Licence/Historic/We Are Changing The License

From OpenStreetMap Foundation

Translations: (unofficial)

We Are Changing The License

OpenStreetMap creates and provides free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them. The project was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive, or unexpected ways.

The actual license change-over has now occurred, and OpenStreetMap data is via the API is now ODbL licensed. An automated redactions process was completed, meaning data from users who did not agree, has been redacted, and is no longer exposed in our live database. For the latest news see

This page was created in April 2010 when OpenStreetMap asked existing contributors to re-license their contributions under new contributor terms, ( human readable, full text ), which allows end user licensing under the Open Database License 1.0, "ODbL".

This page explains the basic reasons for the change and provides links to further resources with more detail.

If you registered after 2010-05-12, you have already accepted the new terms and ODbL and your contributions will not have been affected by the redactions process. Likewise if you have been editing recently, you must have already accepted.

If you have not already done so, you can still accept or decline the new contributor terms. You can accept the new license and contributor terms here or from your API user settings page at You may have to log in first.

If you "Agree", you can continue editing. Your previous contributions will have already been redacted. Legally it may be possible to reverse this, but technically it is very difficult and currently there are no plans to do so.

If you "Decline", you can no longer edit. If you have been 'undecided' then your contributions will already have been removed from the live database. You may return and "Agree" later if you wish.

What Are The Choices?

You have three choices.

  • Agree You agree to the new OpenStreetMap Contributor Terms, ( full text, human readable ) including re-licensing your contributions under the ODbL. Anything that you have contributed in the past will be available forever under CC-BY-SA. The vast majority of users agreed, giving us the critical mass we needed. After the redactions process the database now mostly contains only contributions from these users.
  • Agree, and I consider my contributions Public Domain Legally, this is the same as Agree. But it shows that you would prefer a simple license that just makes the data available to everyone without any restrictions at all. This will help define the future direction of OpenStreetMap.
  • Decline. You do not agree to the new OpenStreetMap Contributor Terms and, specifically, you refuse to re-license your existing contributions for use under the ODbL. Text displayed to people who decline.

Why do we have a license?

Our goal is to provide geographic data that is free and open to all to use. To make sure that your contributions are provided free and open, and remain free and open, we have a license that says that.

Who is behind the change?

The OpenStreetMap community, mainly via talk list, began discussing a more appropriate license in 2005. In 2007, a decision was made to keep the current Attribution/Share-Alike license format but have it specially written for use with databases. The OpenStreetMap Foundation then cooperated with the independent Open Knowledge Foundation to create the Open Database License 1.0. This was released in 2009 and a vote of Foundation members overwhelming endorsed its adoption.

Since May 2010 all new contributors have accepted terms allowing the use of the new license. To date, over 340,000 contributors are willing to allow their contributions to be licensed under ODbL.

What license is being changed?

We are changing the current CC-BY-SA 2.0 to Open Database License (OdbL) 1.0.

The license that covers the contributed geodata (nodes, ways, relations) and the GPX traces that you upload. That is, anything that is in the Postgresql database and which we explicitly publish, like planet.osm.

Map tiles will no longer be covered, explained below.

The change does not cover the wiki which will remain CC BY-SA. It does not cover software and software source code, which are usually but not always GPL (GNU Public License).

Why are we changing the license?

Our current user license is Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0. It was not designed for data and the creators of the license state, "Creative Commons does not recommend using Creative Commons licenses for informational databases, such as educational or scientific databases.".

The main issues for the OpenStreetMap project are:

  • The current license uses only copyright law. This clearly protects creative works such as written documents, pictures and photos. It does not clearly protect data, particularly in the US.
  • The current license is not written for data and databases. It is therefore very difficult to interpret. If someone uses your data in a map in a book and the map has several layers, what should be placed under CC-BY-SA? Just the OpenStreetMap layer and any enhancements? The whole map, including any unconnected layers and markers? The whole book?
  • It is difficult or impossible to ask questions about what can and cannot be done, as this means asking all the thousands of contributors individually to give their permission.
  • This means that “good guys” are stopped from using our data but the “bad guys” may be able to use it anyway.
  • It is difficult or impossible for folks to mix our data with data under other licenses.

You can read more here:

Have other options been considered?

Yes. There are three main options. Which option you personally support depends on what "free and open" means to you. We believe that a reasonable consensus has been built that our current progress should be to maintain a Share-Alike license (see more below) but have it written explicitly for data.

The new Contributor Terms also contains a section that allows you or future mappers to participate in changing the license provided that you maintain an active interest.

The options:

1. Use a “Public Domain” license

Putting something in the Public Domain means letting anyone do anything they like with the data without any permissions needed and without any restrictions at all. It is not possible to do this in many countries so instead a license saying the same thing can be used. Creative Commons recommend CC0 . A Public Domain license has no Share-Alike provision, meaning that anyone can mix and match their own data with OpenStreetMap data without making it available for free public use. Public Domain licenses are very short and easy for anyone to understand.

A large section of the OpenStreetMap community would like to switch to a “Public Domain” license.

However, a significant proportion of contributors are vehemently opposed to this and we would like to keep the project unified. There is also a fear that large organisations could take the data and release a better product than ours. This fear may or may not be true, but if we go Public Domain, it would very difficult to reverse course.

We therefore ask you to accept a change to a license that is still Share-Alike but specifically written for databases and may better address concerns that you have. You will have the opportunity to tick a box that says you prefer "Public Domain". The new Contributor Terms also has an explicit mechanism for a 2/3 majority of active contributors to make changes to the license in the future.

2. Another Share-Alike license written for data. There isn't one. The Open Database License is the only one that is well developed. OpenStreetMap is the pioneer here.

3. Stay with the current license. Some of the community would like us to stay with the current license, arguing that the vague nature is good thing. It forces extremely strong Share-Alike provisions even if it stops many projects using our data. They also point out that ODbL is unproven, OpenStreetMap will be the first big user and that it is longer and more complexly written than the existing license.

In December 2009, OpenStreetMap Foundation members were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a proposal to change the OpenStreetMap geodata license. 55% of eligible members voted, and 89% of those who voted have voted yes. Almost 49% of all eligible members have expressed their agreement to ODbL, and 6% have expressed their disagreement. Detailed results. The community created information for and against the OdbL license during the vote here:

What are the main differences between the old and the new license?

The old license is written for creative works such as text and photos. The new license is specifically written for data and databases.

The old license attempts to protect data using copyright law only. The new license attempts to protect data using copyright law, contract law and database rights. The protection offered by each varies around the world. Database rights, for example, are applicable in Europe but not in the USA.

Both licenses are “By Attribution” and “Share Alike”. You can read more about what these terms mean here:

However, there is one big Share-Alike difference between the old and new license. In the old license, if someone makes a map then they have to share the map under the same license, but they do not have to directly share any data they used to make the map. Under the new license, they can put a map under any license they like, provided that they share any data enhancements they have made to our data. The main reason for this is that maps can now be made with layers from incompatible data sources.

In the old license, any question about the license would have to be asked to thousands of contributors. Under the new license, the Foundation is allowed by you to publish the complete dataset as a single licensor. If there is doubt whether OpenStreetMap data can be used for a particular project, the Foundation can be asked if it objects or not. The Foundation has set up a process called "Community Guidelines" to make sure that contributors are consulted and can help define any response made.

Can I trust the OpenStreetMap Foundation ?

The Foundation is "dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data and to providing geospatial data for anybody to use and share.", ( ).

But what happens if the Foundation is taken over by people with commercial interests?

  • You still own the rights to any data you contribute, not the Foundation. In the new Contributor Terms, you license the Foundation to publish the data for others to use and ONLY under a free and open license.
  • The Foundation is not allowed to take your contribution and release it under a commercial license.
  • If the Foundation fails to publish under only a free and open license, it has broken its contract with you. A copy of the existing data can be made and released by a different body.
  • If a change is made to another free and open license, it is active contributors who decide yes or no, not the Foundation.