opensource Thoughts

Data licenses for the geoweb

Andrew summarises  with clarity the current state of licensing for “open” geodata on his blog. This is going to be an emerging theme over the next year as more data becomes available and there is greater awareness of the immature state of data licensing compared to software licensing.

When I touched upon the subject over the summer is was within the context of DRM a scary umbrella term that has too much baggage, but one which at least in an abstract sense describes the problem.

I have no doubt that the open geodata community will go through the difficult and potentially painful process the software industry experienced to reach the current broad range of potential licenses. This is a necessary step for as Andrew points out for many potential data publishers there is no standard license that is close enough to matching their needs.

As this process takes place a good resource is Kevin Promfret’s excellent blog on spatial law who is tracking licensing developments.

Written and submitted from the Google Offices, London (51.495N, 0.146W)


OSM Business models

Interesting post by Stefan at the United Maps blog, which continues “the now OpenStreetMap has matured and is taken seriously.. what next ? meme”.

In Amsterdam I had a few chats with people talking about how OSM contributions might find their way into commercial products and if we would see different distributions of OSM, or even a forking of the project as different organisations have varying perspectives as to what they see as important.

Without question the current licensing of OSM does as Stefan points out restrict is commercial use. In my personal opinion there will need to be a less viral license established at some point for many commercial organisations to use OSM data.

Over time we will see other commercial distributions or OSM data and other services set up that compete with Cloudmade which will be another positive step in moving open geodata forward.

This will be because they will no doubt have a different perspective and may suggest changes to the project and licesning of it’s data that will take the OpenStreetMap project in different directions.

This may well be a painful process, just look at the history of other large open source projects, but it may be a necessay step for OSM to as SteveC quoting Geoffrey Moore says “Cross the Chasm” into mainstream adoption.

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London


OpenStreetMap all grown up and serious..

sotm09At last weekends State of the Map (SOTM) conference is was clear the the OpenStreetMap project is growing up and trying to position itself at a real alternative to commercial geodata suppliers and not just a fun project for people who love maps and making them.

Perhaps it is the experience of Cloudmade or the numerous iPhone application developers using OpenStreetMap that has brought the necessary focus on the boring stuff of data quality, consistency and currency.

To actually use OpenStreetMap in many applications there needs to be improved data attributes, as Steve Coast himself noted even where there is near complete coverage of streets, such as in London for example, many of the streets are not attributed with street names. Given a focus on fixing this particular aspect, such problems are relative easy to solve, but the key point is that the project leadership now recognises that a guiding hand is needed to help the community complete the task.

In terms of spatial accuracy Muki Haklay has made a specialism of accessing OSM data quality and his latest results presented at SOTM suggest that using the UK as an example, OSM data is better than the equivalent business geographics product produced by the OS, and in some cases comparable to OS MasterMap ITN data, a product that costs over £100,000 per year to license .

Alongside the increased awareness of the importance of data quality, the other clear indication that OpenStreetMap is getting more business like was the dedicated business track day, and the long needed work to produce a new “fit for purpose” license for OpenStreetMap data in the form of the new ODbL.

Some may not like aspects of the new license (myself included) but the awareness of the problem and the willingness to address it shows that the project has reached a real level of maturity. The licensing of community sourced geodata is still novelty, we now have the mirror of a GPL like license for geodata, others licenses I’m sure will follow.

If there are still people out there than believe that community generated geodata is just a joke, its time to wake up!

OpenStreetMap, Google’s MapMaker and Tele Atlas with is Map Share programme in different ways all demonstrate that spatial data capture from the bottom up is a valid alternative to traditional mapping agencies / data providers and is in many parts of the world the only practical solution.

Congratulations to the local organising team for putting together another great conference !

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network