The OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF) was established to serve a number of purposes:
* To be a custodian for the servers and services necessary to host the OpenStreetMap project. Specifically the foundation is the custodian of the servers located at UCL & Imperial and the www.openstreetmap.org domain name.
* The Foundation, as a UK registered limited company affords some degree of protection from copyright and liability suits. Previously Steve Coast would have been personally liable for any action that might have been taken as a result of alleged copyright infringement.
* The Foundation provides a vehicle for fundraising to support the project. As a non-profit organisation its articles of association legally prevent it from making a profit.
The Foundation is owned by its members. The membership scheme provides a mechanism for interested people to have a say in the activities of the Foundation.
It is important to understand that the OpenStreetMap Foundation is not the same thing as the OpenStreetMap project. The Foundation does not own the OpenStreetMap data, is not the copyright holder and has no desire to own the data. Anyone can set up a few servers and host the OSM data using the same or different software. In this respect the Foundation is an organisation that performs fundraising in order to provides servers to host the project. Its role is to support the project, not to control it.
Many of the activities of the Foundation do not have a high profile. They involve meetings and discussions with potential donors and partners, preparation of proposals, and conference and event organising. Many of the discussions with potential donors are carried out confidentially and we only get to shout about them once a deal has been closed.
The Memorandum and Articles of Association is a formal and legal description of the aims of the Foundation its rules and its constitution.
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