When it comes to open-source map data, licenses like the one used by collaborative mapping group OpenStreetMap (OSM) are important. They ensure that anyone can use the map data in a commercial or non-commercial capacity, as long as the user provides the proper attribution and releases any improved data under similar circumstances.
When OSM began looking at its licensing arrangement over the past few years, the issues generated a surprising amount of discussion for what may be seen by many as a pretty dry legal topic. On April 1, OSM switched from its Creative Commons license to a new open Open Database License, which affords better protection for information in databases.
Kate Chapman, treasurer of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, has written about the issue on her blog and took a few minutes to talk to Communia over email about the change, how it’s working out and what digital volunteers should remember when collecting and creating data.
How/why is licensing an issue for groups working with OSM data?
OSM was founded on the idea that most “free” maps are not actually free. There are many maps that are free to use, but only in specific ways. There is other information that is not available at all for certain regions or types of data or groups of people.
In OSM, we think that free maps can only be truly free only if they comply with the Open Knowledge Definition (OKD). The OKD imposes general conditions on knowledge so it can be used by anyone, anywhere, for anything.
But believing in the concept of openness is not enough to guarantee it. In the case of OSM, we enforce a license (either CC-by-sa or ODbL) to guarantee that anyone, anywhere, will be able to use OSM data for anything. Both these licenses can be summarized in two points:
Attribution: Give credit where credit is due.
Share-alike: Allow others to use your data as you are allowed to use OSM data.
What does this mean to groups working with OSM data? Two things: Please put “Data © OpenStreetMap and Contributors” somewhere in the small print. If you improve the OpenStreetMap data, then you must make it available back to the community. Read the rest of this entry »