Legal advice over help and support?

I don’t know if I just missed it up to now, or if it is a recent change, but the tag line for the help forum reads

For everyone who needs help with OpenStreetMap; Whether you are new or experienced, or if your question is technical, practical or legal.

Suggesting that legal questions can be answered in the support forum is not a good idea.

Not only is there a potential legal angle to that (because in most countries giving legal advice is a regulated activity), you further need to avoid giving the impression that the forum is a source of definite answers to legal / licensing questions to the OSMF except if the LWG wants to provide manpower to provide such guidance.

Naturally answering your typical “can I copy from google” question is OK, but they will turn up in any case.


This was taken from the current Help OSM site description (if I remember correctly) and then shortened to fit mobile screens.

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Yes, I never noticed that because you don’t get it displayed if you are not logged in. In any case that doesn’t make it less of a bad idea.

I’m moving this to a separate topic so we can talk about it, thanks for flagging :slight_smile:

I agree with Simon. Let’s delete the reference to legal advise. What about something along:

For everyone who needs help with OpenStreetMap; Whether you are new or experienced, or if your question is on mapping or using data.

Or we just delete the legal in the current version.

I’ve been asking around and we should probably have a disclaimer about any answers are not a legal advise by OSMF.

And maybe changing legal by “licensing”, since the Help OSM site and some mailing list received these kind of questions and community supported them.

I would be careful about even doing anything with licensing on the QA site. At most allow for questions to be posted but have the answer section completely locked down. Its only purpose should only be to display a disclaimer and direct people to a locked down wiki page controlled by the LWG. The page would contain “best practices” and other rule of thumbs related to licensing and attribution.

That bit of the puzzle has been available for more than a decade, see Licence - OpenStreetMap Foundation

I doubt LWG has the capacity to respond to everyone who has a legal question. This approach would therefore simply result in people being left alone with their unanswered questions, which strikes me unhelpful and unwelcoming towards to people who want to use OSM data.

For the record, that doesn’t mean the original suggestion in this thread is a bad one and I’ve opened an issue to make sure it’s not forgotten.

The LWG definitely doesn’t have the capacity to answer all questions, but the solution to that is to point people to the large body of material published by the OSMF / LWG. With the exception of a very small number of cases that legitimately should go to if the question can’t be answered by existing material, the enquirer should be talking to their own legal counsel.