So, this time yesterday I posted a blog post describing how Apple appeared to be using OSM data in their new map tiles without attribution.
In the last 24 hours, that post has received more page views and comments than I would normally expect to receive in an entire month on this site. I was even accused of “link-whoring” – making a sensational claim to intentionally drive traffic to that page, which I find a rather laughable accusation – I personally think that I’ve written posts of far greater merit than that!
Anyway, it’s fair to say that, had I known in advance the degree of scrutiny that my post would come under, I’d probably have taken more time to compose it and add more detail to my arguments. It’s clear from some of the comments that many people have entirely missed the point I was making. The curious nature of human behaviour on the internet means that those same people may well also miss the point of the additional information provided in this post, but here goes anyway:
Firstly, I am not making a generalised attack on Apple; I’m commenting on a very specific part of one product – the data from which the map tiles in the new iPhoto product are based. I have not made any comment, and frankly couldn’t care less who they copied the iPad 3 from.
Secondly, I am not making a comment as a random observer. Spatial data (or “making maps on computers”) is what I specialise in. I’ve presented first-hand research that justify my statement that Apple appears to be using OSM data in its products, and many other observers have found the same. Since my last post, this fact has also been confirmed by the OSM foundation: http://blog.osmfoundation.org/2012/03/08/welcome-apple/ (although, as far as I’m aware, Apple have still yet to confirm it themselves)
Thirdly, although there is an element of drawing attention to general business ethics and legality here (that it is both “right” for Apple to state that they are using OSM data, and also they need to do so to comply with the CC BY-SA licence under which it is made available), I also have a personal grievance. I am myself an OSM contributor, and I have not been credited for the data I have contributed that Apple is now using.
I should also perhaps mention that I have tried to contact Apple for comment on the issue, but have received no response. I also went into my local Apple store, where the sales representative informed me that the new iPhoto app was “sick” (does that mean it’s good? Or is it unwell?) but couldn’t show or tell me anything about where the maps were sourced from, because the iLife products are “not third party – they’re all Apple’s own”.
Finally, some commenters have accused me of being a “drama queen” or getting things out of proportion. They are perhaps right, but I still believe that we should not simply sit back and let these things pass. Whether Apple intentionally used OSM data without attribution, or whether that’s an error we shall have to find out in due course. They still appear to be using data that is not theirs, in breach of the licence, and lack of knowledge is not a defence.
However, if I have jumped to conclusions then it is worth reflecting on the fact that I am very fortunate to live in a country where I can point out the wrongdoings of large companies and organisations, however trivial they may seem (and, yes, that includes calling them “thieving bastards”) without fear of persecution. Many others in the world right now are not so fortunate.
So, come on Apple – do the right thing: add an appropriate attribution notice – or, even better, add a link to encourage iOS users to contribute to OSM - and let’s move on.