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Monday, May 7, 2012

Teachable Moment: Apple Credits OpenStreetMap

Last Thursday the OpenStreetMap (OSM) twitter account posted an image confirming that Apple, which now uses the map data in its iPhoto software, has given the contributors due credit. Back on March 8 many folks involved in mapping and mapping data cheered as Apple showed off the new iPhoto for the new iPad and it included OSM (APB coverage). They then hung their heads low as they realized Apple did so without proper attribution (OSM Foundation Blog).

After the tweet above, news outlets from The Next Web to Spatially Adjusted shared the news that Apple basically did the right thing. The gory details include how both the OSM Foundation and an iOS developer helped Apple make the change (Talking Points Memo coverage). Why is this change such big news? Honestly, it's not big news. It's just that any Apple news is exciting. And, in the mapping arena Apple mapping news, is well, news.

A better question to ask is how to turn this non-news in a teachable moment for geography and GIS students and geography and GIS practitioners. My answer is to use this as a jumping off point to look at spatial data licenses.

First, of course, have a look at what the OpenStreetMap license says. OpenStreetMap is currently distributed under a Creative Commons (CC) License. It's stated in plain English that you can use the map images or map data, so long as you include attribution and if possible a link to the OSM website and the CC license. The OSM license page even includes sample text you can copy! The page also makes clear that if you alter or build on the data you can only release it under the same license. (If you want to be really up to date, prepare yourself because OpenStreetMap is changing to a new license. That said, I'd get familiar with CC first.)

Once you are familiar with the current OSM license consider these questions:
  • Are the Creative Commons Licenses new to you?
  • Where else have you seen them? If you haven't, find some non-mapping content that is licensed that way.
  • Why do you think OSM and other creators chose this license?
  • Would you distribute your works (article, music, art, maps, data, etc.) under this type of license? Why or why not?
  • Did you know you can use some search engine tools to identify content release under CC licenses (and sometimes other licenses)? See if your favorite search tools allows such a search. (Hint: you might need to look under "advanced" searching.)
Second, explore some other data distribution licenses. What licenses do these data products use? How are they different from Creative Commons? Why did the data creators/providers choose those licenses?
  • VMAP0 (formerly Digital Chart of the World, DCW)
  • The City of Chicago
  • The City of Vancouver 
  • Nokia (formerly NAVTEQ)
  • TomTom (formerly Tele Atlas)
  • DigitalGlobe  
  • GeoEye 
  • Landsat 
Finally, think about why we have licenses for data and for creative works. Should we? Do the licenses you found for the geodatasets listed above make sense? Serve their intended goals? What should be changed? Anything?