Apparent use of unauthorised source for beach names in Australia

This has been discussed on Discord: Discord but I realised I hadn’t mentioned it here, sorry.

Somebody spotted that a group of ~30 users, predominantly British, have been adding names to beaches right around Australia, with no sources marked, but with those names apparently coming from, which is marked as being copyright, & which we don’t, as far as I am aware, have permission to use. (Incidentally, I have approached them 3 times, to different e-mail addresses, over the last few years to ask for permission, but have never even received an acknowledgement, let alone a reply :cry:)

Originally we thought there was only 1 person involved, & I deleted the names they had added to ~80 beaches, but then we found the rest doing the same thing, for a total of ~1800 beaches! overpass turbo

Unfortunately, the doubtful names will all have to be deleted, which then raises the question of how to do so?

Do we simply revert all of their changes, which is relatively simple to do, but which will delete the actual beaches as well, & possibly any other changes that have been made to them since; or do we go in & just delete the actual names from each one individually? To further complicate matters, some of the beach names have been added by local mappers, almost undoubtedly from local knowledge, so it’s not just a matter of deleting everything from that OT search.

Reverting all of them is something that I can do myself, but deleting just the names will require a group effort (or at least take a lot longer than I am able {& willing!} to devote to the task!).

So what would we like to do?



It should be noted that the 1800 number is only for the beaches that have numbers or parenthesis in their names. So there will be more. I mentioned this in the Discord already, but we could as a first step delete just the names of the beaches that are at version 1.

This query looks up all the named beaches that are at version 1 created by the 34 identified users. It has just over 2000 results. Without the (if:version()==1) clause there are about 2400 results. Indicating that about 400 beaches would need to be handled another way.

I have drafted an email to Surf Life Saving Australia pointing out the situation and will see if they will grant us a waiver.

My first Q is: what did the mappers have to say about this?

If they have been made aware of the wrongful use of the data abd still continue to do so I believe a shot across the bow by the DWG is in order

A comment was left on the last changeset of at least 8 identified users, no responses so far, and one of them did actually delete their account following this.

I noted this on the talk-au mail group back in December 2021. [talk-au] Stealth import of beach names?

Most of the conversation happened off-thread, but the theory at the time was that this could be an annual school project

I am in contact with Beachsafe - hopefully we get an answer this week or a redaction of beach names will commence.

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After a lot of reverting, almost all of the improperly copied beach names should now be gone, although some will still be there, as those users have since deleted their accounts.

As always though, reversions of this size will have also caused some collateral damage, so if you spot any, I’d ask if you could please fix it?

From looking at when they were created, there were all bursts done in June then Dec 21; May, Aug & Dec 22; then May & Sep 23, so they may start up again over the next few months?

If you spot them reappearing, please raise a ticket to ASAP.



im pretty sure the official names of beaches isnt owned or copyrighted by anybody. I think it falls under fair use, its the equivalent of saying you cant write a synopsis of a movie because the movie is copyrighted. If surf life saving have a database of these names then it’s ok. I dont trust the knowledge or education of the average OSM user to be able to say what the legal issue here is.

I dont like to see information like this deleted based on assumptions.

I also think its very alarming that our DWG member hangs out on unofficial OSM channels and makes huge mass deletions based on this chatter with out any citations.

Thanks you,
I went and checked all the areas I’ve been mapping at and readded a bunch of the removed beaches based on aerial imagery. All should be good again.


It was disappointing we got no response in relation to a waiver but it was very obvious they were copied from a copyright site. I also suspect it was an undocumented organised editing campaign.


beaches are named by the local council and state governments and publicy release and become public information, if the surf life saving club choose to host a list/database of these name they do not automatically posses the IP and own the copyright of these names. Australian beaches are even protected by the federal government. I might be missing something here or been left out because of discord chatter but what am I missing? If people want to role play as copyright lawyers that fine but stop destroying the map in the process.

Find me a council / state government source for “Beach 1332” in South Australia


if the data is not accurate you can always use this map NationalMap to fix it. Every single bit of public information is available there and open to be used by anyone. Surf life saving sounds like a dodgy source and it probably is , but the information can still be verified quite easily if needed. I very skeptical when it comes to random OSM users deciding legal matters.

also Beach 1332 could be correct, a few years ago there was a legal case where beaches were handed over to first nation people and were assigned random numbers during the process. It can get complex and uneducated people will not be able to grasp the concept of it.

and how do you know “beach 1332” isnt what its called in the local area which can’t be verified by any source just some random editor calling it that because that what it looks like from the ground which over writes official data anyway lol

In OSM we are trying to keep our database free. If we allow people to
add copyrighted data into OSM then that harms the idea of a free
database. Firstly, it could earn us a “pirate” reputation and some of
our “competitors” would be happy to use anything to tarnish OSM.
Secondly, it could even lead to an innocent OSM user becoming the
subject of legal action because they used what they believe to be free data.

Hence, if there is reasonable doubt about the legacy of a source (e.g.
the source has a copyright notice on their web site…), we should
follow up on that; and if we then contact those who contributed the data
and they either remain silent or vanish, then we should err on the side
of caution and remove the data.

That has nothing to do with “random OSM users deciding legal matters”,
it doesn’t make us “uneducated”, and neither “role playing as copyright
lawyers” (all quotes: @slice0) - it is simply good judgement.


the names of our beaches are not copyrighted, especially not by the surf life saving club. It is open and public data.

Hi Slice.

Your concerns have been addressed earlier in the thread.

Let’s keep this thread on topic.