Saturday, July 31, 2010

What Do Recent Creative Commons and OSM Blog Posts Suggest?

A license agreement is a complex legal document. It is used for more than just transferring intellectual property rights; it is also a mechanism to allocate various types of risk between the licensor and the licensee. I believe that drafting a license of spatial data is even more complex given some of the unique attributes of spatial data (e.g. that a single data set can be used in a number of different applications even though it may not be suited for all such applications) and some uncertainties of the law in this area (e.g. what is "a reasonable expectation of privacy" from a location standpoint?). As a result, I have been closely following the development of the OpenStreetMap license and push to use the Creative Commons suite of licenses for spatial data.

Both camps recently issued blog posts (CC blog post; OSM blog post) that were surprisingly defensive in tone, particularly given how certain they, or at least their proponents are, in their respective missions. Looking past the tone however, what one sees (or at least what I see) is that licensors are pushing back on the "one size fits all" model. It will be interesting to see whether this is true and if so whether this trend will continue.


dmnaz1 said...

Thanks for your post. I think you have touched on a key point that will grow in importance. Having worked many years in the geospatial world as both a data user and data provider, in both the "closed" and "open" worlds, I see considerable complexity in this topic.

Katleen said...

OSM is thinking about moving to another licence model because they are concerned that CC might actually not work for their data, because it is based on creative content ideas. It could be questioned whether geographic data is protected by copyright. Starting from the 'skill and labour' point of view from UK copyright law it may be, but from the French 'personal creation' perspective, it may be a whole different story.

However, the use of CC licences had the advantage that less questions were asked about the fundamental perspectives behind the choice of licence. For instance, if you have to start drawing up his own licences, you have to start thinking about allowing commercial use or not, imposing share-alike issues, etc.
General and harmonised licensing models can provide great benefits, but not when you have to artificially squeeze every type of subject matter in there. I think this is what we start to experience now.

Simon said...

Some interesting comments on use of CC for data here:

"As mentioned above, Creative Commons licences are not specifically aimed at data, and their use in this context is not without difficulty. A quite general problem is that the licences are aimed at homogeneous works, and do not cater for the complexities of data: specifically, the distinction between the individual data themselves and the collection/database, and the distinction between using data as part of a new collection/database and using them to generate content (graphs, models, maps, etc.).

"The Attribution condition should not be problematic if the data are to be combined with data from only a small number of other sets. At the other extreme, it should not be a problem for a dataset constructed from insubstantial extracts from a large number of other datasets, due to copyright/database right exemptions,[30] though having to judge whether a use is substantial – and hence whether an exemption applies – will likely be offputting to reusers. Between these two extremes, compiling a dataset from many others is likely to be unfeasible due to the administrative burden of crediting each individual contributor to the superset in the manner of their choosing.[31] This problem is sometimes known as ‘attribution stacking’."

Simon Cox