OpenStreetMap is the global, open and free map dataset that anyone can use. It is created by a huge community of volunteers who pour their time and energy in to the project. It’s also fun, beautiful and cool.

So it’s sad that people don’t want to respect the license. It asks two very simple things:

  1. Please say you’re using OSM. This is very simple.
  2. If you change the map, please give the changes back. This is called “share-alike”.

Compared to paying a lot of money for incredibly license-restricted data, you’d think people would be ok with these requirements.

Sadly, this isn’t the case.

There are those who are now willfully disregarding our tiny little requirements. It’s being framed as some gigantic and unreasonable proposition, asking to say where the data came from or giving data back when you fix things. As if it’s completely bananas to ask such a thing. As if Linux or Wikipedia should be disaster ghost towns while asking for exactly the same thing of their users.

This is just baloney. The real comparison should be; if you don’t like the license you’re free to use expensive and complicatedly-license data. That’s your option. Those guys are just a phone call away, and will be happy to sell you data. You’d probably find that they have very strong attribution requirements, just like OSM does.

It is the ultimate disrespect to the volunteers who built the data to not even attribute their contributions. It’s even worse that there are some who’re trying to also own OSM for themselves by taking away the share-alike requirement.

Is the license perfect? I’m afraid not. Specifically we need more clarification around the technical implementation and use of geocodes, especially in relation to other datasets. It’s hard today to technically comply with some of those edge cases.

But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re speaking here about the simple ask, that if you use OSM you please say clearly on the map that it is OSM. You’re getting a great dataset, for free, under an open license, that millions of people are contributing to. We’re not asking for $100,000 license fees, we’re just asking that you say who we are.

It’s the ultimate human need; I was here. I did this.

How could you deny people that?

Apparently, easily and willfully. People within the OSM community have been frustrated and trying to fix it for some time. If we were a proprietary map supplier we’d revoke a license or jump to legal options.

We are much nicer than that. I propose a four stage plan, organized on OSM’s legal mailing list and tracked on the wiki:

  1. A polite email, linking to our requirements
  2. A week later: Another polite email, warning of what’s to come.
  3. A week later: Another polite email, same as above
  4. A week later: Very public naming and shaming on OSMs various social media channels and blogs

Most people who miss our requirements are making a simple error. This is a process that gives three opportunities and an entire month to correct the mistake. This is not a brand new idea or process. The FSF and others have named & shamed (and have even went further) for GPL violations in the past.

In a narrow way, this all a good thing. It shows the growth and maturity of the project, that there are those out there that want to own it or take all the advantages without even saying where the data came from. But in the end, we have to defend ourselves for what little, tiny things we ask.