Can Google Maps/Street View be used in some ways that might influence OSM edits?

Let me firstly state that I am perfectly aware that OSM edits should be based on local knowledge or use sources that are compatible with ODbL. The terms of Google Maps clearly state:

Prohibited Conduct.
… When using Google Maps/Google Earth, you may not (or allow those acting on your behalf to):

  • use Google Maps/Google Earth to create or augment any other mapping-related dataset (including a mapping or navigation dataset, business listings database, mailing list, or telemarketing list) for use in a service that is a substitute for, or a substantially similar service to, Google Maps/Google Earth

To me, these terms make sense and are pretty easy to follow, but somehow the discussions on this topic still pop up in local changesets. While the original discussion questioned whether a certain interpretation of a copyrighted image copyrightable in the first place, I would like to take a different angle and present 4 examples. It would be interesting to see if there is a consensus on these examples:

Example A:
Alice is traveling in Turkey and is looking for a place to eat. By using Google Maps, she finds a cafe called The 37. After arriving, she discovers that the cafe is located exactly at 37°00’ N, 37°00’ E. The next day she checks if the place exists in OSM. It doesn’t, so she adds a new POI based on her local knowledge.

Example B:
Bob was browsing Google Maps and accidentally stumbled upon a cafe called The 37. He noticed the unique location and this seemed intriguing. He started looking for additional information. After visiting the cafe’s website, reading reviews on FB, he decided to also check OSM. Since it wasn’t there, he added the new POI using the cafe’s homepage as a source. (During that particular day, Bob had no intention to edit OSM. Bob had no local knowledge about the area.)

Example C:
Charlie wanted to improve OSM map around his hometown by adding missing cafes and restaurants. He used Google Maps to find The 37, a cafe he had never heard of. He double-checked very recent Street View imagery to ensure the place exists and added the cafe to OSM.

Example D:
Dan has set up an automatic script/bot to query a random POI from Google Maps API and then import it to OSM. On one particular day, only a single cafe called The 37 was randomly chosen and added to OSM.

For all these 4 examples, some form of knowledge transfer happened where information was sourced from Google Maps and as a result exactly the same information ends up in OSM:

<node lat="37.0000000" lon="37.0000000">
	<tag k="amenity" v="cafe"/>
	<tag k="name" v="The 37"/>

C, D are very clearly not correct, all edits made in such way should be reverted (even if it causes loss of data of people editing correctly). If someone is unable or unwilling to make such revert they should contact wider community or ask for help, contacting DWG may be a good idea.

As far as I know A is fine as long as all was from survey - for example arriving, finding object with The 37 sign and adding is a cafe based Google Maps data rather than based on survey would not be OK.

For B specifically - I want to note that it will

  • websites often are outdated and not a great source of info
  • I expect that even if such copying would be OK people would in practice end copying info from Google Maps into OSM and degenerate into C

in case of A

  • information that ends up in OSM was not sourced from Google Maps
  • it is unlikely to be added with exactly that longitude and latitude

Also, this reminds me about " What Colour are your bits?" classic

Warning: I am not a lawyer. This comment, like all my comments (unless noted otherwise) is not an official statement and was not consulted with OSMF board.


A and B is OK
C and D is not OK


I think your decision could be a little more justified.

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TS wants to find out if there is a consensus. Mateusz’ opinion is not consensus nor is mine. This is why I reacted in the first place; the more people react the more chance we have to find out if there is any consensus.
A short explanation: plane copying is a) simply illegal and b) not in my interest by any means. I like to make a map, not copy a map.

As I hoped, there seems to be a consensus for these 4 examples by looking at the reactions to @Mateusz_Konieczny post.

Alice added the cafe to the OSM on the next day, without using any sources besides her local knowledge. (Local knowledge was gained by using Google Maps and then by visiting the cafe)

it is unlikely to be added with exactly that longitude and latitude

I purposefully constructed these examples to make it hard to distinguish where the lat/long values come from. In reality, coordinates can leave a trace to the source when copied directly. Additionally, it’s almost impossible for Alice/Bob/Charlie to add exactly the same coordinates when using traditional editors.

Now, let’s add two new examples and blur the lines a little:

Example B2:
Billy was using Google Maps to systematically review every single cafe and restaurant in a small island and then add the missing ones to OSM. But in all instances he used Google Maps indirectly and didn’t copy anything from copyrighted sources. He was always able to find alternative source that was ODbL compatible. In his changesets he used source tags to indicate where the data was coming from. He did not use any local knowledge.

Example C2:
Carol was browsing Google Maps around her hometown and found a restaurant she had never heard of. She wanted to know more about it and opened very recent Street View imagery. She confirmed that this building has been recently renovated but she did find some conflicting information. The place didn’t look like a restaurant and the name of the place was incorrect in Google Maps. Based on information she interpreted and learned from Street View imagery, she added the place as cafe to OSM. (All the original details, along with the location, about this cafe/restaurant in Google Maps where ignored since these were incorrect/interpreted differently)

A and B conform to OSM standards, C and D do not.
B2: I don’t think it is wrong to compare two maps to find issues, then resolve the issues using information from free sources.
C2: “Based on information she interpreted and learned from Street View imagery, she added the place as cafe to OSM.” violates Googles terms of use.

I would like to add one more example:

Example E:
Emily heard that a cafe she knew, called “The 37”, no longer existed. It did still show up on several maps and apps, based on OSM and other sources.
She checked very recent Street View imagery to find that the cafe had indeed ceased to exist and removed it from OSM.

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Looking for fig leaf until matching Google Maps, stopping search at that point and adding sounds like copying Google Maps with extra steps.

we can not use this either, as far as I know

Also using Street View for mapping.

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For SV imagery replacement I strongly recommend Bing’s Street Side, Mapillary, or KartaView. Combining all 3, at least here in Poland, covers a vast majority of places and is fairly fresh too. Bonus, they are all directly integrated in the iD editor.

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