CC-BY aerials - good or bad?

Some people argue against using CC-BY aerials for mapping. I do not see why that should be of any concern. In the EU aerials are given the same protection as photographs made by e.g. passport photo machines. Commentary to EU court of justice opinions do not even give them database protection (see note 1). Sounds reasonably to me: What would be the use of protection, the pixel at coordinates x,y has colour rgb(x,y,z)?

Contrary, the abstraction is given high value: i.e. to recognise a building, the kind of being a church, a carport, &c. from the pixel mesh. That is what turns a database/map into a copyrightable subject - something that OSM users do a lot, and using CC-BY aerials.

Should that all be reverted? I am talking about lots of edits.

note 1)

Short answer: No, see Use of CC BY 4.0 licensed data in OpenStreetMap | OpenStreetMap Blog.

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Nah, the aerials are photographs, CC only applies to what is copyrightable. That says: The editor that shows the images must name the originator of the image.

What I as a HI (Human Intelligence) glance from those images is not in the image. I have exclusive rights in that, which I can share under ODBL. My point of view!

PS: It is considered due diligence to name the originator of aerials used in CS metadata, so others can learn about it. And not move a building half a meter because bing shows it there, while I (and many others) mapped it from a much more exactly aligned one.

It should be noted that the subject matter of the decision that the commentary is about didn’t have anything directly to do with aerials, so I don’t think that you can bank on anything there.

That said the LWG position historically, and likely still is, that vectorizing aerial imagery doesn’t create a derivative (aka adapted work per CC-BY terminology). TemplatetextforaerialimagerywaiversfortracingforOpenStreetMap.odt - Google Drive just asks for a clarification in situations in which the provider of the imagery might try to assert such rights.

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I’d say, a publisher of aerials can limit use under competition law or whatever that is called in English. But once its out under CC anything, such may be too late for them?

As said, I wouldn’t bank on aerial images not being protected. The commentary you linked to simply tries to juxtaposition them as different to a map for purposes of the argument that a map has protection as a sui generis database on top of classical copyright.

But I would argue that while an individual aerial image will at best only have protection via the lesser “photo protection” statues for non-creative images, the actual works that are used are datasets of many such images, carefully selected and processed. In the case of the larger imagery mosaics even from multiple independent sources with substantial additional investment, and I believe that they clearly tick all the required boxes for sui generis database protection.

With other words using a licence would seem to be quite appropriate.

PS: assuming that we are talking about something published in the EU.

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My words, aerials put into a WMS in my view afford database protection. Yet, that protection is not of much use, the difference mostly, that it lasts 15 years instead of 50, so creators will be much more happy with what photo protection affords them.

My opinion: All the processing of aerials into rectified ortho-photos still will not get them the p.m.a+70 protection – Do you know of precedence? I did not find any. Especially, if there are buildings, roads, etc. in the ortho-rectified-aerials data, or just colour values? You said, LWG does not see derivative works, much as I do.

It gets a bit more interesting when using queries into the DGM to get elevation data, which is only protected as a database. This will open the question: What makes a use a substantial extract. As data has billions of points, I’d see the bar rather high. Don’t you?

Dear Hungerburg,

Why do you keep looking for loopholes? What do you find incomprehensible about the following statements?

  • OSM is not there to test the limits of copyright, neighbouring rights, database protection and other intellectual property rights of third party rights holders.
  • OSMF does not have the financial means to defend itself against a lawsuit by a rights holder (especially the big tech giants).
  • That’s why OSM’s waistcoat is whiter than white

Dear Mammi,

Why do you want to castrate OSM mappers? Moral higher ground? Beware that your stance makes OSM data less white than you likely want.

BTW, which big tech giants, and how?

@Hungerburg You shouldn’t run my nickname through the translator, it doesn’t seem very respectful. (if it wasn’t the translator’s fault, then it’s disrespectful)


The project is very close to my heart. I don’t want to imagine it or let it happen.

No, avoidance of legal issues and potential need to delete all data in given area because it was contaminated by copyright violation.

There were cases already where data for entire city was deleted because in past someone made copyright-violating import.

Yes, some laws/legal situations are stupid/unjust/counterproductive. No, OSM is not Sci-Hub or Pirate Bay or Internet Archive.

What you mean here?

Sorry Mammi, I see, please excuse the typo. There is more wrong with my post. I was a bit upset.

I also care about the project. Looking at Contributors - OpenStreetMap Wiki not all aerials available in the editors have waivers, some are listed as CC-BY only, some are not listed at all. Some waivers read like, yes it is CC-BY, really. Hope it never comes to play.

I did applaud your work done to make the wiki free from images with unclear copyright status. I guess this is ongoing still. Curiously, I felt the hardliner in that topic, compared with lots of statements by others. Photos is a very clear-cut matter and there is a small industry at work in discovering violations.

E.g. esri, which is a standard layer in JOSM pulls in CC-BY only aerials.

UPDATE: In my region, the very same aerial is available CC-BY only, CC-BY + waiver and from esri quasi public-domain. A bit of browsing sent me here Using aerial imagery - OpenStreetMap Wiki - gonna read that now!

UPDATE 2: Now arrived here OpenStreetMap

I’m not sure if I understand you correctly.
Do you mean that “Esri World Imagery” includes aerials that Esri has obtained under CC-BY?

I think esri pays for them. The producers are their customers, they might get a good deal. What makes me wonder a bit, the wiki documentation says, esri images need no attribution while on the other hand the producers (in my local area) are not willing to make them available to OSM under anything less than CC-BY-4.0.

I should mention, there is another fourth or fifth? provider of the very same aerial, that has a special door for JOSM editor users, where tracing under ODbL is allowed, but it too requires attribution “in the created work”, but curiously keeps the photos themselves “all rights reserved”.

In my area esri sources still other producers, zooming in/out switches products - they sometimes even have winter images. Quite nice. Nowhere does it show in my editor (JOSM) where the images actually come from. Perhaps in arcgis this is shown?

PS: Meanwhile my reading stopped here - - there is work in progress that I haven’t been aware of. Sadly, this is so much about imports. Something that I care not so much about. I still do not consider tracing from aerial an import, not even a derived product (in the CC sense of the term.)

From talk in another topic I came to learn that this is a double-edged sword indeed - I’d appreciate if other database providers would post something like Licence/Community Guidelines/Substantial - Guideline - OpenStreetMap Foundation

From my point of view, my own contributions to OSM to a substantial (pun not intended) degree turn OSM into a work of literature kind of database (Datenbankwerk in German); And I know of lots of other contributions of others that amount to the same. I can live with my/those contributions licensed as if they belonged to the much lesser sui-generis database (Datenbank in German) conditions.

I have seen you advise people on how to add data derived (literally, in a sense that fully falls under copyright in all jurisdictions) from a third party source to osm.

I have no feelings against that. After all, it actually only affects downstream consumers, so I do not share your fear of OSM going down from such mappings. Yet, from my reading of legalese, resulting data though cannot be relicensed under ODbL and therefore should not be in the data.

More info here The CC-0 Advantage: How the EU Open Data Directive Can Benefit from Simplified Licensing for Geodata | OpenStreetMap Blog

Die dort genannte Quelle hat eine explizite Freigabe für OSM, dass die Quellenangabe im CS ausreichend ist. Für Details wende Dich bitte an user !i!

I just hope the people in charge read what the OSM LWG has to say.

Just stumbled over – a source that can be relicensed ODbL without asking - - This does not hold for ORKa.MV, unfortunately. Using their data stains the waistcoat.