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..”

Ed – splitting hairs somewhat, sorry, but you are using the data from the council (which should be public) particularly in the information in the pop ups.

I understand your point, but only partly. Does it apply just to the easy to use myMaps on, or to all data shown using the mapping API?

For example, a kml file of favourite drinking holes put on as part of myMaps, versus my own website that shows my favourite drinking holes that uses the google maps mapping api and some custom marker code?

So if I create such a map, it’s ok to publish it in my new book about recycling centres?

I somehow suspect that both Google and TeleAtlas would quickly dispute the fact that this is my map. πŸ™‚


I think you are missing the point.. the discussion is about the information you might add using the api or MyMaps not the underlining base mapping or imagery.

As you point out, yes indeed Google et al, would have an issue with you publishing a book of Google Maps!

Still nice to know there is somebody else interested in recycling centres πŸ™‚

This is all very interesting but I’ve just located a PDF map on Richmond’s site which shows the location of all the recycling points and associated information in the borough – – there is a PDF here.

Now. No one is saying that Ed nicked the information from that map as the positions of some of the the facilities are different (in fact more on Ed’s than Richmond’s)? But it does prove a point – that facilities change over time and information that is provided on paper or PDF type media are quickly out of date and that is why interactive maps are so important as well as properly maintained data – this from a Paleotard (sorry Ed, we do have our uses). And, by the way, Richmond’s map contains no copyright in the PDF – whoops!


Your reply to spaetz actually sorely misses the point. His point wasn’t about the Google Base Imagery — as an OSM user, he’s fullly capable of producing his own basemaps (and often more interesting ones than Google, since he has the ability to create his own tile styling). Instead, his point was “Is the data that I’ve created in Google My Maps really mine?”

In order to position your recycling centers, you claim you used “imagination and local knowledge”. While that’s true to an extent, that’s unlikely to be *all* you used. I’d say there’s a very good chance that you used the map to position your points. For example, you looked at the map, and knew that there was one halfway down Walpole Road.

Now, what you’ve just done is used the map data to create a derivative piece of information: The *source* of the information is the location of the street (which does not belong to you). When creating data over the top of Google Maps streets, you’re deriving information from Google’s database — and as such, the resulting information is subject to violation of the database protections that Google has over its street database. At least, this is the common legal opinion: perhaps you are saying that Google is giving that up intentionally, but their licensing agreements definitely do not make this clear. I’ve had this conversation with a number of Google Maps people, and never gotten a straight answer.

Now, within the US, where there is no database protection, it’s likely that you’d be in the clear. However, in the UK at least, if you were to take these markers, plot them over OpenStreetMap, and publish the result in a book, I expect you’d be in legal problems — not because of the OSM data, but because those markers that you created *don’t belong to you*. You created them as a derivative work of a database of information that *isn’t yours*, and doing that is a violation of those rights.

If you’d like to say that that’s not the way that Google thinks, that’s great. It would mean, as far as I can tell, that the derivation of information from a Google Map — by, for example, tracing out the location of a footpath relative to the other streets in an area — would not be violation, so long as that data was originally not published in Google’s dataset. However, that is not at all supported by the current majority legal opinion as I’m aware of it, so if you really feel this way, it would be great to have a clear statement to that effect.

In essence, the question is as simple as this: When I create a Google MyMap, and I download the KML — who owns the copyright in that KML file? Is it me — or is it me with a derivative right from Google?

I think you can see plainly that the tools exist for me to trace out an entire town into a Google MyMap, and you’d argue (I assume) that doing so wouldn’t give me a copyright. So let me make it even clearer: If I make a Google My Map, mapping out the locations of the bars that I got way too drunk in during FOSS4G, using Google Maps street layer as a base (ignoring the fact that the data for Cape Town is abysmal) — do I own that information? Or not?


This is a great discussion much needed I think you will agree.. I think you mean interpretation rather than imagination and this is a key point.

I have through my “skill and judgement” interpreted where to locate the recycling centres, as they locations don’t appear on either the mapping or the original website.

So the locations are not derived…

So you answer you question…

“When I create a Google MyMap, and I download the KML β€” who owns the copyright in that KML file? Is it me β€” or is it me with a derivative right from Google?”

As long as you have not traced an existing feature from the maps, and therefore you have created “new” content, you own the rights to that content and you are giving Google a license to use it.

If I wanted to find something like recycling locations, I would look them up on the local council website. If the council did not show them on a map (static or interactive), I would look the addresses up on one of the general mapping sites on the internet. I would be highly skeptical of point in time maps generated by an individual. As TEG says, does the individual update the map when the data changes? How do they even know the data has changed? The council probably won’t notify them.

That’s not to say commercial/official maps or data are perfect but at least the organisations have a responsibility to maintain and update the data.

It’s becoming clearer what you mean by using “skill and judgement” as they locations don’t appear on the mapping. It’s not copying anything from the map. It’s merely using the api to help position your information.

Could you also say the same if you were to use skill and judgement to locate them using the aerial imagery? It would indeed be likely that such recycling features are easily identifiable from such imagery?

Or, to clarify another use case, using Google’s aerial imagery (not the mapping) to create a series of tie points for the rectification of old maps, or home made aerial photos? With these cases – it’s essential to be able to use and identify features, but it also essential to use skill and judgement to be able to identify the corresponding locations.

Or, would this be a case of “traced an existing feature from the maps” ?

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