[geo-discuss] PGL and geodata licensing (was Re: [OSGeo-Board] Bylaws posted )

Jo Walsh jo at frot.org
Wed Mar 1 05:35:04 UTC 2006

Arnulf, thanks for cc'ing us on the OSGeo board conversation, and daniel
thanks for rehearsing your arguments here. there's a lot to address,
and this is probably pre-emptive of other developments at osgeo.org and
with the publicgeodata.org campaign which right now is completely
focused on the INSPIRE Directive on spatial data infrastructure in
Europe; but i wanted to go over some of the conversational history here.

http://okfn.org/geo/manifesto.php was published last August, and was
socialised for feedback pretty well on this list and the openstreetmap 
discussion list. It was created to provide a reference point for the
future, a description of "how state collected geospatial data could be
free". This definitely connected for me to freedata.ca and their "why
geospatial data should be free" document, which i kept an archive of
here after their DNS died: http://space.frot.org/docs/why-free.html 
(are there PGL connections to the group of people who did that?)

the Open Geodata Manifesto tried to avoid talking about any specific
license. Looking at it again, the wording comes across as less ambiguous
than i intended - [[ Geodata is a public good. Open access to it,
under a 'Commons' (ShareAlike) license, is the best way to see its
full benefits realized by industry and citizens. ]] isn't meant to
indicate a CC-SA license specifically, but just a license *style* 
which dictates that, if it is used, improvements be contributed back
to the original data set under the same terms, which the PGL also
expresses. This should make sense for state agencies: if they are
reluctant to open access to geodata for fear that commercial entities
will build improved products on it and create value with no obligation
to contribute value back to those agencies - a ShareAlike clause is
one way to guarantee that happens. 

So the manifesto forms a set of common-sense statements about the
qualities of open geodata: free to access, free to reuse and free to
redistribute. License terms are a really important support structure, 
but one size doesn't fit all, and if one starts out saying, "this is 
the license that should be used" then that risks inducing controversy 
where it does not need to be. So i didnt intend and don't plan to make
any more direct license suggestions than currently exist there.  

There have been several bursts of licensing conversation on the
openstreetmap list over the last year. Each time it never really
reached a resolution; the main sticking point seems to be commercial / 
noncommercial use of open geodata. Some people are just not happy to
allow commercial reuse of their work without restriction, and want a
license which precludes that. Steve Coast more or less declared
CC-BY-SA by fiat, and no-one contributing seems unhappy with that now. 

Personally i tune out of licensing conversations quite quickly and
sublimate my frustration into unhelpful cartoon talk slides:

Having said that, it would be really good to have a reference point on
licensing that many people are happy to use, and neither CC nor GPL
is really right for geodata; the data/metadata concern is an
interesting one too, not something that i had thought of before, 
and the PGL looks to do a good job of addressing that. The PGL something
that could be a pretty good fit for the publicgeodata.org namespace,
especially once the INSPIRE process completes in the summer, to offer
people something to focus on at national and local levels. This isn't
an effort that would necessarily need to directly involve OSGeo. 

On Tue, Feb 28, 2006 at 04:44:53PM +0100, Daniel wrote:
> Unfortunately, I'm overbooked theses times, but existing summaries of 
> the PGL "why and how" could be found on http://sig.cwriter.org/index.php 

i'm sorry to hear you are feeling overloaded! i have no idea how much
time/energy commitment there is likely to be in participating in this 
proposed geodata committee in the Open Source Geospatial Foundation,
but i think you shouldn't make a decision either way, until we know ;)

> http://cemml.carleton.ca:8080/OGUG/pgl (the OGUG set up an english 
> website for collaborative work upon PGL: contributing is still in my 
> huge to-do list ;-) )

Okay, i just subscribed to their mailing list and i'll listen in on who
is doing what. Is this the core of active development of the Public Geodata 
License effort now? Is there a specific person pushing this forward
who it would be good to connect to?
> Discussion about the license itself:
> The main ideas when writing the PGL (Public Geodata License) was to:
> 1) reproduce the success of free software with free geodata. So we 
> choose to adapt a GPL-like license.
> 2) take care of the specificity of geodata, by specific obligations upon 
> metadata and traçability. To make this easy, the PGL doesn't define 
> metadata and traçability formats: it just make them mandatories.

i think my mail client is having encoding issues, and i can't quite
infer what tra bility was supposed to read as. translatability?
transformability? traducibilty? ;) otherwise i can't argue with this.
> Note about the choice of a "GPL-like" license:
> This point was discussed: e.g. , some peoples prefer licenses like the 
> BSD one.
> For me, it's very important to ensure contributors that their work will 
> remain free in the future. I strongly think it's a great asset to gain 
> more and more contributors for free geodata projects.
> Todo list: many work remain necessary to popularize and extend the idea 
> of such a free license: translations, explanations, presentations ...
> Key peoples in free geodata projects (like openstreetmap) should play a 
> very important role, by showing the way for future licensing models. Do 
> not forget these two assets:
> 1) metadata
> 2) traçability

I'm actually scared to cc this mail to the osm-talk list for fear of
re-opening the licensing related can of worms and putting people off ;)
One aim in the manifesto was to state, "one set of compatible
licensing terms should be useful for both 'ground up' and 'top down'
data bodies to be made freely available. It would be amazing to see
Canadian state agencies at whatever level use a license like this. The
PGL web presence looks as if you are not confident about it yet, to be
honest, so perhaps OSM *is* a good forum to stresstest its contents :) 


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