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On the Dutch forum we have a discussion about mapping of hiking routes that can only be followed using a book or leaflet. They are not signposted on the ground. Most likely, the book has the typical copyright "nothing can be reproduces without ...". So far the mapper has not shown that this is not the case.

It is my belief that we should not map them or that we even are not allowed to map them.

So my questions are: - Can we map them ? - If not, is there a webpage that states this that I can refer to in the discussion ?

thanks in advance

asked 18 Sep '15, 17:16

escada's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

closed 12 Oct '15, 13:22

Richard's gravatar image

Richard ♦

The question has been closed for the following reason "question has degenerated into debate, which is not the aim of" by Richard 12 Oct '15, 13:22

While I would recommend against including such a route in OSM because it is at least unclear if copyright would apply and there is no way to copy the route without referring to the original, clearly copyrighted, source (note this is different for routes that are signposted), I would also ask why would we want this route in OSM in the first place.

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answered 18 Sep '15, 19:17

SimonPoole's gravatar image

SimonPoole ♦
accept rate: 18%

Thanks Simon. I indeed asked "whether OSM would be less valuable without the route". No answer so far.

(18 Sep '15, 19:25) escada

No, you definitely shouldn't, and yes, it is probably an infringement of copyright. Superimposing personal routes on a map (whether those routes are published in a book or not) is exactly what sites like umap are intended for.

But if you do decide to map these routes (which you shouldn't), please, please, make sure that you clearly tag them as unsignposted. Otherwise routers will say "turn onto Frodo's Hiking Route" when there are no signs for the walker to follow.

(The fact that only 2 relations in the whole planet are tagged as unsigned= perhaps tells you something about the wisdom of tagging such routes.)

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answered 21 Sep '15, 09:37

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Richard ♦
accept rate: 18%

edited 21 Sep '15, 09:38


On the general "not signed" thing, "unsigned=" is one way of doing it, but on ways such as doesn't actually tell you that it's the name that's not signed. Perhaps "name:signed=no" (which if not widely adopted, is at least descriptive).

For hiking routes it'd be a pretty unusual completely-unsigned hiking route that "deserved" to be in OSM, though there are well-known trails that aren't well signposted all the way (bits of the Bibbulmun Track in WA, for example).

(21 Sep '15, 09:54) SomeoneElse ♦

With the guide book you could walk it, record it with a GPS then upload it as the "name " trail as a public trace ( I am not a legal expert but copyright holders of the name may not allow you to use THE name but you could use something descriptive such as A to B). Then You or another mapper could create a route relation for it. If you look at waymarkedtrails you can see whats been mapped already. The routes can be looked at and a GPX can be downloaded. I helped with this one. edit after your comment:- You could contact the copyright holder and ask them if they would allow use of the name. You could suggest that the tagging could mention the book and they may get book buyers from walkers finding the route on trail map sites who like to read a guide book. A charity walk in the UK is the Macmillan Way a lot of people walk it, A lot them sponsored hikers that collect donations for that cancer care charity by walking it. So Macmillan Nurses have just got a free plug for their excellent work .. because it's on a map.

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answered 18 Sep '15, 17:37

andy%20mackey's gravatar image

andy mackey
accept rate: 4%

edited 18 Sep '15, 18:59


The answer you are referring to mention that trails that are not signposted, should not go in OSM. That is the case here. There is no other way to know the route than to buy a book. Are the trails in a book also copyrighted ?

(18 Sep '15, 17:56) escada

Re the Macmillan Way in the UK, that's signposted.

A long-distance route that isn't signposted fails the verifiability test - there's no way that another mapper (without the book) can verify the route.

(18 Sep '15, 19:09) SomeoneElse ♦

Copyright is a difficult issue, but in this case the name was "invented" by the author of the book, so I suggest you leave this tag blank but the ref can be anything you want it to be. Maybe ORCH1 for Orchard Walk I. In the OSM map, Holland is one of a very few countries where such walking relations abound, but given a unique ref, a POI can be easily associated to make it visible on your GPS.

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answered 18 Sep '15, 18:06

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accept rate: 7%

And the walk itself, can it be copyrighted ? By "the walk", I mean the actual order of all the streets and tracks (or parts of them) that are described in the book. This is actually the case for GR-routes in France

(18 Sep '15, 22:10) escada

Under UK law (and note that OSM is hosted in the UK), the choice of streets and paths could be considered "a work [...] which is written [...] and accordingly includes – (a) a table or compilation other than a database" (Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988). Alternatively, it may be considered a map and henceforth a "graphic work", or a database. All of these are copyrightable, and thus it's certainly conceivable that a collection of walks is copyrighted and therefore not suitable for inclusion in OSM.

(21 Sep '15, 13:10) Richard ♦

Leaving aside the legal issues, I absolutely wouldn't make up a name or ref such as "Maybe ORCH1 for Orchard Walk I". Stuff you've invented can't be verified by other people and shouldn't be in OSM, but of course can and should be added to track-drawing-website of your choice.

(21 Sep '15, 14:41) SomeoneElse ♦

Hi wilda69, your proposal looks like stealing a car and adding another serial number to the stolen chasis and selling it like its an original chasis out of the factory. @ Escada the order of the notes still makes the music even if its renamed we even have a name for it, plagiarism.

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answered 18 Sep '15, 22:28

Hendrikklaas's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

edited 20 Sep '15, 16:36


Tagging a route that already exists with a particular name is permitted, because there is no copyright on names, this is explicitly stated by "Names are not protected by copyright law. Some names may be protected under trademark law.", and "Copyright does not protect facts". The fact that a route is referred to with a certain name is not a copyrightable concept.

Tracing a route from a published map is not permitted, because the map is considered an artistic work. But if the route is public knowledge, and you know that people refer to the route by a particular name, that knowledge and name are not copyrightable.

UK Copyright law is the same in this respect:

  • "Names, titles, short phrases and colours are not generally considered unique or substantial enough to be covered" (
  • "As names are not copyright works, they should not be registered" (
  • "Are names protected by copyright? No - there is no copyright protection for names or titles" (
  • "Are ideas protected by copyright? No - although the work itself may be protected by copyright, the idea behind it is not." (
  • "Facts, however, cannot be copyrighted." (
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answered 10 Oct '15, 23:24

Chris%20B's gravatar image

Chris B
accept rate: 0%

edited 10 Oct '15, 23:58


I'm not sure why you're referring to a US government site ( when OSM is an international project with its servers in London and owned by a Foundation registered in England & Wales.

(10 Oct '15, 23:37) Richard ♦

UK copyright law is the same - you can't copyright names, facts or ideas. I've included UK references. This is basic copyright knowledge.

(11 Oct '15, 00:02) Chris B

The French organization that maintains the GR-routes has a different opinion about that. It seems that the French OSM community is not challenging this.

Since the original question is mostly about loops, I doubt whether such routes are public knowledge. You cannot know the complete route without reading the book.

(11 Oct '15, 07:00) escada

While "names" as such can't be copyrighted (at least in any country which has a more or less normal copyright regime), naturally there are numerous other rights that a creator/owner of the IP in such a name might have. Trade marks have already been mentioned, but there can be others for example title rights in Germany.

It should be noted that GR is a trademark, I'm not aware of FFRandonnée claiming anything else.

And just for completness sake: while you cannot copyright individual facts collections of such can and are protected under various statutes depending on national law and legal customs (see Richards comment from the September 21st for the UK).

(11 Oct '15, 10:41) SimonPoole ♦

Trademarks are a different issue from copyright, as the answer said "Some names may be protected under trademark law". The GR designation is trademarked.

A published work is protected, but the names and facts that it contains are not protected. The assertion that a collection of name or facts is copyrightable is incorrect. Sets of names and facts are not copyrightable.

You can't copy a map from a book, but if you know of a route by a certain name, then using that knowledge and name is not a copyright violation. It is silly to claim that a person who has never laid eyes on a book would violate the copyright on that book merely by writing down his knowledge that a certain route is known by a certain name. It doesn't matter how he found out this knowledge - if he never looked at the book, then he can't infringe the copyright of it. Copyright protects specific works, not knowledge.

Once somebody gains knowledge, they are free to tell others those facts, and the receiver of those facts can utilise them as they wish. This is the basis of Chinese wall clean room design, which is a completely legally engineering method.

(11 Oct '15, 19:51) Chris B

@Chris B Please do not misuse the help site for discussions and similar. I would suggest contacting a lawyer for more information on copyright law, particulary with respect to EU database protection. You are confusing technically creating something that has the same functionality, with the direct or indirect copying of a creative work, which you can't work around with a clean room approach.

(12 Oct '15, 10:03) SimonPoole ♦

@SimonPoole I do not intend this to be a discussion - I am merely responding to your comments. The legal guidance I had was "If you read a book, then take a half hour walk, and can still remember something, then that's knowledge and can't be copyrighted". You may disagree with that, and that's fine. If you can provide a single citation to English law showing that simple factual knowledge of a route is copyrightable, then do so. Otherwise, please respect that other people have different opinions, and until there is settled case law on this specific topic, even IP lawyers will give different opinions.

(12 Oct '15, 13:10) Chris B

For the avoidance of doubt for anyone coming to this topic later, OSM takes an explicit "whiter-than-white" approach to copyrighted sources. We do not map from sources where "even IP lawyers will give different opinions": our aim is that OSM is a source you can rely on to be legally impeccable. Given that this subthread has demonstrated that walking books are debatable sources at best, they are therefore inadmissible for OSM.

I am now closing this topic because, as Simon says, the site is not intended for discussions.

(12 Oct '15, 13:22) Richard ♦
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question asked: 18 Sep '15, 17:16

question was seen: 6,210 times

last updated: 12 Oct '15, 14:36

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