Ambiguous Footpaths vs Copyright Issues


There is a footpath route I know of in my local area; I’m in the UK and it is marked on the Ordnance Survey maps (cannot copy from there into OSM due to copyright, and cannot find the path in the (permitted licence) “open data” from the OS).

I have physically walked the route of it, but there is absolutely no sign of the route on the ground, except an entry and exit point, both unmarked with any signage. The route of the path on the copyrighted map is exactly the same as it would’ve been if I’d just guessed the path, basically by just drawing a line from the (unsigned) entry and exit points. But without the copyrighted map there isn’t really any indication that this is actually a route.

So… can I add it to OSM stating “local knowledge” as the source? Like I said I have walked the route and didn’t get chased away by a farmer or whatever (the route crosses farmland) - but I wouldn’t ever have known the path was there if I hadn’t seen it on the copyrighted OS map a while back. As I said no “on the ground” indication. I “know” this is a right of way because it is marked as such on the local government website, but this is not an acceptable source for OSM due to copyright reasons.

This seems to be a grey area of licensing vs “obvious on-the-ground knowledge”. If there was a path evident on the ground I could just add it as local knowedge right, but… it is just fields with sheep and not even any desire lines from people walking across. What can I do? :frowning:

Thanks, and sorry if this is a really stupid question!

I’m not a lawyer, but that seems perfectly fine to me. You walked the path (source: survey), maybe recorded a GPS trace (source: survey, GPS). You thus draw the path from info you collected, not from that disallowed source.

I would add trail_visibility=* to indicate how obvious the path is.

I suppose the only reason I’m not sure is that you could then just follow the route of a copyrighted map and essentially “trace it with your body” to get the line from the copyrighted map into OSM. I suppose that’s slightly different to this case though, where there is at least a (sort of) start and finish point visible and the copyrighted map just draws a straight line anyway…

I’m probably overthinking this! :roll_eyes::frowning:

I agree with @Viajero, you should have no fear to add the footpath. One of the main principles of OSM is to map what you know.


Thanks both - its probably a trivial thing but I’m pretty new to contributing to OSM and didn’t want to “go against the grain” or step on any toes! Just want it to be the best map there is! :sunglasses:

Firstly, no it’s not a stupid question!

Yes, you can absolutely add the path based on your local knowledge that “people do walk that path”, although you can’t add “designation=public_footpath” (which people normally would) based on on-the-ground signage if there isn’t any.

If signage is missing you could perhaps contact the local authority and ask about it. It doesn’t sound like it is obstructed, but sounds like it should be signed.

Another thing to try is to see if any licence-compatible data is available from your local authority. See “Public Rights of Way Data from local councils” in and other references in the OSM wiki - permission might already have been obtained and if so you could tag “designation=public_footpath” based on that.

As “Viajero Perdido” (very appropriate name!) said I’d definitely suggest adding a “trail_visibility” tag (see ) so that people know it’s not easy to find.

People in the UK might be interested in where this is; might be a good place to ask about it (more people living there will likely read a message there than here). Generally speaking the island of GB is discussed on talk-gb and and the island of Ireland on talk-ie, but presumably this is England or Wales since those are the regions with marked “public footpaths” (Scotland has Core Paths, which have a similar role but the law is very different there - far less restrictive).