Systeme D


Realpolitik and the OpenStreetMap licence.

  1. The licence will stay as ODbL. Moving to a different licence requires a two-thirds majority of active OSM contributors. Active OSM contributors do not want to change the licence. Even a cursory reading of any comments section shows this.
  2. To achieve change, you need skin in the game. For 10 years the “geo industry” has been telling OSM that what it does is impossible/misguided/wrong. For 10 years OSM has been disproving them. OSM contributors are consequently very sceptical when others tell them what’s best for them. Change comes from within. If you want people to listen, burnish your OSM credentials first.
  3. Don’t hyperbolise. “Drop ODbL” is not achievable, see 1. “Make ODbL work for geocoding” may be achievable. If you mean the latter but say the former, you’ll get nowhere. (Incidentally, if you really mean “drop share-alike” not “drop ODbL”, say so. You’ll still get nowhere.)
  4. ODbL is a young licence. ODbL is on version 1.0. Creative Commons are on 4.0 right now. No-one expected 1.0 to be perfectly future-proofed, but an ODbL 1.1 or 1.5 or 2.0 might fix your issue. Propose good legalese and a rationale that applies beyond OSM, and work openly. It’s very doable.
  5. “Make it so” doesn’t work for licences. Your “good legalese” needs to be more sophisticated than “we declare that geocoding is magically not subject to share-alike”. I mean, come on.
  6. OSM might just not be for you. OSM has always intended to reshape the geo industry. It expects the industry to fit around it, not the other way round. There are plenty of businesses, from one-woman cartography shops up to Apple, who are making money from OSM. If you can’t, maybe you need to change your business model rather than expecting OSM to change for you.

Further reading. Gary Gale marvellously introduces British slang to the Americans. Alex Barth on “let’s drop share-alike”.

Footnote. As is reasonably well attested I’m a supporter of permissive, non-share-alike licences, and have been consistently so throughout the lifetime of OSM. This posting isn’t about my personal opinion: it’s intended as factual observations on what’s required to achieve change. It’s not intended as a direct response to Gary or Alex’s posts (and indeed not all the points are applicable to them), or any other posts in particular, but to the wider conversation.

Posted on Tuesday 28 April 2015. Link.

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