Author Archives: OpenStreetMap

About OpenStreetMap

Posts written "by OpenStreetMap" were written collaboratively by the Communication Working Group and/or other OpenStreetMap Foundation folks.

The June solstice is upon us

Spherical sundial by Simon Moroder. Photo by Giovanni Novara, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The June solstice is upon us, which means the seasons are changing — and with that, lots of opportunities to map, no matter which hemisphere you’re in!

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, why not take a look at your local outdoor fun: maybe it’s swimming pools, beaches, hiking and biking trails, and the like. The parks and playgrounds might be busy, as well as sports pitches, places to camp, national parks, wildlife parks and more. Midsummer is also a holiday in many countries, why not map the local traditions like permanent maypoles? Or mapping your local ice cream parlours might be fun.

And if you’re in the southern hemisphere, it’s winter! It may be a bit colder, and good weather for winter sports like skiing, or maybe just staying indoors at your local pub, restaurant, indoor pool and so on. Are your local favorites on the map already? There are also winter festivals all over the hemisphere, have you mapped them? And in warmer climates, it may be nice weather for exploring outside, going surfing, taking road trips and more.

Speaking of the solstice, are the observatories and other astronomical facilities in your area mapped? Is the sundial of the cover photograph mapped?

You can also try recording GPS tracks or taking GPS-tagged photos of your outings to help yourself and others add more data to the map. Or you can even look for things named summer and help complete the map there! For example, the hamlet of Summer, Algeria, the Summer Palace in Beijing, the Summer Place pub in San Francisco and the Summer Hill Creek in Australia. Or maybe there are locations named Winter near you.

Do you have any other ideas for seasonal mapping? Let everyone know in the comments.

Surveying OpenStreetMap

CC-BY-SA 4.0 OSM CWG

Ahead of the Board Face to Face in Brussels we asked people across the project to share the most important topics facing OpenStreetMap. Thank you to every one of you who responded – 161 people in total! We want to share how we found this valuable and how it informed the meeting, some summary results and specific follow ups underway. Surveys are something with want to repeat – and we want help to implement with the best practice, and cover the right topics.

The value of surveying

You would think that the Board, seven people with presence in many different communities and communication channels, would know nearly everything happening in the project and what issues were top of mind. But with such an enormous scale of work and messaging, it’s impossible to form a cohesive picture. There are many people whose voices we don’t otherwise hear – due to language, the proliferation of channels, and communication style. We know that these 161 responses provide just one window into how we might improve community feedback loops. With a formal structure like the Board of Directors, with formal meetings and minutes and statements, it’s hard for everyone else to know we are listening.

OpenStreetMap is made up of everyone who takes part in it, and hearing each other’s voices in a coordinated way, on a regular basis, will help prioritize where work is needed and what actions to pursue. It ensures a standard way to engage. Surveying can help set up mechanisms to route issues to the right place, share pathways for OpenStreetMap members to contribute and address problems, and identify where the project as a whole needs more help to come up with answers. We can identify people and topics for more in depth follow up. This will only work and be useful if there is actual follow through and transparency on what we hear through surveys.

The results of this survey

Frederik summarized and classified each of the responses, to produce this summary list. This is just one way of classifying the responses – other Board members had similar breakdowns, but nothing as comprehensive. There weren’t tags for everything, and some responses were clearly not relevant. Most didn’t specify what they thought the Board could, but expressed generally things they’d like to see happen.

  • some form of Global Logic/Hostile Takeover concern
  • some concern about building a friendlier, better informed, more inclusive community (different users stressing different targets for inclusivity e.g. regions, countries, interest groups)
  • the suggestion that tagging rules need to be clearer, better documented, or a better process needs to exist
  • dissatisfaction with how the iD editor manages tagging decisions (largely a different group from the 13 as above)
  • need for better QA and vandalism detection
  • growing the project or membership in various ways
  • dissatisfaction with the website features, including tile speed
  • improve governance, improve Working Groups, better Conflict of Interest handling
  • hire developer and/or management staff
  • limit the ability of new mappers to contribute (and break things)
  • provide more/better education support, partner with education institutions
  • enforce attribution more
  • desire to have vector tiles on web site
  • make imports easier (and 2x control rogue imports better)
  • improve cartography
  • protect against commercial influence
  • overhaul wiki (but see tagging above, these could also mean tagging)
  • resource better imagery

We aren’t publishing the raw survey comments because we neglected to ask in the survey if it was ok to publish, or if the response should remain anonymous. This is something we will address in future surveys.

How we incorporated the responses into the meeting

We looked at the survey results after day 1 was done, so we had a full day to work already, directly with each other and all the ideas we each had brought the meeting. Saturday evening, we all received the results by email, and fair to say that all of us read every one. The next morning, we had spent time going round to everyone and hearing each other’s reflections, identifying where the survey input complemented work underway, as well as identify gaps in our scope.

Fair to say that building a more inclusive & healthy community, governance issues, hostile takeover, and growing the project were already top of mind. What surprised us were topics like tagging, software, and infrastructure issues. Of course we know these are top issues, but as the Board, it’s typically not been our role to get involved in such topics. Some of the concerns simply involved a rerouting problem – there are clear places to share feedback on things like the default cartography, and our plan is to share some of these items directly with those responsible. But for other issues like tagging, like iD, it’s more complicated and not clear how change is supposed to happen. There are “routing problems” in OSM and OSMF. We broadly think there may be a role for the Board in helping facilitate the community to find the way, but we’re not sure how it should work. In the mean time, we are having a few direct conversations to listen more.

We then later had half the Board take part in a 90 minute working session specifically on surveys (the other half worked on the takeover risk and governance changes topic). We generated ideas that make up much of this blog post – how are surveys valuable, what did we learn from this one, and how do we want to do surveys in the future.

Methods and topics for future surveys – we need your help

During our working session, we had to pull back several times from diving down the rabbit hole of methodology. We’ll start here with some top level design thoughts on how we see surveying at OSMF.

  • Keep a consistent pace of at least annually, and perhaps up to quarterly when topics are raised. These can be schedule at coordinated, quieter points along the “OSM Calendar” (prior to Annual General Meeting, Face-to-Face board meeting, State of the Map). Frequency also will help to gauge enduring issues, emerging issues, and one-offs.
  • Strike a balance of rigorous and achievable – we aren’t doing surveys for social science publication, but we do want to have a good standard of results we can trust.
  • Work collaboratively in building surveys with more experienced folks in OSM community, especially from academia/research. Gather input and refine questions from in person at SotMs, Working Groups, Chapters, Advisory Board, Regions.
  • Identify ownership of surveying processes in OSMF – for now the Board. This also means taking responsible stewardship of the submitted data.
  • Build a trusted process by demonstrating responsiveness and follow through to survey results. That means share summary results and actions by board/OSMF, as well as option for anonymously sharing raw results.
  • Reach a broad population, by a wide and documented set of outreach channels (mailing lists, forums, telegram, slacks, FB groups, etc). Also take distinct opportunities to have self selection surveys vs random selection where a specific population is chosen.
  • Surveys should not be burdensome on responders. Clearly say up front what will be asked, is it multiple choice or free text, and how much time is needed. Keep a baseline of background questions (like OSM experience and roles and location).
  • Make this a repeatable sound methodology. Means following a process step by actionable step.

Definitely opening thoughts. If you have experience in undertaking surveys, we’d love to talk to you about how to approach.

Finally, we brainstormed questions we’d like to ask on surveys. Broad topics were on our organizational development and governance, the technical roadmap and priorities, regional “nuances” in how OSM works, a survey directed to companies, and community engagement and health.

  • What are you doing that other communities can learn from?
  • Volunteering in OSM: what do you ideally want to do, and what do you need to do it?
  • Why are you in OSM? What was your best experience? What was your worst?
  • What are the different roles and kinds of contributions you have made?
  • Where do you communicate and why?
  • If you are not in OSMF, what would it take to convince you to join? What would you change?

What questions do you want to ask the OSM community? And, more importantly, how do you see survey results informing our collective next steps? Let us know either in the comments, on talk@openstreetmap.org or send an email to board@osmfoundation.org.

Want to help with methodology? Send us an email to board@osmfoundation.org with subject “Survey methodology help”, and we’ll let you know when we gather to start planning the next survey soon.

OpenStreetMap Foundation board


What is the OpenStreetMap Foundation
The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in the UK to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project, is financially supported by membership fees and donations, and organises the annual, international State of the Map conference. The OpenStreetMap Foundation has no full-time employees and it is supporting the OpenStreetMap project through the work of our volunteer Working Groups. Please consider becoming a member and read about our fee-waiver program.

What is OpenStreetMap
OpenStreetMap was founded in 2004 and is a international project to create a free map of the world. To do so, we, thousands of volunteers, collect data about roads, railways, rivers, forests, buildings and a lot more worldwide. Our map data can be downloaded for free by everyone and used for any purpose – including commercial usage. It is possible to produce your own maps which highlight certain features, to calculate routes etc. OpenStreetMap is increasingly used when one needs maps which can be very quickly, or easily, updated.

OSMF Board face to face meeting 2019

The OSMF Board. From left to right: Frederik Ramm, Kate Chapman, Paul Norman, Heather Leson, Mikel Maron, Tobias Knerr and Joost Schouppe. Photograph by Allen Gunn, CC-BY-SA 4.0.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation Board is a special thing. Elected by the Foundation members, we come from very different backgrounds and parts of the world. Several of us had never met in person before. Most of our communication is asynchronous. We have only a single one hour phone meeting every month, usually in public. Now imagine this group of people trying to tackle complicated problems together.

Thus the tradition to have a yearly face to face meeting. Though the meeting was later than we hoped, the timing turned out right. We had already tackled some of the biggest issues that needed attention, and were finally in a good place to look at the bigger picture.

The face to face meeting means more time to work together than over the rest of the year combined. To make things even more productive, we had professional assistance from Allen Gunn, Aspiration. This helped greatly to make sure it wasn’t just the most outspoken who talked, that the important stuff got some attention, and that we didn’t get into each others’ hair. Too much at least. Just kidding: put people who believe in OpenStreetMap together in one room, and it turns out we can have a productive conversation without much issue.

On to actual business

So what did we talk about? (apart from that it’s hard to leave baby goats behind, that you need to be a vegetarian to drive a Land Rover, and sacrilegious stuff like that BrewDog has the best beer in Belgium).

If we learned one thing from the last election season, it’s that it wouldn’t be technically illegal and not hard at all for a “bad actor” to game the election. We spent several hours analyzing what we could do to mitigate such risks. And then a few more to identify the solutions we can actually implement before the next election.

Working on things like this, we have noticed that our working relationship with the various Working Groups is not without its issues. We took a long hard look in the mirror and came up with a list of questions we would like to ask the Working Groups, to better understand how we can do better as a board. We’ll be sharing what we worked on with Working Groups soon. The results of that will be a starting point to see where we can help Working Groups to succeed in their goals.

We started off from our own priorities, but on the second day we took the recent survey into account. We got 161 full responses. There were some requests we could not handle, such as smashing the capitalist world system. But even the answers that are not really in Board scope were very informative and sometimes even came as a surprise.

There were many requests to deal with tags, editor presets, improvements to the website and core technology. On the top of the list were two threats: a hostile takeover scenario, and our own divisions as a community (community health). Having these items outlined by that community did help us to see that it’s not just peculiar board members who care about this, but something that really lives in the community. We want to get deeper insights into these issues and plan to do more detailed surveys in the future. We’ll be sharing more details on the survey and surveying in general soon.

Any other business

The meeting is a good time to revive some important but “dormant” issues. We’ve made good progress on Board term limits and Microgrants. But we also know that efficiency gains are not enough: we need more help to realise our goals. Since we’re all very happy with Dorothea’s work for us, we are planning to extend her hours. We will always be a volunteer organisation, and we are looking at ways to make sure that she does as little as possible that could have been done by a volunteer.

Personal lessons learned

While it is a costly affair, having a full board meeting for two-and-a-half days seems definitely good value for money. Especially for me, as a new member it feels like things have finally started. If we have a more international club in the future, it will be even more useful to bridge the cultural, gender, and power gaps.
Personally, I would like to see the face to face happen sooner after the election. There is an advantage to having been on the board for a couple of months already: it gives you a better of idea of what is realistic. While I was a bit frustrated with the relatively limited amount of stuff that made it to the action item list, it would still already be a huge success if we can get most of that list done.

Joost Schouppe


The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in the UK to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project, is financially supported by membership fees and donations, and organises the annual, international State of the Map conference. The OpenStreetMap Foundation has no full-time employees and it is supporting the OpenStreetMap project through the work of our volunteer Working Groups. Please consider becoming a member and read about our fee-waiver program.

SotM 2019 Ticket Sales Opened

Modified image, based on Little Bee-eater photo by ThomHasi. Initially modified by Bob Comix and then by the OSM CWG. SotM 2019 logo by Michael Auer. Licence CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Tickets are now on sale for the State of the Map conference 2019 in Heidelberg, Germany. The conference runs from the 21st-23rd September. As always, if you are eager to start, we offer an Early Bird discount, but hurry, as these special prices are only available for a limited time.
We have had a large number of talks submitted to both the regular and academic tracks, so this year promises to have some really interesting topics. Come and be a part of what should be the biggest SotM to date!

Early bird ticket prices

There are many different tickets on offer, so make sure you select the correct one when ordering.

Regular – €180 (early bird)
Regular tickets for €180 are available for individuals.

Community – €75 (early bird)
If you are a member of the volunteer OSM community, you can get your SotM ticket for a special discounted price of €75.

Supporter – €700 (early bird)
For those businesses who want to help support the SotM but cannot sponsor, we offer the supporter ticket costing €700.

Included in your ticket

  • entrance for one person to the social dinner and
  • use of local public transport in Heidelberg (VRN), so you don’t have to worry about paying for public transport each time you use it.

Additional offers

Alongside the regular tickets, we have some extras to offer.

Additional persons to social dinner – €50 per person
If you are bringing more people with you to Heidelberg who are not attending the conference, you can still buy extra tickets for the social dinner. Each one is €50.

Heidelberg Altstadt guided tour – €15
Heidelberg has a very historic city center, and we are pleased to offer a guided tour which will take place in the afternoon of 20th September, costs €15 per person and will last approximately 3 hours.

We will be happy to see you in Heidelberg.

Get your ticket

SotM Organising Committee

Sign up for event updates and follow us @sotm!

The State of the Map conference is the annual, international conference of OpenStreetMap, organised by the OpenStreetMap Foundation. The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in the UK to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project. The State of the Map Organising Committee is one of our volunteer Working Groups.

What is OpenStreetMap
OpenStreetMap was founded in 2004 and is a international project to create a free map of the world. To do so, we, thousands of volunteers, collect data about roads, railways, rivers, forests, buildings and a lot more worldwide. Our map data can be downloaded for free by everyone and used for any purpose – including commercial usage. It is possible to produce your own maps which highlight certain features, to calculate routes etc. OpenStreetMap is increasingly used when one needs maps which can be very quickly, or easily, updated.

OSMF Board face-to face meeting: Suggest the topics and issues that matter to you

CC-BY-SA 4.0 OSM CWG

The OSMF Board is going to have a face-to-face meeting in Brussels later in May for strategy and planning. We very much want to prioritize and focus on topics and issues that matter most to the OpenStreetMap community, so we are requesting your input to help us understand what matters to you personally. 

We have created the following survey, with 3 questions:
https://osmf.limequery.org/489698?lang=en

Thank you for your participation.

What is the OpenStreetMap Foundation
The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in the UK to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation is now an Open Source Initiative affiliate

Image by the Open Source Initiative. License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is actively involved in Open Source community-building, education, and public advocacy to promote awareness and the importance of non-proprietary software. They have approached us last year, asking if we would consider throwing our weight behind that cause by becoming an affiliate.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation board had a vote and decided in favour. The application has now been accepted and OSMF joins the Initiative alongside other affiliates like Creative Commons, DemocracyLab, The Document Foundation and others.

As an OSI affiliate, the board has a delegate who:
– is the main liaison to OSI.
– can participate in OSI Working Groups.
– may nominate and vote for the five Affiliate Member seats on the OSI Board of Directors.
The current delegate is Kate Chapman.

The OSI’s mission is: “The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation with global scope formed to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open source community. Open source enables a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is higher quality, better reliability, greater flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in. One of our most important activities is as a standards body, maintaining the Open Source Definition for the good of the community. The Open Source Initiative Approved License trademark and program creates a nexus of trust around which developers, users, corporations and governments can organize open source cooperation.”

What is OpenStreetMap
OpenStreetMap was founded in 2004 and is a international project to create a free map of the world. To do so, we, thousands of volunteers, collect data about roads, railways, rivers, forests, buildings and a lot more worldwide. Our map data can be downloaded for free by everyone and used for any purpose – including commercial usage. It is possible to produce your own maps which highlight certain features, to calculate routes etc. OpenStreetMap is increasingly used when one needs maps which can be very quickly, or easily, updated, such as ambulance services, fire brigades and humanitarian crises response.

What is the OpenStreetMap Foundation
The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in the UK to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project.

State of the Map 2020 – Call for Venues Open

The call for venues for State of the Map 2020 is now open:

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/State_of_the_Map_2020/Call_for_venues

Assemble your team and propose your city as host for the next OpenStreetMap conference. The State of the Map organising committee helps you. We encourage you to contact us on sotm@openstreetmap.org as early as possible so that we can provide guidance, if required.

Submit your proposal by 15th June 2019.

SotM Organising Committee

Sign up for event updates and follow us @sotm!

The State of the Map conference is the annual, international conference of OpenStreetMap, organised by the OpenStreetMap Foundation. The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in the UK to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project. The State of the Map Organising Committee is one of our volunteer Working Groups.

Spend a Summer of Code with OpenStreetMap!

GSoC Logo (CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The student application period for this year’s Google Summer of Code is currently open!

Are you a student who likes to code? Google Summer of Code offers you the opportunity to spend a couple of months contributing to an open source software project – such as OpenStreetMap – and get paid for it!

In 2019, OpenStreetMap has been selected again as a mentoring organization by Google, continuing eleven years of GSoC experience with many successful participants. Our project ideas page lists a variety of possible tasks which use a broad range of programming languages and technology stacks, and cover topics ranging from work on our search engine to editor software improvements. Plus, you’re not limited to that list of suggestions, so if you’d like to contribute to a project from the OSM ecosystem that’s not listed there, feel free to discuss it with us!

Some pointers for interested students:

  • Choose your (our!) organisation and project idea or even suggest your own idea!
  • Get to know your organisation and mentor
  • Apply and wait to see if you will get selected
  • Community bonding
  • Work hard on your project, pass evaluations
  • Don’t forget to document your code and project

Our project is big and we have a very broad and diverse set of tasks, and project ideas which require an equally diverse set of skills. But one thing is quite common to all of them: You should learn about our database and how mapping is supposed to be performed. So go out and start mapping! Add your local grocery store, your favorite clothes shop or that one bench you love to sit on. No matter what, it’s important to get yourself familiar with OpenStreetMap.

Interested? Read up on how to work with us:

https://wiki.osm.org/GSoC_2019

We encourage you to apply!
Deadline for applications: 9 April 2019, 18:00 UTC

OpenStreetMap wins Free Software Foundation award for projects of social benefit

Kate Chapman, holding the Free Software Foundation 2018 award for projects of social benefit, together with FSF founder and president Richard Stallman, who presented the award during LibrePlanet 2019.
Copyright © 2019 Madi Muhlberg, CC-BY 4.0. Image modified.


OpenStreetMap was selected as the winner of the Free Software Foundation 2018 Award for Projects of Social Benefit. FSF founder and president Richard Stallman – who presented the award during the LibrePlanet 2019 conference in Cambridge, MA – mentioned that:

“it has been clear for decades that map data are important. Therefore we need a free collection of map data. The name OpenStreetMap doesn’t say so explicitly, but its map data is free. It is the free replacement that the Free World needs.”

The award was a custom-made piece of art: a golden-looking record that had on its label the four reasons why OpenStreetMap was nominated. It was accepted on behalf of the OpenStreetMap community by Kate Chapman, who went on to thank the Free Software Foundation and the large community of OpenStreetMap contributors. Kate is the chairperson of the OpenStreetMap Foundation – which supports the OpenStreetMap project – and she presented some key milestones of the project during her Sunday talk

“The FSF’s Award for Projects of Social Benefit honors projects that have taken the ideals of the free software movement and applied them to intentionally and significantly benefit society in other aspects of life. OpenStreetMap’s use of free software, freely shared data, and international grassroots collaboration has massively benefited not only the daily lives of individuals around the world but also saved lives through humanitarian uses like improved disaster response. We all owe OpenStreetMap contributors a debt of gratitude, and the FSF is happy to show our appreciation through this award”, said FSF executive director John Sullivan.

Nominations for the award were collected from the public, and then a committee made up primarily of previous winners voted between them. OpenStreetMap is in good company, with previous winners including Tor, Public Lab, SecureDrop, Library Freedom Project, Wikipedia, GNU Health, Creative Commons, the Internet Archive and others. More background information about the award is at https://www.fsf.org/awards/sb-award.

Thanks to all those who contribute to the OpenStreetMap project –
the award belongs to you!



2019-03-30 The post was updated to reflect that the award had on its label the four reasons why OpenStreetMap was nominated, and not the Free Software’s Four Freedoms, as initially mentioned.

What is OpenStreetMap
OpenStreetMap was founded in 2004 and is a international project to create a free map of the world. To do so, we, thousands of volunteers, collect data about roads, railways, rivers, forests, buildings and a lot more worldwide. Our map data can be downloaded for free by everyone and used for any purpose – including commercial usage. It is possible to produce your own maps which highlight certain features, to calculate routes etc. OpenStreetMap is increasingly used when one needs maps which can be very quickly, or easily, updated, such as ambulance services, fire brigades and humanitarian crises response.

What is the OpenStreetMap Foundation
The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in the UK to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project.

What is the Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software — particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants — and free documentation for free software.

What is LibrePlanet
LibrePlanet is an annual conference hosted by the Free Software Foundation for free software enthusiasts and anyone who cares about the intersection of technology and social justice. LibrePlanet brings together software developers, law and policy experts,activists, students, and computer users to learn skills, celebrate free software accomplishments, and face challenges to software freedom.

The EU Copyright Directive threatens OpenStreetMap

The EU Copyright Directive threatens OpenStreetMap and our freedom on the internet. Please join the protest!

  • If you are not located in the EU please spread the word!
  • If you are located in the EU:

The German OpenStreetMap community explains below the possible impacts of Article 13 of the new EU Copyright Directive on OpenStreetMap. Source: https://www.openstreetmap.de/uf/en.html (with minor modifications)

On 26 March 2019, the European Parliament will vote for a third time on the new EU Copyright Directive. Article 13 of the new directive will de-facto force content platforms to filter uploaded contributions by their users. If a platform does not prevent uploading of copyright-protected content in accordance with “high industry standards of professional diligence” (i.e. upload filters), the operator of the platform is liable for copyright violations of their users. The new rules can be met by the large platforms, such as Google, Youtube and Facebook. Small, independent and free platforms like OpenStreetMap would be forced to introduce such filters or face catastrophic liability. This threatens our project.

The European Parliament passed the bill on 12 September 2018 despite noticeable civil society protest. Since then, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and representatives of the parliament, negotiated a compromise. It is expected that the parliament will vote on the compromise in the last week of March. We think that passing the bill would harm the OpenStreetMap and many other small and medium-sized platforms – regardless of whether they are commercial or not. If OpenStreetMap had to invest more resources on pre-filtering content than on anything else, the project would be a shadow of its former self. If nothing changes, a dark future awaits us.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation, FOSSGIS e.V. – the official local chapter in Germany – and OpenStreetMap France – the official local chapter in France – campaign for free map data. We usually do so in financial and technical matters but sometimes we are forced to become active in politics to defend the project.

But the directive does not mention upload filters, does it?

The term is not used in the current version of the draft. But operators of platforms will be liable for copyright violations of their users if they do not meet the following conditions:

  1. They must have made “best efforts” to get a licence to use the uploaded content.
  2. They must have made best efforts to ensure that their platform does not publish content if copyright holders have provided them with the necessary information.
  3. If they are informed about a copyright violation, they have to remove the content, or disable access to them, immediately.

Until now, platforms were excepted from strict liability if they reacted immediately to a notification of a copyright violation. This new directive would force platforms to use either upload filters or review all contributions manually. Upload filters are the “high industry standard of professional diligence”. For example, Google uses them on Youtube.

What’s the problem with upload filters?

Upload filters have a number of issues for small and medium sized and/or free and independent platforms like OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia:

  • These filters do not work as reliably as required. Even now, and definitely under the new directive, they tend to be too zealous, by erring on the side of caution and excluding more than they should.
  • The operators of small and medium sized platforms will be forced to purchase the filter technology from large companies to keep up with the current state of filtering technology. This gives more power, and money, to large companies, centralising their power even more.
  • The rules will affect any website where users can upload copyrighted content. These are not only social networks but blogs with comments and forums as well. Small and new platforms lack the required financial resources to buy the filters. They will be exempted from the first and second condition (attempt to get a license and prevent uploads of copyrighted contents) if their annual turnover is below EUR 10 million and they are less than 3 years old. But three years is a short time. If the number of users exceeds 5 million, condition 3 (prevent re-upload of illegal content) must be met.

The directive aims to oppose the business model of big US companies. Indeed, the business model of Google and others is not always well aligned with public interests, but the directive will harm small and medium sized competitors, not the large ones.

Why do upload filters harm OpenStreetMap?

The OpenStreetMap project emphasises openness. Map changes by all users, new and experienced, are applied immediately and are provided to all other data processors immediately. The map is always as up to date as possible.

Upload filters are very impracticable for multiple reasons:

  • OpenStreetMap records the reality as it is. Other map data providers do the same. If OpenStreetMap compared the submissions with other datasets, many false positives would occur. Our data is if it is correct, very similar to the data of other map providers. A road in OpenStreetMap has the same curves, the same name, the same speed limit.
  • If a user uploads changes which are rejected by a filter, these changes have to be rejected as soon as possible. This requires the time of our volunteers, who would like to improve the map rather than checking whether a filter returned a false positive.
  • If a rejected contribution and a contribution of another user edit the same object in the database, a editing conflict occurs. They cannot be solved automatically because our world is too complex. Some conflicts are not that obvious: If two users add the same recently erected building, the two of them create a new object. In reality, this is a building recorded twice in our data.
  • If an edit by a new contributor is rejected by the filter although the edit is fine, the contributor becomes demotivated due to a lack of positive feedback.
  • The development, setup and optimisation of the filter requires a large amount of work from our volunteer software developers. Maybe we will have to spend money to purchase services. Both the work of our volunteers and the donations and membership fees are precious limited resources which can be better spent elsewhere to take our project forward.

There is an exception for Wikipedia, isn’t there?

It is not clear whether the “Wikipedia exemption” would be valid for OSM and even Wikipedia does not feel confident: María Sefidari Huici, member of the board of Wikimedia Foundation, calls the proposed changes a threat for the living and free internet. The Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation behind Wikipedia, doubts that this exemption satisfies their requirements. We share these doubts.

The directive has to be implemented in national law by EU member states. The implementation will not be the same among the countries. Some differences are possible. In some countries, terms like “commercial” and “business-like” are interpreted very strictly. Our data is used in commercial environments a lot. There are many companies using our data and contributing back to OpenStreetMap by developing software or paying their own data contributors – or just by making OSM available to the broad public. If OpenStreetMap becomes harder to use for commercial data purposes, due to these new restrictions, it will harm all of us.

What can I do to oppose the directive?

There are multiple options to become active:

  • Sending emails to MEPs is not useful or effective. It is likely that would be treated as spam and/or boost the (false) impression put forward by some advocates of the directive that the folks against the directive are “Google’s bots”.
  • You can phone your MEP and try to convince them. savetheinternet.info/contact-your-mep provides phone numbers and a filter by country of origin.
  • Our number one request is that you join a protest. Join one of the many demonstrations or organise one yourself. There is a day of action in more then 30 cities all over Europe on 23 March. Dates and locations can be found at savetheinternet.info.

The web site saveyourinternet.eu provides suggestions and support to get in touch with members of the European Parliament. If we succeed in explaining to enough MEPs that upload filters as described in article 13 are a bad idea, the Parliament can reject the article or the whole proposal.

Press contact

Enquiries can be answered by the Communication Working Group at press@osmfoundation.org. As the Working Group members are volunteers, we invite you first to use your favorite search engine to see if your question has been answered in our forum or mailing lists. You can also ask your questions on the forum (OpenStreetMap account required for log-in), our mailing lists and in our chat rooms.

What is OpenStreetMap
OpenStreetMap was founded in 2004 and is a international project to create a free map of the world. To do so, we, thousands of volunteers, collect data about roads, railways, rivers, forests, buildings and a lot more worldwide. Our map data can be downloaded for free by everyone and used for any purpose – including commercial usage. It is possible to produce your own maps which highlight certain features, to calculate routes etc. OpenStreetMap is increasingly used when one needs maps which can be very quickly, or easily, updated, such as ambulance services, fire brigades, humanitarian development and humanitarian crises response.

What is the OpenStreetMap Foundation
The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in the UK to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project.

Source: https://www.openstreetmap.de/uf/en.html with minor modifications