This started off as a comment to another thread where the immutability of the "public domain / BSD / MIT..." license bit was discussed. That conversation revealed to me that there were no tools to alter that bit. (That's enough details... Rather than nuking the post I've posted a reply below which describes what I've done till now 2013/03/13 18:05 AEST. Might help others in the same boat.)

Original post starts

On this licensing issue. I'd like to be sure I've got this right.

I signed up yesterday when I saw that my local area was a mess, no street names. I didn't notice any choices like BSD, BSD 2 term, MIT, GPL, WTF or whatever licensing, only the Open Database license. I was surprised that the Public Domain choice is irrevocable and pretty hard to find. (So I want to make that choice revocable.)

If I want to make the public domain choice, is this the route I need to follow?

  1. Nuke any edits that I have entered. (Send them to the great bit bucket in the sky.) If so how? (Answered this myself. Use JOSM with revert addin. Very easy.)

  2. Nuke my account, delete it?

  3. Recreate the account?


asked 12 Mar '13, 21:29

Mike%20Gale's gravatar image

Mike Gale
accept rate: 0%

edited 13 Mar '13, 20:59

This started as a comment in another thread so it reads a bit oddly now that it has been made into a separate item (may edit original - DONE).


  1. I've reverted the changes using JOSM. Will wait till those take hold before going on.
  2. I'll then write to admin to have my account nuked. (Or that bit reset if that's possible.)
  3. Assuming account nuking done, I'll then sign up again, tick the boxen I want, then make the edits again.
(13 Mar '13, 07:02) Mike Gale

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your feedback.

This is important, giving me two choices.

  1. Nuke the small amount that I've done, and my account, then go away permanently.
  2. Nuke it, get my account nuked, then rejoin and redo.

I've just started so this isn't as great a burden as it would be if I'd done more.

I'm sure there's a lot of debate about this, hopefully with any antagonism, hidden, so I won't go further.

In essence I'm prepared to contribute knowing that all that I do can also be issued under a different license.

I think that it's a good idea to have some information in the help, for others in the same boat as I.

I sent the email requesting account nuking a few minutes ago 2013/03/14 07:34.

(13 Mar '13, 20:52) Mike Gale

Mike, I think you making far too much work for yourself.

The PD tick box has a long and controversial history, including some technical/layout hickups that essentially imply that we will not be able to actually use your choice in a legal context.

If we ever want to provide a "PD" extract of the OSM data we would probably go back to the contributors and ask specifically for such permission (it would probably require going through the CT process of adding a further distribution licence too).

I would suggest that any discussion on this is moved to one of the mailing lists or forums, the help system is not really suited or intended for policy discussions.

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answered 13 Mar '13, 10:20

SimonPoole's gravatar image

SimonPoole ♦
accept rate: 18%

edited 13 Mar '13, 10:23

When you contribute, you contribute on the terms of the CTs (, these give the OSMF the (non-exclusive) right to distribute the data under the licences that are determined in a democratic process by the active mappers.

In other words you are free to make any data you have provided seperatly available under any licence you choose. Trying however to seperate your contributions in the OSM database from those of others doesn't make legal nor technical sense. Latest at the point in time when other contributors edit your data they become intertwined with the work of everybody else.

During the licence change we had to undo some of this and while it was doable, it was not a pretty sight. If you believe that OSM data should be available with different licences than it is today then you can engage the community and try to get further distribution licences added. That however is no small task.

Please simply contribute on the same terms that everybody else does.

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answered 13 Mar '13, 22:04

SimonPoole's gravatar image

SimonPoole ♦
accept rate: 18%

edited 13 Mar '13, 22:10

I am not sure what exactly you are trying to do, but the PD flag is deliberately nonrevocable. Once you have given your data to the project, you can not take the license back, as otherwise it would be impossible to build upon your work if you could revoke your license at any time. Given the interconnectedness of map data, this would entirely defeat the purpose of a collaborative crowd sourced project like OSM.

If you read for example the CC0 license which is aiming to emulate public domain, it states "To the greatest extent permitted by, but not in contravention of, applicable law, Affirmer hereby overtly, fully, permanently, irrevocably and unconditionally waives, abandons, and surrenders all of Affirmer's Copyright and Related Rights and associated claims and causes of action, whether now known or unknown (including existing as well as future claims and causes of action), in the Work..."

Also the OSM contributor terms state: "You hereby grant to OSMF a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable licence to do any act that is restricted by copyright..."

So no, you cannot revoke the license and this is unlikely going to change. You can however stop contributing any future data if you don't like the license. If it is only the PD flag that is bothering you and you are fine with the ODbL, then as Simon said, this flag is likely legally meaningless and so of no real consequence. The best thing in that case is simply to create a new account and make future contributions in the new account without the PD flag set.

Reverting your changes in JOSM does not really help, as the data remains in the history and so anyone who thinks those changes are useful can always revert your revert, reinstating your data under the license.

If there are specific reasons why you really do need to remove your data, e.g. because you didn't have the license to give to OSM in the first place, or there are other good and valid reasons for the data to be removed, you would need to contact the OSMF Data Working Group, who do have the ability to permanently purge data from the database, but won't do that lightly.

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answered 14 Mar '13, 01:48

apmon's gravatar image

accept rate: 20%

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question asked: 12 Mar '13, 21:29

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last updated: 14 Mar '13, 01:48

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