[OSM-talk] Yahoo Aerial Imagery vs. OSM Spirit
frederik at remote.org
Thu Mar 29 14:51:53 BST 2007
I've been thinking about the Yahoo! issue (how they do not want
us to use their imagery with JOSM).
First off, I am very much in favour of using satellite or aerial
imagery for our project. I many things are simply impossible without,
and if the techology is there then we should use it to our advantage.
(Although I have occasionally overheard people making slightly
derogatory remarks about "painting roads from satellite pictures" -
probably because it lacks the sportsman's aspect involved with
acquiring your own tracks.)
I recently asked on legal-talk whether they believed I could use
available non-free aerial imagery to give examples in a "how to map
complex junctions" documentation. Ine answer I received was: Even if
you legally could, you shouldn't do it, as this would be against our
spirit, because the imagery in question is not free.
I see a similar argument looming with Yahoo aerial imagery. Their
data is very valuable to us, but it is not free. They give us
permission to use the data, but that permission has a lot of strings
attached about the way we may or may not use the data, and we do not
have anything in written that tells us exactly what the limits are.
Basically, every time we want to do something with the data, we have
to ask, and even the permission we have for using their data in the
applet is unique - quoting Mikel Maron, "Yahoo made an exception for
the applet ... This exception was made grudgingly (with pity ;) ) and
won't happen again." This means we cannot even say "this program uses
Yahoo in the same way the applet does and thus will not be a problem"
- we have to ask every single time.
Now, people have said that the permission to use their imagery is a
valuable gift that should not be thrown away (and I perfectly
understand the value, even though Yahoo isn't better than Landsat in
the areas I am mapping).
But gifts can also do damage. On the one hand, we risk becoming
influenced (or should I even sy corrupted) in or thinking by the very
"intellectual property/licensing/corporate attitude" that was one
reason to start OSM. Call it political decision-making or whatever -
the fact that their data is there and they have nothing against our
tracing OSM data from the satellite/aerial imagery, but they want to
tell us exactly that one way of doing it is ok and other way is not.
Look at it like this: There's litte Fred in his computerized hut. One
evening, existing OSM data plus Yahoo imagery goes in; the next
morning, a lot of OSM data comes out. That's the basics. Nothing else
comes out, no traces remain. Now why in the world do Yahoo want to
tell Fred that he may do his work using the applet, but he may not do
it using other means?
Yes, again, I know and understand that it is a gift and they wouldn't
have to give us anything, and it is not for us to make demands. When
I was a child, if someone offered me a piece of chocolate and
demanded that I eat in in a certain way, I'd have said yes and played
the game. Today, I still like chocolate but a sense of dignity
forbids that I jump through loops for it. If you cannot give me your
chocolate and let me decide how to eat it, then don't be offended,
but keep it.
And we're starting to jump through loops. We're starting to speculate
what Yahoo's reasons might be and how we might "work with them" - how
we might tune our technical processes so that, while technically less
than optimal (or more complex than necessary), they will fit
soneone's license model.
We're even starting to believe that the JOSM plugin might have
same time taking it for granted that browsers may make any number of
temporary files accessible for eternity just because that is "normal".
And there's another danger with the gift of Yahoo imagery as well: I
have heard people in my area say "don't bother mapping that, I'm sure
we will soon have better Yahoo imagery for our region and then wee'll
trace it from there". So the potential later availability of
satellite images is actually keeping people from making an effort to
get the data now. (Not Yahoo's fault, of course. But if we weren't
involved with them, then the chances of having satellite images for
the region soon would be much more remote, motivating some people to
tackle it themselves instead of waiting for better days.)
For a third time: Satellite images are valuable and I would like to
have them. But even though Lars has used drastic words when he spoke
of queues on Soviet streets... I, too, find it tempting to walk away
in this case.
Frederik Ramm ## eMail frederik at remote.org ## N49°00.09' E008°23.33'
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