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A friend that works at Google recently reminded me I should not use Google's data when contributing to OSM. This is clearly explained at and specifically advised against at:

In fact that was the very first thing I learned about when I found out about OSM through several other friend in the free/open source software community here in Montreal.

I was wondering if Google can do the exact opposite, ie. take OSM's data and use it for their maps ? I believe they should (and can), if such is the case, would they have to relicense portions of theirs maps as a result ? I am just curious, as I hadn't thought of this before.

I was also informed I could contribute error reports to Google Maps. Contributing errors to Google Maps is not really comparable to making my own maps which then become almost immediately usable by anyone else for Free.

asked 10 Aug '10, 13:25

MagicFab's gravatar image

accept rate: 20%

edited 11 Aug '10, 09:38

TomH's gravatar image

TomH ♦♦

Yes, Google, and other companies are welcome to use OpenStreetMap Data as long as they meet their obligations in the OpenStreetMap License.

Google have been supporters of OpenStreetMap for a while. Google have had speakers present at OpenStreetMap conferences. In early 2009 the Open Source Projects Office at Google made a generous contribution to the OSM DB Server Fund Raising Drive and OpenStreetMap-related projects have been in the Google Summer of Code. I haven't yet seen OpenStreetMap data in use at Google, but when they do, it will likely be similar to the Mapquest OpenStreetMap Demonstration with a separate site or application using OpenStreetMap data.

Google, and other online maps, buy proprietary map data from proprietary map data vendors for use on their web sites. Those companies want to keep the proprietary map data separate from the OpenStreetMap data so that there is no confusion about what data is under which license.

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answered 11 Aug '10, 01:15

Richard%20Weait's gravatar image

Richard Weait
accept rate: 17%


It might be worth point out that Microsoft's Bing Maps has recently started offering Openstreetmap data ( in its products.

In a much more limited form, Flicr of Yahoo have also used OpenStreetMap tiles (

However, what Google and Co can't do is copy bits out of Openstreetmap and included it in their current maps, as both OSMs share-alike clause, as well as TeleAtlases / Navteq's clauses prevent a mixing of the two datasets. Hence why MapQuest and Bing are offering completely separate OSM layers.

(14 Aug '10, 13:13) apmon

I have evidences that GoogleMaps merges OSM data directly in its proprietary database (with a delay of about 2 weeks) these changes made in OSM are made visible in Google Maps, including details voluntarily modified with nodes in error, such as alignment constraints respected for most nodes except only 1 slightly altered, corrections of curvatures, positions of terminating nodes of dead-end ways, exact form of parking lots, position of traffic signals before crossroad moved to the other side of the roadway, exact count of parallel ways on a large road/railway, tiny details of river limits...

(02 Sep '11, 01:12) Verdy_p

Google cannot detect these tiny details as voluntarily erroneous (or too much detailed), and reproduce then them exactly where they were (apparently someammpers working for Google are reviewing the OSM data, and if they fit on their existing data model, they don't care about the source, they just add them just to get a more precise map, compared to what they have collected with "street cars", satellite imagery, and closer imagery from planes or helicopters).

(02 Sep '11, 01:12) Verdy_p

I am now expecting that Google also gives credits to OSM. They must do it, legally, and it would also attract GoogleMaps visitors to work on OSM and get better maps in their own areas, adding many corrections or details not found in GoogleMaps...

Google Maps should imitate Bing, and offer layers if it does not want to track all the modifications (made by itself or before it by OSM contributors, or provided from official national public data sources).

(02 Sep '11, 01:12) Verdy_p

Note: my contributions on OSM were first imported without changes. But then in an attempt to hide this fact, the exact position of nodes have been later altered somehow, visibly using a random generator (but this is not enough, tiny superfluous details that were voluntarily wrong, are still there, even if they have been slightly randomized). It seems that Google will soon decide to cleanup some of these tiny details (hiding more the sources). But then the Google Map will no longer be as reliable as OSM data for very close zoom levels due to data loss and incoherences by its "randomizer".

(02 Sep '11, 01:34) Verdy_p

Verdy_p - that's certainly interesting if true, but not suitable for this help website. You should post your comments to one of the mailing lists, and perhaps also e-mail the Data Working Group of the OSM Foundation with your evidence.

(02 Sep '11, 01:43) Richard ♦

For the benefit of the TheSilphRoad: over the years there have been many claims of google using OSM data deliberately. However these have never been substantiated and, naturally, given that both datasets are describing the same things, similarities are to be expected.

(24 Jan '17, 15:48) SimonPoole ♦
showing 5 of 7 show 2 more comments

There is no ultimate answer as to which one is better. These two have as many similarities as differences. They are based on different fundamentals, but they solve the same basic human need to know “WHERE”. The key difference between these two mapping environments is a philosophic “Open” vs. “Closed” approach with how the data is collected and distributed.

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answered 23 Jul '20, 05:49

Smith%20Hennry's gravatar image

Smith Hennry
accept rate: 0%

There is no question in my mind that Google not only uses OSM data, but it appears to have an algorithm to incorporate it almost immediately. I have been making several changes to a major city where Google has almost no useful information, and my changes to OSM appear on Google Maps, sometimes within minutes.

So far as I know there is no attribution whatsoever by Google Maps to OSM.

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answered 28 Jun '14, 09:17

johnparis's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%



Please note that the LWG ( ) is responsible for licence questions (as in 3rd parties using OSM) not the DWG.

99.99% of the time we are not able to prove copying by a third party mostly it is just coinidence. If you really believe copying to be the case, please supply:

  • references to the OSM object(s) in question
  • dated and timed screen shots of the same in the "offending" map

If it is mechanical copying as you suggest, you should be able to make a screen shot of map X before you added something to OSM and one after.

(28 Jun '14, 12:09) SimonPoole ♦

Yes they can. But they have to show attribution for OSM just as they do for their other data providers. They also have to release the tiles and routes based on OSM under CC-by-SA. This can be done in areas where OSM have better coverage then any other provider, like Haiti or Gaza.

The problem is that OSM does not provide any warranty like the other map providers. In addition any edits by google must be CC-by-SA. This is probably why Google have not yet (to my knowledge) used OSM data.

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answered 10 Aug '10, 14:09

Gnonthgol's gravatar image

Gnonthgol ♦
accept rate: 16%

Google HAS used OSM data (at least those that I have contributed and drawn myself, all of them!)

(02 Sep '11, 01:13) Verdy_p

In my opinion, Google shouls not even seek into adding very restrictive licencing terms on its maps, but only on the commercial advertizing data that he sells in order to make them visible on top of the maps).

So Google should create layers with a licence for each that is compatible with the licences of sources that it has aggregated (if those sources are all CC-by-SA, the aggregate containing OSM data can be licenced under CC-by-SA by Google).

(02 Sep '11, 01:18) Verdy_p

With the pending change of licence for OSM data, all my contributions are still placed under CC-by-SA, and will be migrated to the new. Then Google will have no other choice than separating the new OSM data which won't fit in its CC-by-SA aggregate, into a new layer, or by displaying these layers on top of each other - but with correct identification of ALL applicable licences.

(02 Sep '11, 01:20) Verdy_p

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question asked: 10 Aug '10, 13:25

question was seen: 30,539 times

last updated: 23 Jul '20, 05:49

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