OpenStreetMap is an online collaboration of people who are interested in creating free and open maps for anyone who wants them. Whether you’re a bicyclist planning your route for the weekend or a corporation wanting to sell maps to cyclists, you are free to use OpenStreetMap data. That’s right. You can come in, having contributed nothing at all, paying nothing at all, and use other people’s work to make money. But that’s not the point of it. The real point of OSM is people working together to make ever-improving maps available to all.
The way they make the project and its data open and free is through the use of a special copyright license, the Open Data Commons Open Database License. It’s similar to the Creative Commons Attribution and ShareAlike license used by Green Comet. To quote from their FAQ: “You are free to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt our data, as long as you credit OpenStreetMap and its contributors. If you alter or build upon our data, you may distribute the result only under the same licence.”
OpenStreetMap is built in the way of a wiki. Anyone can become a member and contribute to the database. If you know of a road or a trail that you think should be included, you can put it in yourself. In this way OSM grows. Lately there are even apps for tablets and phones to help make it easy, and OSM provides an editor that you can use right in your web browser. With GPS, what could go wrong?-)