[geo-discuss] Re: Open Source geo data

Saul Albert saul at theps.net
Wed Mar 22 09:27:39 UTC 2006

On Mon, Mar 20, 2006 at 10:01:35PM -0800, Jo Walsh wrote:
> dear David, Frank, all,
> On Mon, Mar 20, 2006 at 10:19:12AM -0500, Frank Warmerdam wrote:
> > >I'm still working through a discussion paper on Open Source geospatial 
> > >data.
> I'm glad to hear of papers being written on what seems like a pressing
> and topical subject, and i would look forward to seeing your when it is
> written, if it's going to be publically available.

Jo - thanks for that rundown - it's a really wonderful thing to see that
knowledge of current lisencing debates presented like that. It would make
a really good wiki page... but where to put it!? Openstreetmap's wiki?
Publicgeodata.org's wiki? Both!? You should braindump as much as
possible.. on the weekend I'll try take some of them and wikiize them...

I just wanted to pose a quick point/question - based on what I know about
geodata lisencing discussions and having spoken to Volker Grassmuck on
the Wizards of OS mailing list about it recently... He reckons that Free
Geodata is 'so hot right now' :-/ and I can see these lisencing issues
recurring in widening circles around the key issue of access to public
data.. the wider they get, the harder it is to see the impact and issues.

What I thought worked really well about WSFII.org was that lisencing
didn't come up as a discussion point so much. It's true that it's
necessary to lisence the data and the software to protect the labour of
free geodata enthusiasts, governments and companies from enclosure and
exploitation (although I don't necessarily mind the exploitation as long
as it's not exclusive)... However, the pragmatic attitude says that if it
works, if it's fast and good, if the data is accurate, and if the re-use
conditions of your data are non-exclusive in a commercial, personal,
governmental context.. free geodata will triumph. That's why
openstreetmap.org doesn't take the lisencing debate that seriously at
this point - because getting a working system together is more important.

Maybe free geodata will work because you'll be able to use it for GIS &
analysis/cross-reference with other data sets..rather than just plotting
points on Euclidean space with google's 'open' API. Isn't that the key

Maybe I'm re-iterating what's been said on this list and others in the
past, but I'd be interested in hearing what others think about the
necessity (or lack thereof) for a public geodata lisence at this point.
Imho, public domain is the only way to go because what's at stake -
politically, economically.. with the potential enclosure of geodata
resources.. is more worrying than the potential exploitation of people's
freely given labour by profit-making companies.

I'm basing my observations on Rob Myer's point that free lisences are
more like labour unions or guilds than like lisences - protecting our
labour against enclosure or exclusive exploitation.. Public domain does
this. CC-SA-NC also do this to some extent, but lock the economy and
generation of the data and software into somwhat autopoietic state of

I'd rather use www.copycan.org than bsd or pd... because in a lot of
ways, the most unhelpful thing I find I can do with copyright law is take
it seriously.



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