Category Archives: copyright

This week’s round-up

The debate surrounding the use and licensing of OSM’s data that was reported in last week’s round-up has continued in earnest this week, resulting in an explosion of traffic on the OSM legal mailing list:

There are several components to the problem. First, there is the issue of copyright. Currently each individual contributor retains the copyright to their contributions. This situation is unlikely to change, as in many countries, such as Germany, it is simply not possible to transfer copyright held by an individual to another body. Next is the issue of the OSM license. All the data held by OSM is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license (CC-by-SA). CC-by-SA means that anyone can use OSM data for anything they like, provided they give attribution to the creator(s) of the data (the guys with the GPS units and bicycles) and providing that they apply the same license to any derivative works that they make and distribute. I think I speak for the whole OSM community when I say that we all want the best free map of the world we can get; how we define freedom and how we get there is another matter. Richard Fairhurst gives his opinion on some of the problems with the current OSM license:

No webmapping company or cartographer will contribute any data back to OSM except through the goodness of their own heart. That’s because CC-SA doesn’t require you to publish the source code, just the final product.

So if a cartographer produces a beautifully illustrated map using OSM data and then redistributes the map, they are required to redistribute it under the CC-by-SA license. This would make selling the derived work very difficult and Richard and others have suggested that this factor will stop cartographers from using OSM’s data in the future. Instead, they will go to organisations from whom they can buy data under licenses that allow them to create works that they can use commercially, effectively bolstering the position of organisations who sell proprietary data. Frederick Ramm and Robert “Jamie” Munro also point out that this scenario contradicts OSM’s stated aim, to produce maps that are free of the “legal and technical restricions” that most geo-data is subject to.

Take another scenario, one in which a big provider of geo-data gets hold of OSM’s data-set, cleans it, augments it and then uses it to produce map tiles. The current CC-by-SA license does not require this organisation to release the augmented data back into theOSM data set , they would only release their finished product. Those who see this as a problem have suggested making a distinction between the source data (a planet dump for example) and a “rendered” work. It is suggested that the source data could be licensed so that any improvements have to be given back to OSM, whilst derived works would not need to be licensed under such a license, allowing more widespread use of OSM data.

This is a very brief round-up of a pretty complex problem that many people have strong opinions about. Whatever the final outcome of the debate is, it is going to play an important part in shaping the future of OSM. We’ll be meeting with some Creative Commons people in the next couple of weeks, so if you have any ideas about licensing, send a mail to the legal list, or take a look at this wiki page, and make sure your opinion is counted.

Almien published a list of interesting tags, based on the most recent Planet dump. One of my personal favourites is “wrong=oh yes!”, with “description=Official home of the President of The Philippines”, coming a close second. After seeing “blackadder:service=cobler” I know where I will be going to get my shoes fixed in the future, after which I can visit “blackadder:cuisine=fish” for a nice bit of seafood.

OSM@home is a project that uses distributed computing power to render SVG images of places from OSM data. You can browse through the different places here. Through the work of Barry Crabtree, J.D. “Dutch” Schmidt and others, the latest OSM@home client post-processes Osmarender data to produce images with beizer curves, like these:

There’s more information about the curve smoothing algorithm here and you can download the OSM@home client from here.

Free-Map – the countryside oriented open mapping project – now have a similar client that allows people to render Free-Map tiles (with really nice looking SRTM contours) at home. If you want to help out, you can get it from here.

The OSM Cartography meet-up on Saturday saw Artem, SteveC, Steve Chilton and Richard Fairhurst spend a few hours going through the Mapnik config file with the aim of improving the cartography produced by Mapnik. About 10 people met up in Oxford afterwards and there was some interesting discussion about cartography in OSM. Steve Chilton and Richard Fairhurst made the point that a lot of the discussions about rendering OSM data focus on getting as much data as possible onto the maps. They pointed out that the secret of cartography is to represent the information that is needed for a particular use case, and had some convincing examples of traditional cartographic products, like maps oriented towards cyclists, that don’t include many features at all, but succeed in conveying the information needed by the cyclist by choosing the most useful features. This is definitely something for OSM’s renderers to think about. As the database gets larger and more diverse, and the demand for cartographic outputs of OSM data gets greater its going to be increasingly important to carefully select the features that are represented on our maps.

Saturday’s “You know you got OCOSMD (Obsessive Compulsive Open Street Mapping Disorder) when….” thread, started by J.D. “Dutch” Schmidt has thrown up some funny suggestions, along the lines of “…when you read other peoples gpx files as blogs” or “… You forget to pick the girlfriend up from work, but remember the GPS”. It would be so much funnier if it wasnt so painfully true. There’s definitely a fair amount of obsessiveness in the OSM community. I’ve always found that you appreciate things a lot more when you start trying to do or make them for yourself – thats certainly the way its been for me with mapping. Thomas Walraet reported on a French project that’s taking the do-it-yourself ethos to the extreme, making their own GPS circuit boards:

The boards retail for around €100, with the board’s manurfacturers making no profit. More information is available in French, here.

Thats all for this week, keep tuned to OpenGeoData for all latest news from the world of Open Mapping.

Map licensing, a view from the inside

An interesting post on the view from inside on licensing data.

If this data was owned collectively (that is to say, was not owned at all) and such basic factual documents were not seen as money making opportunities we would have so many advantages. Instead, we have a situation where hundreds of hours are being wasted simply because of outdated business models sadly adopted by our government. On top of this, such restrictions are stifling innovation. Google Maps may be able to afford to licence the OS data but the average bedroom developer cannot and so there is a less than optimal level of development in this area.

FOSS4G – First Report

The FOSS4G conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, is almost over. There has been a lot of talk about Free, Open, geo-data and quite a lot of interest in OpenStreetMap. Much of the interest is generated from the restrictive geo-data licensing that we are all too familiar with – it seems that people across the world share the same problems with accessing data. There is also an interesting case of “grass is always greener” that exists between people in the USA (where the government provide basic geo-data for free) and most of the rest of the world where we pay for the map data. The US representatives point out how crude their geo-data is, and also that private geo-data vendors supply data under licenses that are equally as restrictive as those of the Ordnance Survey or other European mapping agencies.

So there is a lot of discontent within the Geo and wider community, which catalyses projects like OpenStreetMap and is also drawing the attention of larger organisations. OSGeo have had a massive presence at the conference. They are an organisation that have been recently set up to support open source geospatial software – products like GRASS, Mapserver and GDAL are all benifitting from their assiciation with OSGeo. In a discussion session about open geodata, OSGeo expressed a lot of itnerest in helping grass roots projects, possibly by providing legal advice or by providing contact with a wider community and also by providing representation Governments and administrators who pull the strings. They are definitely worth taking a look at.

OSGeo themselves are partially supported by Autodesk, who have just made the move into Open Source with their Map Guide Open Source product. For a proprietery software house like Autodesk to release an open source project may have been unimaginable a few years ago and demonstrates the turning of the open source software tide. How long will it be until the open geo-data tide turns the same way?

Nick

Google Maps vs Mapstraction, pt II

This was going to be part of an earlier post, but should now stand alone.

When we’re not working on free geodata creation for OpenStreetMap, we like to make the best of the current free beer commercial mapping APIs to make neat things like GPX viewers and pub maps. In the light of some of the more amazing Google Maps mashups out there (here’s a recent decent), these sites might seem underwhelming, but if you consider how quickly they could (or couldn’t) have been put together a year ago then it’s clear that thanks to Google Maps we’ve come a very long way.

Tim O’Reilly recently asked the Mapping Hacks people, and others, why Google Maps was so much more popular than all the other APIs available. Schuyler pretty much nailed it, though after my Mapstraction research I think he’s too generous towards Yahoo and Microsoft.

I note with disappointment that neither Yahoo nor MS offer polyline support, which leaves my desired cross-vendor demo of a GPX viewer dead in the water. It also means that anyone requiring that functionality for drawing routes or boundaries is stuck with Google for the time being. Ironically for Google however, their recently developed open source Explorer Canvas might offer a cross-platform way for Y! and MS to compensate for this. Further disappointment with alternatives to Google Maps comes with the realisation that Yahoo’s maps only cover North America so far (although I was pleasantly surprised to find Microsoft is the only provider to give any road or placename data outside of North America, UK and Japan).

Microsoft’s Virtual Earth SDK feels clunky to code with, shirking the fashionable javascript idioms which help make Yahoo and Google‘s offerings feel elegant, and their API is completely malnourished with regards to easily placing nice looking map pins. Sure, it might be flexible, but Google and Yahoo’s offerings look good out of the box which is really important. (The same can be said of the developer documentation, too).

Whilst looking at all of this I took a look at OpenStreetMap’s slippy maps interface to see if I could allow plotting of pins. Unfortunately, although the Civicmaps code base we started with supports plotting GeoRSS, it looks like in the process of adding in support for Mercator projection that the marker features were broken. This means that for an OpenStreetMap-powered javascript maps implementation you can put on any website, there is still lots of work to do. However, following this exercise I’ve discovered that if anyone wants to seriously compete with Google in this space, then we all have a lot of catching up to do too!

Tom

Podcast: Ed Parsons

One of the cool things about wordpress 2.0 is that you can drop an mp3 in to it and it magically becomes a podcast, including the RSS feed bits (so yes, you can subscribe to this feed in iTunes). I thought it would be useful to talk to people within openstreetmap and slightly further afield in the geo community as openstreetmap grows beyond everyone knowing each other. If you have a story to tell please get in touch, it’s likely I might ask to talk to you anyway 🙂 You can discuss this cast, and maybe help transcribe it if that’s useful here. The first cast is me speaking to Ed Parsons who is CTO of the OS and says some pretty intersting things, but has detractors. You can find the 21Mb mp3 here. Enjoy.

freeourdata gets wings

The Guardian campaign has hit liftoff rather quickly with a site and blog. I wrote a response which turned in to a bit of commentary to the OSM mailing list:

FAQ entry:

‘Wouldn’t it be better to create an open-source database of geographic and other data?

Much though we admire the stoicism of the people at XXX, when you compare it to the Post Office’s thousands of postcodes – which it has to verify – and the Ordnance Survey’s billion-odd bits of data, which would cost perhaps £200m in taxes to keep updated to their present quality – that is, about £4 per taxpayer per year – you have to say that it makes more sense to free the existing data than to reinvent the wheel. It’s a very large wheel.’

This misses the point of what’s useful. We don’t have to have millions of postcodes to be useful. We don’t need to know where trees are to the milimeter to create a map that’s 99% useful. Even Ed was saying this, I think, when he was saying that what OSM is doing is not the same as what the OS is. To the best of my knowledge the OS leaves streetmap work to mastermap derivation by third parties. They do mastermap.

It also misses that OSM and FTP are collaborative efforts with social and innovative technological angles.

If the campaign is about money then as a friend said the other day, let an economist decide IP law. There is no ‘right way’ to do government IP policy. The US has public domain, we have crown copyright, others have others. public domain is not magically better, it’s worse in lots of ways than, say, viral licenses like CC. I’ll leave the BSD vs. GPL argument.

But again, some economists should decide the IP law. Not the rightsholders (the OS) or us as consumers because we’re equally biased. What’s the overall benefit to the UK economy? That’s the question.

Personally, having been involved in campaigns, I think it’s going to take *ages* to have any effect. This will stir up a hornets nest. The OS may be big and evil, but as people said on Ed’s blog (I think): the treasury isn’t going to pay for this. They’ll privatise the OS if anything. Then what? Then we’re all suddenly competing with someone who has all the data, most of the expertise, and no need to play nice. Because I think at the moment they _do_ play nice with some people, compared to their options should they be privatised.

This is not an argument that the debate is pointless or that the ‘campaign’ should not be supported, but that we should be careful what we wish for. Oh, and that we shouldn’t dismiss the people at XXX.

So personally, I’d avoid polarising this issue about public domain vs. crown copyright. My personal judgment is that I will have more effect on the availability of free mapping data by working on and promoting OSM than lobbying europarl or within Westminster.

OpenStreetMap is way bigger than me though. I could spend time lobbying. What does everyone think? Are these seperate parallel inititives or more closely intertwined?