Daily Archives: May 14, 2006

Geograph, Creative Commons and Ordnance Survey – Oh My!

One of the reasons I started this blog was that I felt we were doing some interesting things with the Geograph site which wasn’t getting documented outside of private emails between the team. The recently announced sponsorship deal with Ordnance Survey is prompting a lot of activity in the team at the moment, so there’s lots to write about.

CC licence infectious?

Firstly, the press release attracted the attention of the OpenStreetMap mailing list, with list members speculating that the CC licence might “infect” OS maps used on the site. For example, if we overlaid images onto an OS map, creating a derivative work.

The answer is simply that we won’t be able to “mash up” an OS map with photograph contributions without the licensors granting us some additional rights. The resulting derivative, of course, could not be CC licenced. If it were, you could derive a clean, CC-licenced OS map from it. Wouldn’t *that* be something!

How about if we display an OS map on a photo viewing page to provide context?

No problem – the resulting page as a whole is not a derivative. The page is a collective work, and we’re free to include content on that page using different licences. The individual image remains CC licenced, but the entire page content is not.

We haven’t always got it right…

There are some problem areas we’ve been made aware of and tackled. We built maps using CC licenced images with coastline data derived originally from an OS source. As soon as it was brought to our attention we trashed the base map and rebuilt it from a public domain source (thankyou, US Government).

…and we don’t have all the answers

Can a CC licenced work include an OS grid reference? Oddly enough, this seems to be contentious issue. Is a grid reference a copyrightable work in its own right? I certainly hope not, and we’ve enquired with the OS to find out for sure. Some feel that if a copyrighted OS map is used to derive that grid reference, then the reference itself is copyrighted. To me, this feels like being told that if I refer you to page 42 of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I’ve violated Douglas Adams’ copyright.

I can see it from the OpenStreetMap point of view – a series of grid references easily becomes a road, thereby reproducing an element of the copyrighted map. To use the book analogy, it’s like saying the first word on page 42 is “Ford”, the second word is “Prefect”, etc. These references are enough to reconstruct the copyrighted work.

A single grid reference applied to a photograph provides no reverse path for reconstructing OS property though.

Still, I’m no lawyer, and hopefully we’ll get an official line on that soon. If it proves to be a problem we can continue to the use the out-of-copyright New Popular Edition maps during photo submission.