OpenStreetMap

Should OSMF be a Community Interest Company?

Posted by Jonathan Bennett on 19 August 2009 in English (English)

UK law now allows for Community Interest Companies[1] to be formed,
which are not quite charities, but are asset-locked in the same way as
charities. As the name suggests, the companies have to carry out
activities deemed to be "for the benefit of the community rather than
for the benefit of the owners of the company"[2]. This sounds exactly
like the sort of thing the OSMF does, so should we consider changing it
to a CIC?

The advantages would include a greater level of protection of the
foundation's aims. Although the regulations for CICs don't prevent board
stacking itself, they do make any action of the board which could be
seen as being of benefit to one particular company or group illegal[3].
This means we can still elect a board of skilled, experienced OSMers
safe in the knowledge they can't pull a fast one (or if they do, they
face a date in court).

One possible problem is that CICs cannot carry out "political"
activities[4], which campaigning for release of public data could be
seen as. I've tried wading through the legalese of the regulations to
see if this is the case, and there does seem to be a clause that says
such activities are allowed as long as they're "incidental", but IANAL.

On first impressions it would seem like CIC status was designed
specifically for organisations like OSMF, and that becoming one would be
a good thing. I'd be interested to hear what everyone else --
particularly those standing for election -- think.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_interest_company
[2] http://www.cicregulator.gov.uk/index.shtml
[3] http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051788.htm#4
[4] http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051788.htm#3

Comment from acrosscanadatrails on 20 August 2009 at 06:17

Interesting, similar to how im looking at a "WikiMAP Book" as the intention is to be creating a usable community produced book, which from the core is designed by the community, using the tools of sharing with Lulu.com publishing, and Google Docs, and mailing lists.

As there is no need for others to create competative map-books, since everyone can work together who wants to make a physical book better.

...
Ya i dont know, as "advocating for freeing data" is something that the foundation does by nature. Although it's individuals who contact the various agencies and simply ask. ... where in many cases, the governments see the merrit of "sharing data created from public funds", then just release it for us to create a one-off copy importing it, then improving on it once its imported.

Worth some discussions. :)

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