Google Maps Technology Thoughts

Whose map is it anyway..

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It’s mine all mine..

This is a map of recycling centres in Teddington, my local neighbourhood in London. I created it my looking up the locations of recycling centres run by my local council, the London Borough of Richmond, from their website and then added the points using the existing Google Map and Satellite image for context.

So who owns this new map ?

I do !

By publishing the map using Google Maps, I give Google a license to use my data but it’s “ownership” as such remains with me. The license is just an explicit statement of the implict intenention of publishing a map for consumption by the public using Google as a publication channel.

Google makes no claim over the intellectual property of the maps you create, they remain your maps and the data remains your data !

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

50 replies on “Whose map is it anyway..”

Micky: I think Ed meant “note” your sources.

Ed: Rich’s comment (#35) is the one I’m attempting to address.

Specifically, my claim is that since you can’t reproduce your work without the proprietary data — you can’t create the list of lon/lat markers that you did without the map data. As I understand it, the current legal thing is that using it like that is creating a derivative work, which means you don’t own the copyright to the data you created.

If you could create the list without Google Maps, that would be one thing. But if you can’t, I can’t see how the geodata can belong to anyone other than Google.

So is tracing features from the imagery of Google maps (without looking at any of the map features) allowed for OSM? Obviously Yahoo allows it, is there anything so different with Google’s imagery?

It feels like the community should really challenge Google to step in and answer questions, versus sitting coyly behind the ambiguity of the situation. In the case of SEO and search logic, they have taken a much more involved role in “the conversation”.

To me, it feels disingenuous of Google to be quiet on this subject – which is obviously a lightening rod for the community driving the scaled success of mash-up and innovation behavior on top of their infrastructure.

Come on, Google, we know you’re watching, step in with a voice. There are things we know you can’t/won’t say, but to be this disconnected with the community creates nothing but FUD.

Stop acting like IBM and Microsoft. Grow a pair.


I understand that you regret that this thread is not about recycling centers anymore, but largely about the legal issue of derivative work. However the fact that it is should indicate to you the extremely high relevance of this issue to the public.

If I read this thread, as well as other related threads on your blog, I guess that there is a persistent misundertanding about what it “tracing from Google Earth/Maps” and what is “a feature of the map”.

Let me try to clarify it: When ppl talk about “tracing from Google Earth/Maps” then usually they DO NOT refer to tracing Google’s own “Map/Hybrid” data overlay”, i.e. the scalable vector graphic that Google put over the satellite images. What they mean is creating THEIR OWN vector data using Google Map’s pure satellite images (only the images, NOT the data overlay) to find accurate geo-coordinates, then classify these self created waypoints as a street, a shoreline, or a recycling center (etc.) from other data sources outside Google Maps/Earth, e.g. their own knowledge of the area.

If I get you right, then in your opinion “a feature of Google’s map” is only what is in Google’s vector data overlay, but not what is just visible and identifiable (by own interpretation) from the satellite images!?!

So if I further understand you right, then you would say that a new, original vector data overlay, that has been traced from Google Earth/Map’s pure satellite images PLUS e.g. personal knowledge of the area, but MINUS Google’s own data overlay is not a derivative work!?!

That is good news. However – what Christopher Schmidt is trying to point out to you above is that – under many national laws and jurisdictions, maybe not the U.S., but most Europeans, it is very likely that the courts in fact will hold such a work as derivative from the satellite images.

If Google doesn’t mind such tracing of the satellite images to create a new set of vector data overlay, being free of (potential) restrictions from Googles copyright, then it would really help if Google clarifies this. However i am afraid a “I, Ed Parsons, personally don’t consider this derivative work” would not do it. It needs to be a “We, Google Inc., legally don’t consider this derivative work”.

Ed, here is another reason why this should be officially claryfied by Google Inc.:
For example the Openstreetmap-Project forbids it’s contributers to trace from Google Earth/Maps’s satellite images (unless Google would permit it), because Openstreetmap does respect Google, their Terms of Use and honors their IP.
However now there is at least one other project which recently started to do something similar to Openstreetmap, but tracing it completely from Google Map’s satellite images. As far it is publicly known, they do so without permission of Google; and by the way, unlike Openstreetmap, this project is not under an open lincense, but a properitary one. (I don’t want to mention the name, I guess you know which project I mean).
So far Google seems to tolerate it. But this bears a uncomely signal in it:
Those who respect Google’s (potential) IP will be ‘punished’, those who ignore it will be ‘rewarded’ (…by factually having a better tool, i.e. Googles satellite images).
I think Google Inc. should not have an interest in sending out such a signal.
Therefore I appeal to you – and assume that I can speak for many others – to push the legal management of Google to make an official legal statement, that such new geodata that has been created by the help of tracing from Google Map’s pure satellite images (but NOT from Google Maps’s own “Map/Hybrid” data overlay, of course!) is considered an original work of it’s creator, any potential IP (i.e. derivative work copyright) being waived, respectively licensed to the creator. (preferably limit this statement to work that is subsequently licensed under an open license, such as GPL, CC-SA, Open Data Commons Database Licence, and the like)

I hope this post makes it a little bit more clear where we all are comming from.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂


Sorry not to reply sooner, I lost track of his discussion. I really do understand where the OSM community is coming from, however there is I’m afraid no simple or definitive answer as to the rights in new geodata created using the tools provided by Google as it depends upon the tool itself, how Google has licensed the data from the original data owner etc.

However I will make a few points that hopefully explain why this is complex.

– There is at least in the minds of the majority of imagery providers a difference between using their imagery for a individual to capture discrete features (i.e the location of a recycling site) and large scale capture of base geodata, such a street networks. This is manifested by imagery providers having different licenses and payment terms for the capture of such base data sets.

– Google is not in a position to allow users capture base data such as street networks because of these licensing restrictions, outside of specific applications such as MapMaker where licenses have been obtained specifically for particular areas.

– So follow the OSM advice don’t trace street networks from Google Maps ! ( I understand Yahoo have provided the OSM project with an appropriate license to do this )

– Any data that you can capture using your own knowledge of discrete features using any imagery for reference is OK, and yes this is open for further confusion and arguments over the definitions of base data/discrete features – but this is still one of those grey areas.


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