Who reads the Terms of Service anyway..

Update : As this discussion has grown in scope, and to allow my colleagues back in the States to follow this important thread can I ask you continue posting comments at

Well in the UK almost everybody involved in the GI industry!

A while ago I made a rather cryptic blog post asking for any information regarding a communication that had been sent from Ordnance Survey to Local Authorities, this is the communication highlighted by Charles in the Guardian yesterday.

As the Guardian article points out the OS was unhappy with local authorities signing up to the Google Maps API terms of service as it required a “broad” re-licensing of the data to Google and the users of Google maps based sites.

Yesterday, Google published an updated Terms of Service for both Google Maps and Earth,  which I hope will go some way to solving this issue.

The relevant section of the new terms of service with reference to the publishing of user generated content I reproduce below..

11. Licenses from You to Google.

11.1 Content License

(a) You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Your Content. By submitting, posting or displaying Your Content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute Your Content. This license is for the purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Service.


So part (a) says.. your data is your data, Google can make no claim over its ownership. You provide Google with a license to reproduce your maps only for promotion purposes, e.g. like the screenshot below or in a powerpoint presentation.



(b) You give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to access, reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute business listings data contained in Maps API Implementations. For example, if you create a store locator application, Google may use the business listings information from the store locator to improve the Google Services such as Google Maps and local search.


Part (b) is really about improving local search, if you are opening a new chain of coffee shops (not perhaps the best time methinks) and you produce a store locator that uses Google Maps, then you are allowing Google to use your store locations in the Google Search index, so people will be able to find them from other sites in addition to you own.
For local authorities this might be relevant for the location of public offices, libraries, schools etc. Type “Teddington Schools” into Google and you get a list that looks like this..
Really useful I think..


(c) You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make Your Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.


Part (c) really just highlights how the geoweb works, it you create a google map with the location of your recylcing centres, that map may be syndicated to users of mobile phones on the Vodafone network for example, who have access to Google Maps as a standard option on their phones.


(d) You understand and agree that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Service to our users, may do the following:

(i) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and

(ii) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media.  


Part (d) is about making technical changes to the way maps are displayed to take into account bandwidth and device limitations.


11.2 Brand Features License. You grant to Google a nontransferable, nonexclusive license during the Term to use Your Brand Features to advertise that you are using the Service.


Google can use your logo to illustrate the fact you are a Google maps/earth user.


11.3 Authority to Grant Licenses. You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above licenses.


This might be the difficult point, it is saying that by publishing the locations of your schools, coffee shops, crime statistics etc. you have the rights to share the information, because it is yours to share. I can see the OS view on derived data may make this currently difficult, but lets hope that that is something that can change.

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.

28 replies on “Who reads the Terms of Service anyway..”

It’s good to hear people discussing this as for me this Google v OS argument is ridiculous.
As a developer within local government I plan(ned) to implement Google Maps whereever I could and our FindMyNearest was just a start. But it uses data from our LLPG using the recently implemented Property Use Classification fieldsm as defined by central government. So the NLPG gives us fields that we can’t tell anyone about using maps. Great.
I’m reminded that our FindMyNearest will still be useful without maps and yes of course it will be but it’ll be nowhere as nice to use.
Come on central goverment, SOCITM or someone, step in and sort this out.

So the new realisation is that data geolocated using an OS map (but not on the OS map itself) cannot be added as a layer on a Google map mashup…

But does this also apply the other way around, e.g. a feature which someone has visually geolocated using a Google map based on Teleatlas data (and so is thereon licensed to Google, but does not appear on the underlying Google/TeleAtlas tile) cannot be used in an OS OpenSpace mashup?

I couldn’t find this scenario in the Google map terms, but then it is quite an intimidating document to read and understand!

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