself a derived work, I assert; if you 
don't like that we should again debate whether we _want_ it to be, not 
whether the words of CCbySA require it to be)

(** actually that example skates on thin ice as unless they plonked Lye 
Street down in any random position, they would be connecting it to the 
map, so actually modifying part of the OSM, not just combining with it).

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