[geo-discuss] TimBL speaks on open access to geodata, + the OS respond with "noncommercial use"

Jo Walsh jo at frot.org
Thu Mar 23 09:14:11 UTC 2006


This article about Tim Berners-Lee speaking out in favour of an open
access to geodata policy for the UK's National Mapping Agency is
wonderful to me because he directly describes so many of the reasons 
why i've been doing what i'm doing; his vision of the geospatial
web and the semantic web enriching each other, tending towards the
same thing; a data infrastructure that is patterned, not supplied.

But the Ordnance Survey's response (to offer, if not definitely, an
"open" API that will be constrained by a noncommercial use clause)
is hugely problematic to me, and connects to why i've been obsessing 
about licensing issues so much recently. (Apart from Rufus' constant 
conversational nudging on the topic, and the big OSM licensing debate 
that led to Steve creating http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/index.php/Legal_FAQ )

- Non-commercial use does not equate with open, because it imposes
  constraints on re-use and redistribution.

- I can't include a dataset licensed to me for noncommercial use in
  an open source software package distribution, because i can't
  provide a guarantee that it won't be put to commercial use.

- Noncommercial doesn't help fix the problem that the OS, USGS and their 
  fellow national mapping agencies are facing, in terms of increasing 
  pressure to "recover the costs" via monopoly pricing strategy in
  order to be able to maintain high-quality updates to data.

  In my brief response to Richard's ShareAlike Considered Harmful
  piece, i went over this a bit:
  ( http://mappinghacks.com/2006/03/11/sharealike-considered-harmful-for-geodata/ )

    In the open source worldview there is a concept of a ShareAlike
    license. Data can be made fully and openly available for all uses
    including commercial uses, with the constraint that if improvements
    and enhancements are made to the data, those changes are made
    available in the public domain, covered by the same license. The
    Public Geodata License (http://cemml.carleton.ca:8080/OGUG/pgl/
    provides a good model for this.

    This isn't only model for making geographic data available
    in a more open way, but it's a good one for state-collected
    information and public sector information in general. A ShareAlike
    license applied to distribution of Ordnance Survey data would help
    fulfil the purpose for which it is suppose to exist, to collect and
    redistribute the most current and accurate description of the UK that
    is available.

- Noncommercial means that public geodata won't be able to generate
  added economic value through reuse. The late Peter Weiss' study on
  pricing public sector information is very strong on this point:

  Economic Potential of PSI in Europe and US
  In EUROs	    EU		    US
  Investment value  9.5 billion	    19 billion
  Economic value    68 billion	    750 billion

- An Argument I very often hear from European NMA lobbyists is that,
  with no obligation to return updates to the public domain,
  commercial offerings can take a data set (such as TIGER), augment
  it, fix and improve it, with no obligation to return the value added
  to the data to the public, to be part of common wealth. 

  (Ed Parsons is offering this argument, in the interview that Steve did
  with him yesterday as an inaugural podcast, http://www.opengeodata.org/?p=44 
  and which Schuyler and i transcribed a section of this evening:
  http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/index.php/Opengeodata.org#Transcript )

  PGL/ShareAlike for publically funded geodata helps get past this problem, 
  if one thinks of what NMAs are trying to achieve as providing better
  and cheaper geodata for the public and for government, rather than 
  pursuing a very narrow view model of monopoly pricing in order to
  recoup maintenance expenses. 

With a ShareAlike model license, commercial offerings can add value in 
terms of useful services, interfaces, but updates that are to the data set
directly, go back to improve the common wealth of data. With a
Noncommercial license tied to an API, we get nothing that we can reuse 
outside of a hackademic ghetto, wide open to conceptual exploitation.

okay, i didn't mean this to be an essay, i just got overexcited.
http://wiki.osgeo.org/index.php/Geodata_Licensing_Working_Group <- my
name looks lonely there all on its own, you know, and needs company.




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