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

Is it okay to use pictures from Wikimedia Commons to help me map (as in see how many floors a building has, etc.)? If so, what about Wikipedia and Wikidata (At the bottom of the main page of Wikidata, it says that the mainspace data is Creative Commons CC0 License)?

asked 28 Apr '15, 16:41

AmaryllisGardener's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 28 Apr '15, 17:11

aseerel4c26's gravatar image

aseerel4c26 ♦

TL;DR (… but you should): I think that extracting info like building level count, height estimates from someone else's photos is okay to be used in OSM without a restriction, unless you take this photo from a georeferenced collection of photos like Google StreetView. As far as I know this is no easy topic.

I will try to give an overview from only a legal POV, and of course IANAL:

  • All fully public domain data/works ("public domain", "CC0", WTFPL, …) should be no problem to use.
  • More restrictive licenses there are harder. First, is the information you are going to derive from the "pictures" protected somehow and, second, is the license of the protected data compatible with the CT? See . Somehow this is discussed too at can-i-use-google-streetview-to-help-create-maps.
    • If we assume that the extracted information is protected then I guess only "pictures" under a non-share-alike license have a chance to be used for OSM because the share alike would mean that you need to publish the full OSM data under the same license which you cannot. For those licenses which only have an attribution requirement the question is: can we fulfil this requirement. Some people seem to think that we can fulfil this requirement by listing the sources on (you find many CC-BY sources there) plus possibly in the changeset comments. In fact, I personally doubt this really is a sufficient attribution for several reasons. See and can-i-use-or-trace-from-cc-by-data-under-the-new-contributor-terms regarding CC-BY sources.
    • If we assume that the extracted information is not protected then you could just use them. I think that if you extract information like "how many levels does this pictured (on a photo) building have?" then this fact is usually … not protected by copyright (even if it would be from a text instead of a photo). Maybe unless a user or a group of users collected photos to create a building height database … okay, maybe they did by grouping their photos into the Wikimedia Commons categories like "buildings by height"? Then we could think of this as a database – with no free license. Be aware that geocoding information on Wikipedia articles or Wikimedia Commons pictures might be derived from sources like google maps (instead of a own GPS measurement). Yes, I am aware that this thoughts may be exaggerated.

For all sources, attribution is a nice thing to do. … but obviously not on the "Attribution" wiki page which would get very very long then.

For all sources, a bit care is useful because the displayed license could simply be inserted by another wiki user, the uploader could not be the author (meaning that the uploader is not entitled to issue a license for the work). One case would be e.g. photos of maps (which were made by other people).

Maybe @SimonPoole from the LWG can shed more light here (see which is about data – not photos – use).

From a data quality POV the there would be several other questions which should not be a part of this question here, I just wanted to mention it. Mentioning the source of your data is good anyway to enable other mappers to verify and understand your changes.

permanent link

answered 28 Apr '15, 17:34

aseerel4c26's gravatar image

aseerel4c26 ♦
accept rate: 18%

edited 28 Apr '15, 20:05

So, Wikidata's okay? I was wondering about Wikidata because while it's data is under a CC0 license, one of the places we get the data from is Wikipedia (I know because I'm a Wikidata administrator), and so it would seem that things would be complicated because of that.

(28 Apr '15, 18:03) AmaryllisGar...

Well, interesting. I guess CC0 (as opposed to the more restricted Wikipedia licensing) is possible because the Wikipedia articles are no database (but a creative work, a text) and Wikidata is regarded as a new(!) database which is created of individually not copyright-protected facts from the Wikipedia articles. Just like if you would view someone's photo of a building and estimate its height or count its levels.

(28 Apr '15, 18:22) aseerel4c26 ♦

aseerel4c26 has given a good overview of the issues.

The main further point is that while Wikipedia does not claim any rights in wikidata, it also doesn't make any representations that it is free of the rights of third parties, so wikidata should be viewed at least sceptically. A similar argument extends to wiki commons where very often people will slap a PD/CC0 tag on something but the actual legal situation is unclear.

In the end the best way out of this is to use mapillary or do your own surveys.

(28 Apr '15, 21:27) SimonPoole ♦

okay, thank you, @SimonPoole! Yes, wrong licenses/copyright violations are an issue. However, are they really a problem for us – if we only extract some very very minor facts (the number of levels) from, let's say, a photo of a 15 level building in a city?

(28 Apr '15, 22:01) aseerel4c26 ♦

My nearly standard answer is simply to ask the author of the photograph in question.

(29 Apr '15, 07:57) SimonPoole ♦

@SimonPoole: yes, asking would also be a good opportunity to promote contributing to OSM. However, asking is not always possible and/or costly (e.g. in terms of time) (depending on the photo sharing platform).

(29 Apr '15, 12:33) aseerel4c26 ♦

@aseerel4c26 other platforms however would have other ToS which in turn reopens the discussion. The other problem is that photographic works is one of the areas in which IP protection varies greatly, for example between Switzerland and Germany. So best ... be conservative, check the ToS and ask the source of the image.

(29 Apr '15, 13:14) SimonPoole ♦

@SimonPoole: the saddening thing is: I guess e.g. most Wikimedia Commons uploaders (and possibly or hopefully also the platform operator) or generally free content supporters would love to have their photos of buildings used for such uses like OSM (without additional negotiation/contact work). But, indeed, the case it is not clear cut.

(29 Apr '15, 13:24) aseerel4c26 ♦
showing 5 of 8 show 3 more comments

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text]( "title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported

Question tags:


question asked: 28 Apr '15, 16:41

question was seen: 5,960 times

last updated: 29 Apr '15, 13:24

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