"Copyrighted" street names

Perhaps this question is too vague to answer. Sorry. Has to do with street names.

I visited a location. OSM already has most/many of the streets themselves plotted (but no street names), so it’s the names that are the copyright/independent information issue.

I had two maps in hand as I explored with my GPS. One has a copyright symbol, the other has no restriction of any kind on it. The area itself has relatively few street signs. I wandered around, spoke with the residents, marked up the maps, noted places where even though there were no street signs there were individual mailboxes or signs indicating the street. In many cases there were disagreements between the residents and one or more of the maps. I did the best I could. In many cases I circled the street names on the map, indicating that by deduction or some process I had determined that that name was probably correct.

I came back home and learned about OSM. Great, I’d like to share all this information. But it is difficult at this point to determine from my notes which street names I learned from where. I know I confirmed most of them I circled or entered manually, one way or the other. Maybe all of them. How big a deal is it if, in entering say 100 street names, maybe 10-12 may be sourced from the original (copyrighted) map? But my notes are too much of a mess to know for sure.

Obviously in the future I’ll be more careful, but meanwhile I have quite a collection of useful data it would be a shame to throw out because some small portion of the street names may come from a copyrighted map. Again the streets themselves are already plotted in OSM and my GPS readings confirm that they are where the names are on the map. Wouldn’t that be “fair use”?

Ok, let’s go through this.

  • Copyright symbols are a reminder that a work is copyrighted. But if a work doesn’t have a copyright symbol, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t copyrighted.
  • “Fair use” is limited to some jurisdictions and whether a given use is considered “fair” depends at least somewhat on the purpose it’s used for. Since OSM tries to provide data that can be used freely for any purpose, it would not be acceptable to include copyrighted material that is only available under fair use.

However, there are valid arguments that we could still use your street names, because facts such as street names themselves aren’t copyrighted. The legal limits that are in place nevertheless are:

a) the map presentation, layout, icons etc. are protected, but this doesn’t matter here
b) a “database” of facts can be protected in its entirety in some jurisdictions, even if individual facts are not
c) terms of service might place additional restrictions on copying/tracing from maps, especially for online map services

I guess that, if this is a relatively small amount of data, protections such as database rights will not kick in, so using that data would be legal.

However, I will not unambiguously recommend adding the data. I also want to point out that general policy for OSM tends to be very defensive, avoiding even “probably legal” sources and sticking to “perfectly legal” sources only. So if the OSMF feels that keeping your contributions makes them or users of OSM vulnerable to legal attacks, they will not hesitate to remove your contributions.

If you decide to use that data, it would be advisable to at least keep the potentially unsafe edits separate from the rest of your contributions (e.g. by entering them during separate editing sessions / changesets). If it turns out that we are unable to or don’t want to keep these edits, we will be able to remove them without affecting the rest of your contributions. And if you get a chance to use a safe source to verify the names, do so.

Oh, IANAL, of course. And welcome to OSM! :slight_smile: