[OSM-talk] [Talk-us] OpenStreetMap Isn't All That Open, Let's Change That and Drop Share-Alike

Steve Coast steve at asklater.com
Fri Mar 14 15:09:13 UTC 2014

I disagree. This is about money; my personal belief is that CloudMade would have made more dollars without having to ShareAlike. More business models open up, and it wouldn’t have had to deal with the community. Indeed I imagine this was a topic of continual discussion.

The ODbL requires only two things and my understanding is that MapBox disagree with both of them, or at least Alex does. This shouldn’t be surprising, they hinder making money, like it did for CM.

But in those cases, we’re talking about competition in the market via data sets.

My personal belief, not speaking for them, is that Telenav has a different focus, in that free-to-the-consumer turn-by-turn navigation doesn’t have these impediments. Therefore it would in theory not be an issue in our case to attribute and ShareAlike. Like in my original slides about OSM from years ago - it’s about moving up the stack and competing at a higher level, not competing over data itself (where attribution and ShareAlike are relevant). Instead, going all-in on OSM and focusing on the product and user experience. Remember, these problems only occur if you don’t want to use OSM, but want to use it with other datasetsets that you don’t want to contribute back.

As for legal opinions on the ODbL you should understand that weaker (or, really, any) lawyers don’t like new things. New un-tested things have the potential to blow up in your face and throw you in court. Therefore the calculus is different when you are small and court is a scary place, compared to if you’re a big company say like Microsoft and you’re in court all the time. In my time I’ve met plenty of lawyers who’re fine with the ODbL and it shouldn’t be characterized that all lawyers everywhere somehow have major problems with it. The community norms (and the new ones the LWG is apparently putting together I heard) help very much here, and of course there are always issues with any license.

Whether the ODbL is good or bad for OSM is a different question. The ODbL was a very fun multi-year process that I happen to have been deeply involved in. It would be nice if there was data to suggest that one license is measurably better than another (for OSM). Instead, we have a large collections of anecdotes (not data) like “nobody uses OpenBSD because of the license” or “Linux wins because of the license”.

We’ve had beliefs like that in the past. For example “lots more people would edit with nicer tools”. This is a belief I shared. So, multiple times, we’ve built nicer tools. And it’s turned out that there is some small grain of truth to that but it’s not really comparable to the effort involved. I was wrong.

Alex makes a bunch of these statements like that, I’ll pick three that jump out:

1) "the assumption that share-alike encourages contribution is a myth”
2) "The reality is that OpenStreetMap is only used extensively in situations where the share-alike license does not apply, for instance, map rendering."
3) "OpenStreetMap's current licensing is stunting our growth"

And respond:

1) Data would be useful either way
2) I’d say that’s because OSM doesn’t contain a lot of address or navigation data (which, as it happens, is where the money is), not because of the license.
3) My personal belief is it might stunt CloudMade or MapBox, but not Telenav or MapQuest, and, http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Stats doesn’t show a lot of evidence of being stunted.


I’ll sum by saying that when you’re picking licenses you’re really picking business models. We should be very careful when considering license changes and make sure any choice is backed by the best data we can get, not anecdotes or nice sounding stories. The ODbL has got us this far, and all the graphs are up-and-to-the-right. Exponential curves are powerful. Lastly, consider the weight of effort thousands of people put in to mapping before you to get us here, and what terms they did it under.


On Mar 14, 2014, at 1:18 AM, Russ Nelson <nelson at crynwr.com> wrote:
> Alex Barth writes:
>> http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/lxbarth/diary/21221
> Another aspect of where the ODbL hurts us: Because we are using a
> restrictive license, we cannot argue against other parties that use a
> restrictive license. Look at New York State's GIS
> Clearinghouse. Individuals not welcome. For-profit corporations not
> welcome. OpenStreetMap users .... not welcome. NY government entities?
> Welcome! Non-profits? Welcome!
> We can't argue against that on principle because we're just as bad.
> -- 
> --my blog is at    http://blog.russnelson.com
> Crynwr supports open source software
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