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I draw my city on OSM. I draw only places I know (where I really supposed to be walking or cycling). I draw paths by overlaying my GPS routes or do it "by memory", in second case I need to align routes on the basis of some reference point. Usually Bing maps is enough to do it, but sometimes I need fresh Google Satellite images to align paths properly.

I repeat: I don't draw unknown territory, I draw places that I know and where I've actually been, I don't use Google Satellite images to trace paths, but use it just to ALIGN paths that I draw by memory.

So, question: it's OK to use Google Satellite images in this case?

(I've already found the way to place it on background, I'm asking only about legal usage it as "source of alignment base", a bit insane description, huh?)

asked 25 Feb '15, 20:55

Roman%20Shuvalov's gravatar image

Roman Shuvalov
accept rate: 0%

There are (at least) three aspects to this:

  1. Your contract with google that you enter by using their services. Obviously we are not here to do googles job and it is up to them to enforce their terms or not, however is quite clear on what they in principle allow and not. If you don't want to abide by their terms, don't use google.
  2. Any data that you derive from a source without permission creates a potential legal, business and financial liability for OSM and for anybody using the data. While in some legal systems the actual act of copying might be "legal" (but not ethical), the use of such data may have substantial risks outside of the country endangering the whole project.
  3. We (the OSM community) are building this dataset, we do not want to use sources against the will of their owners. In general I would find using competitors resources to build a competing product unethical.

The tl;dr version: no it is not ok to use google aerial imagery.

PS: while Mapbox has the same source as bing for lots of its imagery it is always a good idea to check their imagery, sometimes the data will be very different.

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answered 25 Feb '15, 22:03

SimonPoole's gravatar image

SimonPoole ♦
accept rate: 18%

edited 25 Feb '15, 22:04


Yes, I've just read Google Terms... sadly, but OK. I will not use it.

In Russia we have powerful Yandex Maps service ( that also provide high-quality satellite images, in terms of Yandex Maps I haven't found anything about prohibition of using their data, so I asked tech support about it, maybe they will give permission to use their satellite images to trace or, in my case, use as base for paths alignment.

Thank you.

(25 Feb '15, 22:10) Roman Shuvalov

@Roman Shuvalov: The question is not about "prohibition of using their data" but permission (or why it is allowed to use it)! You need to reverse your default assumption.

by the way: thank you very much for asking before just using Google!

(26 Feb '15, 01:33) aseerel4c26 ♦

Don't do that. Even if it might be allowed (and that is not a given and depends on the country you are in) it is a huge liabilty to OpenStreetmap if ever found out.

Google could sue OpenStreetMap and just drag the law suit (no matter what the eventual outcome would be) for so long that OpenStreetMap runs out of money (the very little amount we have).

The little gain (not having to use your GPS) is simply not worth the huge risk. So don't to that unless you WANT OpenStreetMap to fail.

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answered 25 Feb '15, 21:25

petschge's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

In my opinion you are NOT allowed to do so,

because as an other example: you know that there is a building in reality and you know about its proportions, and you want to add its outline to OSM, you are also not allowed to use googlemaps images.

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answered 25 Feb '15, 21:26

stephan75's gravatar image

accept rate: 6%

With regards to yandex terms, see here

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answered 26 Feb '15, 14:56

DaCor's gravatar image

accept rate: 2%


The satellite images that Google uses are from the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 satellites. The launch and maintenance of these satellites and the data derived from them are funded by the U.S. taxpayer, and are thus automatically in the public domain under United States statute. Any copyright claims Google may make on the satellite images are, therefore, dubious at best, and probably unenforceable.

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answered 28 Jun '16, 19:26

user8192's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

With regard to Landsat data, how does that statement relate to English and Welsh law (the legal jurisdiction in which OSM is based)?

Also, the majority of aerial imagery that Google use (anything at a useful zoom level) is NOT Landsat data. What claim does the USGS have on that?

(28 Jun '16, 20:29) SomeoneElse ♦

@user8192 your statements are simply nonsense, Landsat imagery has nominal resolution of around 30m which is not anything that anybody would write home about. It is commonly used by many players for lower zoom levels, but is not at all interesting for OSM.

Please a) don't repeat rubbish from trade rags here, and b) don't believe it in the first place.

(28 Jun '16, 20:44) SimonPoole ♦

Google does not just use Landsat data. I have seen Google maps images that I know were sourced from aerial photographs flown by my local council. The copyright claims that Google makes are as much for the orthorectified photo-processing applied to the raw satellite images as for the images themselves. What you see in Google maps satellite images are not simply the images taken by the satellite or aeroplane, but images that have been adjusted to match the map scale that Google uses to display the images. Different adjustments have been applied to each pixel, and it is these adjustments that the Google copyright applies to in addition to the source images. Google is essentially making a new copyrightable work even though this might have been derived from public domain source images.

(01 Jan '17, 02:10) Huttite

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question asked: 25 Feb '15, 20:55

question was seen: 9,846 times

last updated: 01 Jan '17, 02:10

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum