OSM the Legal Monster

Posted by SunCobalt on 23 April 2020 in English (English).

When I start using OSM’s website, I must agree with the Terms of Use with 2873 words, already exceeding Instagram’s Terms of Use which comes with 2622 words.

In OSM’s Terms of Use I am pointed to the Privacy Policy with another 3409 word. Then I should read the Copyright and License website with 607 words. This site explains that OSM’s data is licensed under ODbL with 4148 words and the tiles are made available under CC BY-SA 2.0 with 2221 words. It also explains that OSM has a Trademark Policy with 3256 words. If I have not given up and decide to contribute to OSM, I must agree on the Contributor Terms with 883 words.

With a subtotal of appr 17.3k words, we have exceeded the US constitution with 4543 words, the US Bill of Rights with 7591, Macbeth from Shakespeare with 17121 words and Microsoft’s ToS for its entire suite of products having 15260.

Let’s assume you like experimenting with OSM and set up a website with a map and some OSM based services around…just for demonstration. You are expected to read the Tile Usage Policy with 651 words, the Nominatim Usage Policy with 601 and the API Usage policy with 488. If you are starting, you probably don’t need to care about the Banner Policy with only 284 words and the New Tile Layer Policy with 399.

After you are through all of that but before you start editing, you should making yourself familiar with the non-legal guidelines such as for Mechanical Edits and Import (maybe more), and if you want to join discusssions with the community there exist a draft for the Community Code of Conduct and you should consider reading the Etiquette and Suggested code of conduct for OpenStreetMap Mailing lists

Is it planned to create a “Legal Planet File” will all the text and made a minutely replication possible as with so many documents chances are high that one changes?

Comment from Andy Allan on 24 April 2020 at 07:21

You make a good point, but then you over-egg the pudding by including unrelated things like the banner policy and the new tile layer policy. I would suggest removing that entire paragraph, your point is stronger without it.

Comment from SimonPoole on 24 April 2020 at 10:03

Clearly you are biasing the numbers in OSMs favour.

You aren’t including the GDPR with a couple of 100’000 words, and I noticed that you skipped a few other things that are linked to in various documents. Not to mention other implicit underlying legislation that you will need to read too, so really we are talking about multiple millions of words that you will need to consume before you can start using OSM.

Comment from gileri on 24 April 2020 at 10:15

I think GDPR and other “underlying legislation” are besides SunCobalt’s point as the “OSM project” did not write those or did not actively choose them (e.g. Creative Commons/ODbL).

Comment from SimonPoole on 24 April 2020 at 10:20

PS: the serious comment is if you restrict the numbers to “what do I actually have to agree to” (for example the trademark policy is only of relevance if you want to licence use of the trademarks, and not something that you have to agree to, because that is already the law). They are 7’165 for OSM and something around 16’000 for Instagram (using the same criteria), that is not removing some duplication there is in the OSM texts, and not digging all to deep on the Instagram side,

Comment from SimonPoole on 24 April 2020 at 10:23

@gileri so you agree that for example including the trademark policy in the count is very disingenuous?

Comment from H@mlet on 24 April 2020 at 10:25

Don’t forget, especially if you want to contribute, the informal part.

You should really read at least of dozen of wiki pages (with talk), some months of mailing-list, some blog posts, before starting to imagine contributing.

At least that’s how I felt before starting. I guess that’s what makes us community members, and not clients of a platform.

Comment from gileri on 24 April 2020 at 10:32

@SimonPoole : It’s spliting hairs a bit, but I think the trademark policy is fair game, as the subset of OSM users/contributors that have used somewhere the “OpenStreetMap” brand is around 100%.

For example posting on a social network “I just made my first Open Street Maps contribution” (typos intended) would be covered by this policy, even if nobody cares about enforcing it.

Comment from SimonPoole on 24 April 2020 at 10:56

@gileri nope, nominative use is permitted by law, just as the use of the Instagram trademark in the blog post. The trademark policy simply licenses further use that by law would not be allowed to the community (something Instagram does not need to do).

Comment from SimonPoole on 24 April 2020 at 11:13

Just to document how I got to the 16’000 for Instagram, the number includes

  • the Instagram ToU
  • the Instagram privacy policy
  • the Instagram community policy
  • the Instagram platform policy
  • the Instagram music policy
  • the Facebook terms of use (required by the Instagram privacy policy)

I didn’t include the cookie policy and 9 further Facebook policies that are more geared towards developers and special use.

Comment from SunCobalt on 24 April 2020 at 11:17

My blog post wasn’t intended to be a scientific investigation of the appropriateness of OSM’s legal support documents. I just wanted to express my honest surprise about the sheer amount of legal documents OSM has accumulated. If you don’t want to get my point, feel free to pick an aspect that you argue away most easy if you think that change the story. Or simply ignore my post.

Comment from gileri on 24 April 2020 at 11:21

Maybe (idk) the trademark policy is unenforcable in regard to the law for some cases, but all users are explicitely required to follow it :

  1. How to use the OSM marks Whenever you use the OSM marks, regardless of why you are allowed to use the marks, you must comply >with the requirements in this section.

2.1. Proper form You may: use the wordmarks as a proper name (e.g. “OpenStreetMap is great”) or as an adjective (e.g. “the >OpenStreetMap projects are awesome”).

Comment from SimonPoole on 24 April 2020 at 11:31

@SunColbat why surprise? The complexity is determined by the subject matter, and further confounded by that we allow many things that are otherwise restricted by law. If anything the surprise should be that we get away with -less- text than comparable non-open offerings, i.e. Instagram.

Comment from CjMalone on 25 April 2020 at 00:13

Guys, I’ve got the solution, 3 little words.

“All rights reserved”

@SunColbat Loved reading this, gave me a chuckle, thank you.

Comment from SimonPoole on 25 April 2020 at 08:08

@ChMalone the short version of that is “”

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