Licence/Historic/We Are Changing The License

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Revision as of 16:53, 26 March 2011 by Firefishy (talk | contribs) (→‎What Are The Choices?: Revise TODO link.)

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We Are Changing The License

OpenStreetMap creates and provides free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them. The project was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive, or unexpected ways.

OpenStreetMap is asking existing contributors to re-license their contributions under the Open Database License 1.0. For those not familiar, this page explains the basic reasons and provides links to further resources with more detail.

What Are The Choices?

You can see the final draft of the page you will be presented with [here]

You have three choices.

  • Agree You agree to the new OpenStreetMap Contributor Terms, ( full text, human readable ) including re-licensing your contributions under the ODbL. Anything that you have contributed in the past will be available forever under CC-BY-SA. This includes anything you contribute from now until the license change-over actually happens ... this needs a critical mass of folks agreeing. From the change-over the database with new contributions you make will be available under ODbL. Read on to find out about the differences between the current and new license.
  • Agree, and I consider my contributions Public Domain Legally, this is the same as Agree. But it shows that you would prefer a simple license that just makes the data available to everyone without any restrictions at all. This will help define the future direction of OpenStreetMap.
  • Decline. You do not agree to the new OpenStreetMap Contributor Terms and, specifically, you refuse to re-license your existing contributions for use under the ODbL. (TODO: Needs revision. Text displayed to people who decline.)

Voluntary acceptance phase

During the voluntary acceptance phase of the license change, you can accept the new license and contributor terms here or from your API user settings page at You way have to log in first.

Why do we have a license?

Our goal is to provide geographic data that is free and open to all to use. To make sure that your contributions are provided free and open, and remain free and open, we have a license that says that.

What license is being changed?

We want to change the current CC-BY-SA 2.0 to Open Database License (OdbL) 1.0.

The license that covers the contributed geodata (nodes, ways, relations) and the GPX traces that you upload. That is, anything that is in the Postgresql database and which we explicitly publish, like planet.osm.

Map tiles will no longer be covered, explained below.

The change does not cover the wiki which will remain CC BY-SA. It does not cover software and software source code, which are usually but not always GPL (GNU Public License).

Why are we changing the license?

Our current user license is Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0. It for not designed for data and the creators of the license state, "Creative Commons does not recommend using Creative Commons licenses for informational databases, such as educational or scientific databases.".

The main issues for the OpenStreetMap project are:

  • The current license uses only copyright law. This clearly protects creative works such as written documents, pictures and photos. It does not clearly protect data, particularly in the US.
  • The current license is not written for data and databases. It is therefore very difficult to interpret. If someone uses your data in a map in a book and the map has several layers, what should be the placed under CC-BY-SA. Just the OpenStreetMap layer and any enhancements? The whole map, including any unconnected layers and markers? The whole book?
  • It is difficult or impossible to ask questions about what can and cannot be done, as this means asking all the thousands of contributors individually to give their permission.
  • This means that “good guys” are stopped from using our data but the “bad guys” may be able to use it anyway.
  • It is difficult or impossible for folks to mix our data with data under other licenses.

You can read more here:

Have other options been considered?

Yes. There are three main options. Which option you personally support depends on what "free and open" means to you. We believe that a reasonable consensus has been built that our current progress should be to maintain a Share-Alike license (see more below) but have it written explicitly for data.

The new Contributor Terms also contains a section that allows you or future mappers to participate in changing the license provided that you maintain an active interest.

The options:

1. Use a “Public Domain” license

Putting something in the Public Domain means letting anyone do anything they like with the data without any permissions needed and without any restrictions at all. It is not possible to do this in many countries so instead a license saying the same thing can be used. Creative Commons recommend CC0 . A Public Domain license has no Share-Alike provision, meaning that anyone can mix and match their own data with OpenStreetMap data without making it available for free public use. Public Domain licenses are very short and easy for anyone to understand.

A large section of the OpenStreetMap community would like to switch to a “Public Domain” license.

However, a significant proportion of contributors are vehemently opposed to this and we would like to keep the project unified. There is also a fear that large organisations could take the data and release a better product that ours. This fear may or may not be true, but if we go Public Domain, it would very difficult to reverse course.

We therefore ask you to accept a change to a license that is still Share-Alike but specifically written for databases and may better address concerns that you have. You will have the opportunity to tick a box that says you prefer "Public Domain". The new Contributor Terms also has an explicit mechanism for a 2/3 majority of active contributors to make changes to the license in the future.

2. Another Share-Alike license written for data. There isn't one. The Open Database License is the only one that is well developed. OpenStreetMap is the pioneer here.

3. Stay with the current license. Some of the community would like us to stay with the current license, arguing that the vague nature is good thing. It forces extremely strong Share-Alike provisions even if it stops many projects using our data. They also point out that ODbL is unproven, OpenStreetMap will be the first big user and that it is longer and more complexly written than the existing license.

In December 2009, OpenStreetMap Foundation members were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a proposal to change the OpenStreetMap geodata license. 55% of eligible members voted, and 89% of those who voted have voted yes. Almost 49% of all eligible members have expressed their agreement to ODbL, and 6% have expressed their disagreement. Detailed results. The community created a for and against the OdbL license during the vote here:

What are the main differences between the old and the new license?

The old license is written for creative works such as text and photos. The new license is specifically written for data and databases.

The old license attempts to protect data using copyright law only. The new license attempts to protect data using copyright law, contract law and database rights. The protection offered by each varies around the world. Database rights, for example, are applicable in Europe but not in the USA.

Both licenses are “By Attribution” and “Share Alike”. You can read more about what these terms mean here:

However, there is one big Share-Alike difference between the old and new license. In the old license, if someone makes a map then they have to share the map under the same license, but they do not have to directly share any data they used to make the map. Under the new license, they can put a map under any license they like, provided that they share any data enhancements they have made to our data. The main reason for this is that maps can now be made with layers from incompatible data sources.

In the old license, any question about the license would have to be asked to thousands of contributors. Under the new license, the Foundation is allowed by you to publish the complete dataset as a single licensor. If there is doubt whether OpenStreetMap data can be used for a particular project, the Foundation can be asked if it objects or not. The Foundation has set up a process called "Community Guidelines" to make sure that contributors are consulted and can help define any response made.

Can I trust the OpenStreetMap Foundation ?

The Foundation is "dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data and to providing geospatial data for anybody to use and share.", ( ).

But what happens if the Foundation is taken over by people with commercial interests?

  • You still own the rights to any data you contribute, not the Foundation. In the new Contributor Terms, you license the Foundation to publish the data for others to use and ONLY under a free and open license.
  • The Foundation is not allowed to take the data and release it under a commercial license.
  • If the Foundation fails to publish under only a free and open license, it has broken its contract with you. A copy of the existing data can be made and released by a different body.
  • If a change is made to another free and open license, it is active contributors who decide yes or no, not the Foundation.