Category Archives: copyright

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

Updated OSMF Trademark Policy


The OpenStreetMap Foundation has updated its Trademark Policy, as per January 1st 2018. The revised policy is the work of the OSMF volunteer Licensing Working Group.

Read the updated Trademark Policy

The OpenStreetMap magnifying glass logo. One of the marks covered by the new trademarks policy

Why does OpenStreetMap have marks?

The OpenStreetMap marks represent OpenStreetMap and its work to bring open map data to the entire world. When users see the OpenStreetMap name and logo, they should be confident that they are looking at a high quality map that is the result of the rigorous and comprehensive collaboration process of OpenStreetMap. Trademark protection helps reinforce that connection.

What are the goals of this trademark policy?

The goodwill supporting the OpenStreetMap marks has been generated by a prolific and passionate volunteer community. The OpenStreetMap Foundation has prepared this policy to preserve and protect that goodwill by ensuring that uses of the marks are consistent with OpenStreetMap’s mission and promote the OpenStreetMap movement.

How is this trademark policy different from most trademark policies?

This trademark policy seeks to make trademark licensing as easy as possible for the contributors who created OpenStreetMap, by making explicit that many uses do not require a trademark licence, and by empowering them to use OpenStreetMap’s marks without a trademark licence for community-focused events and outreach work. The OpenStreetMap Foundation hopes that this helps spread OpenStreetMap and encourage contribution while also ensuring that the mark remains a reliable signal of quality.

The updated Trademark Policy has information on:

  • How to use the OSM marks
  • When you may use the OSM marks without asking us
  • Special uses that require permission
  • Prohibited uses
  • Unauthorised use

Some of the updates:

Offer to register domain names for informal local groups

The OpenStreetMap Foundation now offers to register domain names for informal local groups. Once a domain has been registered, it will point to the groups website as long as the terms of the trademark policy are followed and this can be done without causing conflicts with other user groups. Please note that this is intended for informal local groups, not Local Chapters. Please read the Trademark Policy for more details.

Events and conferences

Please read the Trademark Policy if you are interested in organising an OpenStreetMap related event or Conference.

Questions?

If you are not sure whether your use is in compliance with this policy or local trademark laws please don’t hesitate to contact OSMF at trademarks@osmfoundation.org

Join the legal-talk mailing list

The legal-tallk mailing list is focused on the discussion of all legal matters relating to OpenStreetMap, including licensing and copyright. Join or view the archives at https://lists.openstreetmap.org/listinfo/legal-talk

About the Licencing Working Group

The Licencing Working Group is one of the seven volunteer Working Groups of the OSM Foundation, focused on the promotion of open geospatial data through practical, coherent and clear licensing. If you find that interesting we invite you to join us – just mail us at legal@osmfoundation.org

Google’s Data Liberation Front and aerial imagery

Data Liberation Front

Google have a couple of really enlightened guys called the “Data Liberation Front“. Their role is to make it easy for people to get their data out of Google – rather than it being locked in.

Usually, people are locked in by the lack of an export feature, or an obscure file format. In mapping, people are locked in by licences.

In Google Maps’ case, you can create your own work by tracing over aerial imagery. But you can’t use this work elsewhere, because of the licences and terms of use. (The phrase “derived work” usually crops up around now.)

At the Society of Cartographers’ Summer School last week, there was a great workshop on making a mashup from Google imagery – but when the question arose about taking the data out of Google and using it elsewhere… well, then things got a little hazy.

Google could fix this by saying that tracing from their imagery is ok – just like Yahoo have done. Or, alternatively, they could give us a clear “no”. Right now no-one really knows where they stand.

The Data Liberation Front ask people to vote for their favourite suggestions. We’ve added this as a suggestion and, at the time of writing, it has 585 votes – over four times the next most popular.

You can vote by going to http://url.ie/2ero. OpenStreetMap has shown the way in liberating geodata – maybe it’s time that some of these other guys caught up.

The licence: where we are, where we’re going

Ever since OpenStreetMap was founded three years ago, the licence has been one of the most debated aspects of the project.

At present, every OSM contributor agrees that their contributions can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution/ShareAlike licence, version 2 (CC-BY-SA 2.0, for short). This means:

  • Anyone can copy OSM data.
  • But if you incorporate it into something else, that “something else” also has to be copiable under the same terms and conditions (ShareAlike).
  • When you copy it, you have to give credit to the copyright owner (Attribution).

It seems uncontroversial on first glance. But, as ever with things legal, the devil is in the detail. Do you have to give credit to ten thousand different mappers named individually, or just to “OpenStreetMap”? Does “incorporating it into something else” include adding extra layers of info over the top, as in a map mashup?

These, and similar questions, have kept the subscribers to our legal-talk mailing list happily arguing for over a year now. Many of the problems arise because Creative Commons (the “CC” of our licence), as the name suggests, is largely concerned with “creative works” – music, literature, art, and so on. OpenStreetMap, on the other hand, produces data: a factual, uncontroversial recording of the world around us.

When OSM started, we were on our own. No other website had a significant corpus of user-generated, publicly-licensed data. Few had open data of any sort. So it’s not surprising that no obvious licence was available.

Today, the situation is a little brighter. Open data is recognised as a fast-growing movement – and fortunately, this means that those with talents in drafting licences are applying their knowledge to the same problems we’ve run up against.

The situation today

As the elected OpenStreetMap Foundation, we’ve been discussing this in our board meetings for the past few months.

We are aware there are serious risks in continuing as we are. Partly this is out of a desire to do better: if a substantial number of people are unhappy with the licence, we want to see if we can find a solution that also satisfies those who are happy with the status quo.

Most importantly, though, there is a strong body of legal opinion that our existing licence is not valid (for our purposes) in most of the world. Creative Commons bases its licences on copyright. In Europe, however, geographical data is principally protected by database right, and in the States, the only available protection is contractual. OSM data is potentially in a curious unlicensed limbo at the moment, which will not protect us if a major geodata company, for example, decides to take our data without respecting the intent of the licence. (See here for a EU angle, here for a US angle; for Creative Commons’ position, see the third paragraph here, and here at §5.2.)

As the Foundation, we do not control the project, but we look out for its best interests. So we would be negligent if we did not look for alternatives.

Finding a way forward

So here are the presumptions that we have brought to our work:

  1. We need to consider alternatives to CC-BY-SA 2.0 for future licensing of OSM data.
  2. At heart, to gain widespread community acceptance, the licence needs to give our database the same three basic licensing elements (freely copiable; share-alike; attribution required) as it has at present.
  3. It must acknowledge the reality that we are one database with many contributors.

Of course, it goes without saying that any recommendation we make must have the best interests of the project and the community at heart – however hard that might be for any of us who have our own strongly-held views on the matter.

The Creative Commons approach

Through its Science Commons initiative, Creative Commons has recently published a “protocol” on open access data. Its primary focus is scientific data.

Its approach is unusual. It mandates that all such data be placed in the public domain, with no share-alike or attribution clause. Instead, these requirements should be expressed as a “non-legally binding set of citation norms”. In other words – the data provider can ask that those using the data share-alike and give attribution, but cannot insist on it.

Why is this the case? In the protocol, Creative Commons restates the problem that copyright simply does not apply universally to factual information. “Many users choose to apply common-use licenses such as the GPL and CC in order to declare their intent […] But a user would be able to extract the entire contents (to the extent those contents are uncopyrightable factual content) and republish those contents without observing the copyleft or share-alike terms. The data provider, based on our research, is likely to feel ‘tricked’ by this outcome. That is not a desired result.”

This is an accurate summary of the situation. However, their solution – putting all the data into the public domain – is unpalatable to some OSM contributors. Here’s why.

In the science world, for which this protocol is intended, citation is an everyday part of life. Learned articles will always cite those whose work they are building on, and will be disregarded by peers if they don’t. When Science Commons speak of a “non-legally binding set of citation norms”, they can do so in the expectation that these norms will be respected. SC’s John Willbanks says as much in this interesting post: “It seemed we had to think about taking all these social goals and moving them outside the legal world, and into the world that scientists controlled – norms.”

That isn’t necessarily the case with geographical data. If a big mapping company like TeleAtlas or Navteq were to use OSM contributors’ work in their data, there’s no commercial imperative for them to credit us – let alone to make the rest of their data available on our terms. Our work will be used outside the world that we control.

Other OSM contributors say “so what?”, reasoning that the low cost, high quality and regular updates of free data will always win out over the commercial product. But even those with such views (among whom I personally count myself) do acknowledge that they’re not held universally within the community, making a licence on those terms unlikely to be adopted by all.

The alternative

So if Creative Commons’ existing licence may not be valid, and their new licence is unlikely to be palatable to many OSM contributors, where do we go from here?

The most promising answer, so far, is provided by the Open Data Commons project. The ODC is principally the work of two lawyers, Jordan Hatcher and Charlotte Waelde, specialists in intellectual property law as applied to electronic content and with significant geographical expertise. They have worked with Creative Commons (indeed, the open access data protocol is largely their work), and have been generously sponsored by scientific data firm Talis.

As well as the public domain dedication that they have provided for Creative Commons, they also drafted a pair of licences (the Open Data Commons Database Licence and the Open Data Commons Factual Info Licence) which together provide a set of provisions particularly suitable for OSM data. Key points include:

  • The database is protected by share-alike (ODCD 4.4).
  • Attribution to the project is required (ODCD 4.2b).
  • The licence works through copyright, database right and contract, making it applicable across different jurisdictions (ODCD preamble).
  • The extent of share-alike is expressly stated (ODCD 4.5).

In other words, the licence retains the fundamentals of OSM licensing – freely copiable, share-alike required, and attribution required; is unambiguously valid for data; and provides definite answers to those questions of interpretation (such as who to attribute and how far sharealike extends).

Where now?

Work on the ODC Database Licence and Factual Info Licence has unavoidably been slowed down by the Creative Commons public domain project. But both Jordan Hatcher and the project’s sponsors Talis have assured us that work is going ahead, and that a new revision will be available in the near future. As Jordan writes on his blog, “the Open Data Commons Database Licence and the Factual Information Licence are on hold during development of the new legal tools (the PDDL and Community Norms) but not forgotten.”

Paul Miller at Talis has already kindly given us his time to discuss the licence and we hope to meet with Jordan as the project moves on.

If the Foundation then believes that the licence is settled enough to be considered a viable option for OSM, we will recommend to the contributors – you – that we adopt this as the new licence going forward, for both existing and new data. We can’t change anything without you. You, not the Foundation, own the rights to your mapping.

The ideal situation would be that the ODC licences are suitable, and that not just the Foundation, but everyone involved in OSM agrees. If that’s the case, then we can publish the new terms without significant loss of existing data. If there are major objections, of course, we will either withdraw the proposal entirely, or weigh up the dangers of retaining the existing licence against the potential withdrawal of data. We are hopeful that the ODC licences are sufficiently in tune with the “spirit of OpenStreetMap” that this will not arise, but need to be alert to the possibility.

OSM isn’t just “open” in name – we believe in openly discussing the matters affecting the future direction of the project. If you have concerns or, conversely, would like to express your support, then please do discuss it on the mailing lists or forum; or, as at any time, contact any of the Foundation board (Corey Burger, Etienne Cherdlu, Steve Coast, Michael Collinson, Richard Fairhurst, Mikel Maron, Andy Robinson), or e-mail us collectively at team@osmfoundation.org.

Fixing “the licence problem” might be something that many have thought impossible, but we are hopeful that if we really want to resolve it, we can find a solution that will benefit OpenStreetMap and stand us in good stead for the years to come.

— Richard Fairhurst

The OSM mailing lists (a quiet one..)

Well, when I say quiet, I mean the discussions were focused pretty well on a few topics..

The thing that caused most discussion this week was was about using the Yahoo! imagery in JOSM. Looks like it was a just-over-the-edge case for the license, so OSMers have stepped back from the edge while it’s use is clarified, puzzled on exactly what is the edge, and meanwhile continue to use it in the applet. It’s also prompted some healthy discussion on other sources of imagery from renting time on a satellite, to finding friendly pilots. (this paragraph might qualify for the ‘understatement of the month’ award!).
An exciting development on licensing was posted by SteveC – Queensland, Australia is/are? considering creative commons licensing for geodata! Read the thread for details! Richard Fairhurst has given a number of useful pointers.
The improving look of coastlines has been under discussion started by David Groom. People are keen to make them look good & there has been discussion on how to make this happen – having the coastline as one long ‘way’ is a bit of an issue, so other approaches are being discussed.

Superways were brought up again by David Earl (its a fairly regular thing…). The issue is about having a higher level structure above the ‘way’ structure. A ‘way’ represents a single stretch of road (or area) whose properties are all the same. This poses a problem when a road crosses a bridge (for example), as the part of the road over the bridge has to be represented as a separate way to be able to tag it as ‘bridge=yes’. Although its not a problem as such, there is no agreed method method to group these elements together to say ‘look, we know all these bits of road have different attributes, but really they are all the same road!’. There is inertia to move forward on this because of the changes that will need to be made to many areas in OSM (the editors, the database, theXML, and not least agreeing what ‘ superways’ give!). Hidden in the discussion were some juicy tips on JOSM – there is a lot of functionality in JOSM that’s not readily apparent. You can find out much information on way segments with the correct vulcan death grip on the keyboard!
On Dev Jochan Topf has reminded that there’s a developers workshop being held in Essen, Germany in a couple of weeks. If you ‘d like to join in, add your name here. It also looks like there might be a UK dev workshop, but nothings been firmed up yet.
Its good to see the newbies list is active. Don’t be shy – feel free to ask questions. You’ll be sure to get a friendly response.

Now, how did the Sheffield mapping party go?

by Barry Crabtree.

The Pragmatic Mapper (part deaux)

My pragmatic mapper post brought some interesting responses so I thought I’d outline it a bit more.

First, the title is a riff on The Pragmatic Programmer, a neat book.

It’s also an explicit riff on Linus Torvalds explicit pragmatism and differences of opinion with the more political FSF. The FSF is freedom for freedoms sake, Linus is freedom because it’s just better. I like the latter.

On the points of does the OS matter, generally, for some value of matter. Of course they do. They’re much like Microsoft. They’re a monopoly, they have lots of money and giggly lawyers and everyone hates them. They also have maps of the whole country. But do they matter to me, personally, or many OSMers? No. The political side and bringing down The Man doesn’t really motivate me. We make OSM because it’s better and cooler.

I do find it interesting that the responders think that a national mapping monopoly is somehow a good thing. I fail to see how this is different from a national monopoly on tea bags or cars. It seems that the argument is that the OS is relevant because it has lots of data and we could use this (pulls rabbit out of hat) in a flood emergency. Bit of a poor use of a lot of money just for that. Anyway, to respond to points in turn;

…I want someone to organise data cross the entire country. I want to operate a business dependent upon that consistency.

Thats fine, but you don’t need a NMA to do that. You could have regional agencies with individual contracts where an overseer body puts it together. You could, god forbid, use OSM when we’re there. On an economic note, even if you want all that, and you want an NMA that’s fine, just please don’t force me and the 65 million other citizens to pay for it as we might not want it.

…I want to know that environmental policies in the north and south are based on similar data, its analysis and methodology and applied fairly.

Cool, but still don’t need an NMA for it. We have policies in the north and south are based on similar data, its analysis and methodology and applied fairly in schools, hospitals, roads, universities, water, gas, electricity…. most of these just need an overseer not an NMA.

…In the case of an emergency, I want to know someone can put together a river network and all its tributaries and work on solving a hydrological problem effectively, if there is a need.

Still don’t need an NMA for that. Being a bit hardcore, the emotive issues of ‘think of the children!’ or ‘what if we get flooded’… well the insurance market is very clear about that. Don’t live in a flood plain. If you want amazing disaster recovery maps of your area, then pay for it but please don’t force us all to. We might want to, of course, just don’t force us. And Katrina is not a good example, the federal government distorts the market by forcing flood insurance through FEMA. It’s the same argument as keeping rural post offices. If people in the countryside want them, then pay for them. There’s no god-given right to maps and post offices.

…I want someone to survey and record the entire country in case I want to visit other parts, know what is there and understand where I can go.

What do you do when you go to the united states then? The country isn’t falling apart because they have different mapping providers in different parts of the country. I can find my way around Orlando and San Francisco just fine, despite them being thousands of miles apart and one with a map from Hertz and the other from the county sheriff.

…I want an agency who supports governmental operations in a neutral manner with spatial information.

So do I. It need not be a country-wide monopoly. And the OS are far from neutral. By definition they stifle competition and progress, without even waving around OFT reports.

…I want someone responsible for ensuring the education system produces infrastruture and knowledge to people so the geography of the land is know, recorded and stimulated.

University Geography departments would not be impotent without the OS. 11 year olds can still learn about geography without a free map.

I wonder if Openstreetmap honestly feel that they are ready to provide disaster response mapping, or have the resources in place to ensure that their coverage of the entire country is current to within one year or less.

Not yet, but we or someone like us will. And anyway, you don’t need an NMA for disaster response mapping.

It’s perfectly fair for OpenGeoData to think that Openstreetmap suits his mapping needs, but to call it superior, and to say that the Ordnance Survey is irrelevant is a little short-sighted.

Navteq are letting you submit errors and so are teleatlas with map insight. Our way of making maps is most definitely superior and it’s the future.

If you can, listen to this podcast which excellently summarises The Wealth of Networks.

To come back to the original post for a second, really the pragmatic point was to say should we spend our time campaigning against the OS, or just building our own systems and maps? Campaigning for open data from the OS, or change to government policy is just sticky tar. Would we have got anywhere in the past two and a half years by just campaigning? It’s very doubtful. We’d have publicity no doubt and a few more high-placed friends and enemies… but this way we have that and a mapping system, and a community of 5,700 people, and maps of Baghdad, and vast sections of the UK mapped.

I have some idea of what I’m talking about here, as I’ve been involved to varying degree with fipr, no2id and stuff.

But one thing I think would be cool to do is make a map of map charges. The idea is that the OS basically don’t respond to awkward questions through the Freedom of Information Act as they’re commercially sensitive… but if we all write to our councils and ask them then they have to give us at least some idea. My council just sent me a letter with the new council tax bill breaking it down by police, schools and so on.. but not maps. So, we can figure out who’s paying the OS too much or little. It’ll be interesting. What you need to do is find your council website and information freedom officer and write them a letter asking for this stuff. There’s a wiki page with a sample letter to help you get started.

As far as I know this data doesn’t exist anywhere.

This week on the OSM mailing lists

Its been another high-traffic week on the OSM mailing lists, so lets get ready for a whistle-stop tour to the world of OSM.

The legal debate continues, but the focus has shifted to an attempt to aggregate information about Case Law, Statute Law and general legal questions onto the Legal FAQ wiki page. The principal behind this is firstly to gather together information that we can present to a friendly (and perhaps charitable) copyright lawyer and secondly to get information about similar cases. There are a couple of papers that are definitely worth looking at, this one, written by Dr Charlotte Waelde from the AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the University of Edinburgh and this page from the Science Commons website. If reading a journal paper is just too much like hard work, Richard has summarised the main points of the paper here. If direct action is more your thing, some OSM users have been declaring their contributions Public Domain on this wiki page.

If you are new to OSM, Geo and OpenSource projects, there’s probably a lot of things that confuse you. If you are wondering what the difference is between GPX and GPS, head over to the glossary page of the wiki. If there’s a term you want defining, just add it without a definition and someone will update it before too long. There’s also a new mailing list for newbies – sign up here and start asking all those questions that have been bugging you.

There’s been a load of development going on in the OSM commuinty this week. Tom Higgy has written a script that will calibrate OSM image tiles letting you use them with the opensource Treck Buddy navigation software. Take a look at Tom’s work on his site. Next up, Mathew has been working on a new rendering engine that takes OSM data and produces a postscript file, an interesting new take on the rendering issue. The pragmitic developer says; “Maybe there is a use for it, maybe not. I just like hacking PostScript, so this seemed a sensible merge of two enjoyable things…”.

The “Applet” is the editing tool that you use when you click on the “Edit” tab on the OSM website. Its been around since the very beginning of OSM, the first version was written by Steve, the next by Tom Carden, the way support was put in by Imi and inbetween that a few other people have had a hack at it. The Yahoo imagery has prompted a fair bit of development work on the applet. Nick Burch put in some fixes a few weeks ago, and this week Dan Moore has made quite a few bug fixes, including enhanced panning and zooming functions – all of which are now on the live site.

Keith Sharp’s been bussy too, adding a script to extract polygons from the weekly planet dump – useful if you want to extract a particular area of data, rather than load the entire dataset. You can grab a copy here.

My personal “app of the week” is Franciso Santos’ fantastic new Yahoo! imagery plugin for JOSM. Download the plugin from here, then fire up JOSM and get ready for some productive mapping. The plugin works by caching image tiles via Firefox and then loading the image into JOSM – get more info here.


Putney Bridge as seen using the JOSM Yahoo! plugin

The tagging discussions have continued this week too. One problem that’s been identified is that there is currently no way to distinguish a tube station from another type of railway station. Currently we tag railway stations with:

railway=station

Robert “Jamie” Munro’s not happy though, “that’s just wrong”, he says, and he has a point. After all a railway station is not part of the railway, and so shouldn’t be tagged with “key: railway”. One suggestion is to allow multiple tags with the same key, something like:

railway=rail;subway;tramway

Whilst this is supported by XML, it is not currently supported by the OSM API. You can follow discussions about tagging and the OSM ontology here. There are a load of new proposed features that you can vote on this week too- take a look at this wiki page and have your say.

As the amount of data in the OSM database grows, and as the uses of OSM data become more sophisticated and diverse, the underlying data structure will become increasingly important. The idea of “superways” is not a new one, but David Earl has brought the matter to light this week, largely in response to mailing list discussions about tagging motorway junctions. David’s proposal is firstly to introduce the idea of a “superway” as a higher level structure on top of the existing ways, as well as encouraging the API and editors to enforce the existing “rules” of ways (they are contiguous, ordered, unidirectional, non-branching sets of segments). David sees several advantages of the proposed scheme; a road in a housing estate that has numerous branches for example, can be grouped as one object, likewise a complex road junction which is not a single node or a roundabout could also be represented as one object.

Basically all we’re trying to do is assign tags to groups of ways without having to do it to each way, or have an easy method of selecting multiple ways – John McKerrell

There are several strands to this debate, but primarily there is the need to represent real-world objects in the OSM database and however this is done it will involve some level of abstraction. Aled Morris makes a good point that the ability of a renderer to render a particular data-model should not affect the development of that data model. The problem is, that the output of renderers will inevitably affect the way people tag objects and the way people perceive the OSM data model. Nigel Magnay makes the point that whilst you could feasibly tag your way around many situations, this is an inefficient way of dealing with the underlying problem, and what we should be doing modeling the fundamentals properly. Of course different people have different ideas of what the “fundamentals” are and what “properly” is. The herding of cats springs to mind, but then this is all part of OSM’s open, community based way of doing things.

Thats all for this week. With all the new development thats been going on there’s plenty of new toys for every kind of mapper to play with – so get out there (or fire up JOSM) and have some fun.

Another week rolls by on the OSM mailing lists…

Oh, my head hurts. I wasn’t around last weekend to do the roundup so Nick agreed to do it. I mailed him suggesting it was a fairly quiet week. “have you been following Legal-talk?” he asked. “Better subscribe. ” I said. Big mistake! It’s not the quantity of mailings that’s the problem, its the passion, quality & general level of understanding. This is where Baz the Blogger’s head really starts to hurt, I’ll keep it brief:

There are three main debates going on at the moment “Is the share-alike road navigable“, “Moving up the stack“, and “The big license debate“. I don’t pretend to do them justice in this one-sentence-per-subject summary so if the subjects interest you and you want to join in, please take a look at the debate. Thanks to David Groom, SteveC, and Tom Chance for starting off these particular threads.

The share-alike road in one sentence is this. Can the license to OSM data be made so that the people that use and enhance OSM data are obliged to make their enhancements available to OSM. To make this concrete, if someone took the OSM data and, for a particular map they placed street names at ‘good’ locations, they would have to return those locations to OSM. There are also other debates on licensing for derivative works. “The big license debate” discusses the pros and cons of CC vs. PD licenses. Should the data be made public domain – a complete free-for-all, or will CC licensing work? One issue with making the data public domain is that everyone that contributed must state that their work is in the public domain. “Moving up the stack” covers whether OSM should just stick to the data layer or move up in some way – afraid this one made my head really hurt!

It is good to see that the FAQ keeps getting updated. For example, people are naturally keen to see the edits and additions they make appear on the slippy map.  Now you keen peeps can now go to the FAQ to find how to get your freshly edited area updated quickly… then clear your cache, have a nice relaxing meal & come back to see the results of your hard labours (on a good day 🙂 ).

Something weird happened with a question by Franciso Santos posted on “Tagging urban streets” – whats the tagging scheme for roads when you get in the centre of a city. Plenty of discussion to agree the scope of the problem, then Mike Collinson proposed something that seemed to be agreed. Wow! Take a look – it doesn’t happen that often.

It seems to have been a busy week for applications. Or should I say nacient application-lets. OJW announced an atlas generation programme. Richard Fairhust announced a test version of Potlatch, a flash-based editor for OSM data and again OJW let us know about an easy way to generate map jpegs on the fly here, surely these should have a CC license logo on them? Or are they derived works – oh, my head is starting to hurt!

Like most (all?) distributed collaborative projects, OSM is discussed at many levels: on the mailing lists (some that we summarise here, legal, talk, dev, party ) the wiki and IRC. There’s only one thing to say about the IRC channel #osm……  “There be sxpert’s” 😉

Fancy a trip to Spain? Iván (who I’m sure was in rehab) is organising a mapping party in Madrid – why not join in? Oh, and be careful mapping in China.

And finally, you know you’ve got Obsessive Compulsive Open Street Mapping Disorder when “…going to see relatives suddenly sounds interesting…” – too close Dutch! And it just goes on…

Enjoy!
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By Barry Crabtree