[OSM-talk] Russians at it again

Maarten Deen mdeen at xs4all.nl
Fri May 7 08:01:06 BST 2010

On Fri, 7 May 2010 08:10:06 +0200 (CEST), "Patrick Petschge" Kilian""
<osm at petschge.de> wrote:
> Hi,
>> My personal opinion:
>> Let them.
> I respect your opinion but I don't think that it is a good idea. But see

> below for details.
>> It is a good thing they are figuring out how to enjoy OpenStreetMap 
>> without putting themselves at risk *and* in the mean time try to
>> a total blockade of OpenStreetMap in Russia.
> It is definitly good that they try to figure out how to map and use OSM 
> in Russia without putting themselves at risk.
> BUT that shouldn't mean that they get to descide unilaterally in a 
> language most people in OSM don't understand what can be mapped in
> If they think it is too risky to map a military area fine. But they have

> no f*cking right to decide if I want to risk to map that area. If that 
> area exists and the "truth on the ground" shows that it is a military 
> area then it must be ok to add it to OSM.
> Why? Otherwise we'll loose all our data in China, North Korea and 
> probably several other countries within month. Do you really want 
> Americans to delete the map of Gunantanamo Bay? Do you want Chinese to 
> delete the border around Taiwan? Really really?

I agree completely with Patrick on this. OSM is a free map and nobody can
forcefully regulate what is added and what is not. Also, removal of correct
data is vandalism, so any attempt of any person of institution to remove
correct data has to be qualified as such.

That being said, it is not unlikely that some form of law exisits that
makes it illegal for anyone to make state secrets known to the world. It is
not good enough to say "it is there, so you can speak/map about it". That's
what a secret is all about: you can not talk about it, you can not disclose
that information.
But if that law is made by the Russian government, they alone can enforce
and sanction it. So you can get into problems if you are in Russia and you
have mapped items that are considered state secret. Also, the Russian
government can ask for extradition of persons that disclose Russian state
secrets. Whether or not your government will grant that order is doubtful,
but you can expect that traveling to Russia will be a very tricky thing at
that point.
Bottom line is: you can be in violation of some Russian law if you map
Russian state secrets if that law does so exists. Moreover, the Russian
government can decide actions against OSM if they feel that there are state
secrets on it that they don't want to be known.
(replace Russia for a random country if you like)

To show that this is not necessarily just a ha-ha law, read
the case of Dutch and Britsh planespotters that were arrested in 2001 in
Greece on charges of making photographs inside a restricted military zone.
An offence which can get you 20 years imprisonment in Greece.
Granted, this is _photograhing inside a military zone_, and not looking
from a public road to a military zone, but the legality of it all depends
on the law of the country.

IANAL and I have not read all the law articles that the wiki page
references, also because it is partly cyrillic and russian.


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