Category Archives: Legal

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.


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

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

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

Use of CC BY 4.0 licensed data in OpenStreetMap

CC spotlight photo CC-BY Timothy Vollmer

After careful consideration and consultation with Creative Commons, we have decided to continue our regime of asking for explicit permission for use in OpenStreetMap from licensors of CC BY databases and data.

Although OpenStreetMap is largely created by volunteers that go out and map their neighbourhoods, we have often used external datasets to improve the map, either for cross-checking or more directly integrating the data. Many of these datasets are released on CC BY (Creative Commons Attribution) terms and that makes interoperability between these licences and our distribution licence, the ODbL 1.0, an important consideration for any use of such data in OSM.

Both the 2.0 and 3.0 versions of the CC BY (Creative Commons Attribution) licence have been popular with government and other sources for a long time. Due to differences between CC BY and the ODbL with respect to attribution, the LWG (OSMF Licence/Legal Working Group) has always required explicit permission from licensors to use such data in OpenStreetMap and attribute by adding an entry to our attribution pages on our central websites.

CC BY 4.0 is a revision of the original CC BY license with provisions for handling database rights and simpler language. You can see a summary of differences between the licenses here. The new version is becoming increasingly popular with potential data sources and we have received multiple requests to make a statement on compatibility of CC BY 4.0 licensed databases and data with the ODbL. For these reasons the LWG started, late last year, an effort to review the licence and to provide guidance to our contributors on the suitability of CC BY 4.0 material for OSM.

There had been some hope that CC BY 4.0 sources would be directly compatible with the ODbL. But while neither CC nor the OSMF has undertaken a complete compatibility analysis, we have identified at least one  point of incompatibility and one possible challenge regarding attribution that lead us to our decision to continue to ask for explicit permission to use BY 4.0-licensed material in the OSM project. This is the best path forward.

The reasons for this decision are twofold: CC BY 4.0 allows some more flexibility in how a licensee can attribute the original source and many people have suggested that our indirect attribution mechanism already fulfills the requirements of BY 4.0. However the OSMF believes that licensors of BY 4.0 material may be surprised by this and that we should, for courtesy and good form reasons, continue to ask for explicit permission to attribute via our websites.

The 2nd reason is that the CC BY licences contain a strict prohibition on distributing so licensed material with DRM-enabled media/transport. The ODbL contains a similar restriction, but allows parallel distribution of “Derivative Databases” as a way to fulfill the obligation for unrestricted access. Distribution of ODbL “Produced Works” (for example maps) does not even require that.To avoid this incompatibility we will be requiring an explicit waiver of the prohibition on applying Technological Effective Measures (as defined in the license) found in Section 2a5B of CC  BY 4.0.

To make obtaining the required permissions easier for everybody involved we have prepared a cover letter and a waiver form and a similar document for obtaining the necessary waivers for the 2.0 and 3.0 versions of CC BY. Please do not forget that imports need to follow our Import Guidelines and that having legal permission is just one of the required steps for a successful project using third party data.

I would like to thank Creative Commons, in particular Diane Peters for the support during this process and Kathleen Lu from Mapbox for drafting the cover letters and waiver forms.

Simon Poole – For the OSMF Licence Working Group


The “PD checkbox”

If you signtickbox-distorteded up for an OSM account after May 2010 you may have noticed a check box with the label

“in addition to the above agreement, I consider my contributions to be in the Public Domain”.

Many years ago when the discussion started on the new licence for OSM data, one of the larger issues was if we should not adopt a very liberal (as in free) stance and use something close to a public domain distribution instead of the share-alike provisions we had in the existing CC by-SA licence. In the end, as you know, last year we switched to a licence with strong share-alike provisions, the ODbL, We did however add the “PD checkbox” in an attempt to span the gap between the two camps.

Unluckily what ticking the box would actually imply was, and continues to be, rather unclear; interpretations range from participating in an informal survey to actually giving permission to use the data on PD (or similar) terms. On top of that, at least for some time, there was a design issue with the specific page that potentially led to new contributors selecting the option inadvertently. Not to mention that the explanatory text changed multiple times in different locations.

To make a long story short: it is a mess.

In June MapBox asked the board for a list of the users that had checked the “PD checkbox” on sign up or later, see board minutes 2013-06-20. After some discussion and feedback from the LWG WG minutes 2013-06-25 the board decided to publish overall numbers on the one hand to give an answer to a not unreasonable information request and further to try and lay this issue at least partly to rest:

Data per 19th September 2013

“PD check box selected” all active accounts: 37%

“PD check box selected” active accounts with at least one edit: 44%

As outlined above, the numbers can at best be taken as an indication of sentiment.

If it wasn’t clear from the discussion of the quirky history of the checkbox and the legal uncertainty that surrounds it: this does not imply that an extract could be made from OSM data that contains a substantial amount of “PD” data. Outside of the already mentioned issues, edits from accounts with this flag set are intermingled with edits of those that don’t have it set, and as the statement from the licence working group says: there is no guarantee that a user actually only contributed and continues to only contribute data from sources that are compatible with a PD distribution.

To conclude: while a significant minority of our contributors would prefer a less restrictive licence, and this will not be ignored in future discussions, we are currently obliged to operate within the spirit and letter of our current licence.

2013 Articles of Association Update

At the upcoming Foundation annual general meeting we will be voting on a new set of articles. The articles are essentially the constitution of the organisation and should lay down the law for how we operate.

Why are we revising the articles this year?

It is not uncommon that over time rules imposed by an organisation’s articles start to be at odds with reality, in the case of the OSMF there have even been issues from the beginning. Given that OSM and with it the foundation have become far more visible and important, we can no longer afford to simply ignore the differences that exist between what is prescribed and what is our day to day practice.

The process that has lead to these new proposed articles has been 2-3 years in the making, and not all of the change requests that accumulated over this period have found their way in to this new text. For this reason we expect more changes at the 2014 general meeting. Further, some of the goals we had for the current changes have not been 100% met due to legal restraints. None the less I would strongly recommend that the general meeting accept the new articles, they are far better than what we currently have.

While I cannot relieve you from the task of actually reading the new legal language, I do want to point out the major changes to the current set of documents.

The new text makes a structural change in that it merges our previous two constitutional documents, the Memorandum of Association and the Articles of Association. We have not made any substantial changes to the objects of the foundation even though in discussion it has been suggested that we make them more specific to the OpenStreetMap project. On top of the merger the whole document has been reformatted and numbered to be in line with the requirements of the new 2006 companies act.

The main issue with the current articles is that they assume that all our members are members according to the UK companies act, this requires us to collect full names and postal addresses from all members and make them available to third parties on request. While there are ways to get around publishing the address, we still consider it problematic from a data privacy point of view that we cannot offer an alternative. The new proposal adds a “associate member” class that sidesteps the above issue.

Our original goal was to afford “associate members” exactly the same rights as normal members. This turned out to not be possible with respect to resolutions and special resolutions at the general meetings which remain reserved for the companies act members. In practical terms this means that the “associate members” will not be able to vote on changes of the articles and dissolution of the organisation, and a handful of other topics. The “associate members” will however be able to elect the board and vote on motions at the AGM. You remain free to choose between regular and associate membership. After adoption of the new articles we will be contacting all existing members for instructions with respect to their membership class.

The proposed text allows us to use electronic means for our correspondence with the members and does away with the need to be physically present at the general meeting location. It still assumes that we are using a conventional proxy assignment for our e-mail voting, we are exploring alternatives to this for the next revision.

During the public discussion early this year I touched on the issue of including an asset lock in the articles, there wasn’t very much feedback on the topic and for that reason we are postponing adding such text to the next revision.

The board was evenly split on the matter of voting corporate membership. As this tends to be a hotly debated topic in our membership too, we have decided that we split the vote on the articles in to a vote on the new text and a vote on a set of amendments that add voting rights for corporate “associate members”.

As the last important point, the current articles did not detail how a member could lose membership either by not paying the membership fees or by being expelled by the board. The new articles try to lay down a reasonable set of rules for this,  in line with our current practice.

Again, while not perfect and with some remaining warts, the new articles are a big step forward. The board and myself strongly recommend accepting them at our upcoming meeting in Birmingham.

Simon Poole

OpenStreetMap data license is ODbL

As of 9am (UK time), today, 12 September 2012, OpenStreetMap is now licensed under the Open Database Licence.

Thank you Open Data Commons for making legal tools available for the Open Data community.

[Update: Friday, 14 September 2012 approximately 18:30 UTC]
The XML-format Planet file took longer to generate than expected. It is now available in the new directory structure at You may experience slow downloads due to demand at this time.

Additional PBF-format files will follow as soon as they are completely generated.

Change to ODbL imminent

Hello OpenStreetMap-pers,

The change to ODbL is imminent. No, Really. We mean it.

At long last we are at the end of the license change process. After four years of consultation, debate, revision, improvement, revision, debate, improvement, implementation, coding and mapping, mapping, mapping, it comes down to this final step. And this final step is an easy one, because we have all pitched in to do the hard work in advance. The last step is so easy, it will be a picnic.

On Wednesday, 12 September 2012[1], generation of the next Planet file will begin. At that point, the API will switch over to ODbL and OpenStreetMap will be an ODbL-licensed Open Data project. API transactions and diffs consumed after that point will consist of ODbL-licensed OpenStreetMap data.

About thirty hours later, that newly-generated planet file will be available from for you to consume with your renderers, routers, QA systems, convertors and re-imaginers.

You won’t want to mix ODbL diffs with old license planets or diffs. Purge and reload your systems with the ODbL planet. Then consume the ODbL diffs. Planet will have a new directory structure. We’re taking this opportunity to rationalize the layout of planet directories a bit. You should find it easier to understand afterwards. This also means that you won’t accidentally mix data of different licenses.


Mappers shouldn’t see a difference and won’t have to change their mapping. Continue to improve OpenStreetMap by mapping from your own survey observations and using OSM-approved external sources. Never copy from other maps.

Data consumers

If you consume OpenStreetMap data and publish it, we have some guidance for you on the wiki. You’ll want to consider your obligations under the new license and then proceed to purge your old data and switch to the new. Many consumers, such as custom renderers, will only need to update their attribution of OpenStreetMap to the new simplified attribution.

Data consumers may time their upgrades to the new planet and diffs at their convenience.

Best regards and happy mapping,
The Communication Working Group

[1] in case of rain, we won’t cancel this picnic, just reschedule it for the subsequent Wednesday, 19 September 2012.

Image credit

Photo of cat in picnic basket is © Jacob Davies, licensed CC-By-SA.

Your First ODbL Planet

The first day of State of the Map, each year is filled with anticipation. Anticipation of seeing old friends and making new ones, anticipation of inspirational presentations and discussions and anticipation of big announcements.

The opening session at State of the Map, 2012, was no different. In Tokyo, on Thursday morning, 06 September 2012, Steve Coast called Michael Collinson, chair of the License Working Group to the stage to make an announcement. And it was an announcement that we have been anticipating for quite some time.

The next OpenStreetMap planet published will be an ODbL planet.

Mr. Collinson also thanked the countless hundreds (or thousands) who aided immeasurably in the OpenStreetMap license upgrade to ODbL. He named a representative few including OSMF legal counsel Wilson Sonsini, OpenStreetMap community members Richard Fairhurst, Frederik Ramm and Francis Davey, author of the ODbL, Jordan Hatcher and posthumously, License Working Group member Ulf Möller.

There will be more details posted in the next days, but for now we’re excited to share this announcement with you.

Remapping and data resolutions in progress

Since completing the worldwide automated redaction process, we’re seeing some great progress with remapping. Thanks to the efforts of the community we’re recovering a useable map in areas where large gaps had appeared. There is some scope for basic aerial imagery tracing in these areas. To join in with these remote mapping efforts you might like to check out, a tool to coordinate these efforts. Further details and other remapping tools / links are provided on the ‘Remapping’ wiki page

You are reminded that areas of data must not be copied from the pre-redaction CC-BY-SA licensed OpenStreetMap sources. Where users declined permission to carry their contributions forwards with the new license, we must respect these wishes. In cases where this has been ignored or remapping users have misunderstood, we must now resolve these issues. The Data Working Group and License Working Group are busy tackling this task at the moment. This has involved re-engineering some of the redaction code, and we are currently re-running some areas of data through a redaction process. Remapping work can be frustrating, but undoing remapping work is even more so, so please remember to treat pre-redaction data as a copyrighted source which cannot be input into OpenStreetMap.

Aside from this caution, it’s mapping as usual! Join in with the remote mapping efforts, and also remember that it’s as important as ever to welcome new members to our mapping community, to get more people all over the world mapping their own neighbourhoods. The license didn’t change yet, but all the work on filling in these gaps will soon be ODbL licensed, putting us on a secure footing for the future.

Automated redactions complete

Over the past week the license change redaction bot has made automated redactions, sweeping across our entire worldwide dataset. The whole globe was covered yesterday. There has been substantial technical effort involved in developing and running the software to make those changes, and a fair degree of uncertainty about how long it would take, so this is a significant milestone. Congratulations and thanks are in order to all those who helped achieve it, and especially to Matt Amos, Andy Allan, Gnonthgol and MonkZ who carried out most of the coding work.

The data now in the live OpenStreetMap database is largely in a state where it can be declared ODbL licensed, however the license hasn’t changed yet. We will be posting a further update when this is imminent.

More than 99% of the data has been retained, and in most places, the difference is barely noticeable. There are, however, some areas of our map where the redaction was concentrated, in particular Poland and Australia. Though we would of course have preferred to retain this data, we do respect the original contributors’ decision, and we thank them for their past involvement in the project.

Fortunately the OSM community’s response in these areas has been magnificent and we believe we will be back to having a high-quality dataset in these areas in a short space of time. If, as an OSM mapper, you would like to help – by using aerial imagery and other sources, or ideally, from personal knowledge and survey – then please do get involved. Essentially we’re left with some new blank spots on the map, and can respond with the process we know and love. Use your favourite mapping techniques, go explore and fill in the blanks. (Note that you must not copy from CC-BY-SA datasets or map views based on the pre-redaction data; please treat this like you would any other incompatibly copyrighted map data.) We can begin this process in earnest now while final preparations for license changeover are made.

Redactions progressing well

In the past week the redaction bot has progressed well. After the intial Ireland test, it has proccessed the UK and is now finishing off the ‘Western Europe’ area. Spain, and Italy are fully proccessed, France is very nearly complete, and the bot is (at time of writing) getting to work on some densely mapped regions such Germany and the Netherlands. You can see its progress on the redaction bot progress map

As you’ll see, the internal checks of the bot and the API occasionally throw up errors which cause a region (1 degree square) not to be fully processed. The developers working on the bot managed to track some of these failures down to specific bugs, meanwhile others are caused by temporary glitches in the API. The bot has been re-run in several areas for this reason.

You’ll also notice many yellow “current” regions being processed. These are parallel instances of the bot processing code. Although we’re not really in a hurry, we have a big dataset to get through. Running in parallel like this is proving to be a little faster.

There is still time to perform remapping ahead of the bot reaching your part of the world, though you may wish to refrain from editing in a region where the bot is actually runnning, to avoid any unnecessary complications. If you’re in a green area there is now a new kind of remapping to do. This is easier and clearer in many ways. Head out and remap those patches where the bot has redacted data.

Remember the license has not changed yet. Even in areas where processing is complete and redactions have been made, the license remains the same until we declare otherwise.

Follow the rebuild mailing list for more details and discussion.