Way back in May I wrote an entry about possible problems faced by Geograph’s planned use of “closed” content like Ordnance Survey (OS) maps in combination with our use of Creative Commons (CC) licences.
There are a few areas we need to be sure of before incorporating OS maps into the site:
- Can an OS grid reference be included in a CC licenced work?
- Can we display an OS map alongside a CC sharealike licenced work?
- Can someone create a CC licenced geolocated work by clicking an OS map to indicate position?
Thorny questions, and the OS have (quite rightly) spent some considerable time pondering them. Our overriding concern is “protect the archive” – we want to ensure the archive can continue to grow and remain free (as both in speech and in beer) forever.
I think we’re almost there…
Can an OS grid reference be included in a CC licenced work?
Technically, the OS “own” the national grid system, and their right to refuse to allow someone to use it has been upheld in recent case law. Since the project is based around the grid system, to find we are unable to create geolocated works using national grid references would be something of a showstopper. Thankfully, the OS regard using a National Grid Reference (NGR) to indicate a point of interest is a legitimate use over which they can have no influence.
So it seems the OS is happy to allow us to create CC licenced works including an NGR. Even if they weren’t, we could switch to maintaining an archive of works where the geolocation data was a WGS84 latitude and longitude, and then simply derive an NGR from that ourselves. In the event anyone “came after us”, the original archive can remain intact, just our derived works become voided.
Thankfully, it seems we are on safe ground.
Can we display an OS map alongside a CC sharealike licenced work?
I covered this one in my May article – 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.
Can someone create a CC licenced geolocated work by clicking an OS map to indicate position?
Here’s where is gets surprising. After several months of thought, OS have said “yes”.
Is that the sound of jaws dropping?
OK then, it’s “yes….but”.
If someone were to attempt to recreate a map using geolocated metadata from the collective works, that person would be leaving themselves open to legal action by the OS. If our theoretical defendant produced Geograph-derived works in his defence, the OS would argue the geolocation had been derived from their property.
In addition, Geograph itself would not be held liable for the action of this third party.
So, on the face of it, it looks good. The cloud in that silver lining is that building maps from metadata in Geograph images is not recommended. Even something simple like extracting all photos of churches with a 10 figure NGR, and then submitting them as points-of-interest to OpenStreetMap could be (in the words of Egon Spengler) “bad”.
So what next?
I’m writing this to hopefully spur some more debate on our use of Creative Commons licencing. Our aim is to support the maintenance and growth of a free and useful photographic archive. Ideally forever.
If we can get through the next few decades without the services of a team of lawyers, I think we’ll manage it.