Morals/legality of basing a survey on copyright maps.


I went to LUG Radio Live last month, listened to the talk and caught the bug. I’ve been mapping my village ( and have done all the streets and footpaths nearby.

Now I need to go a little further afield.

What I planned on doing was printing out a map from Google maps (say,-1.651468&spn=0.018778,0.054932&z=15)) and then walking/cycling around the streets it shows logging as I go (and ensuring the street names are correct as well as noting anything else which is missing). I wouldn’t be using the data for anything else (e.g. to take measurements of an area to plot etc.)

Now, I can’t see anything wrong with this (morally, I mean, IANAL!) - I wouldn’t have a problem buying an A-Z and doing the same thing. The way I see it is that I’m using the map (Google/A-Z) for its intended purpose, that is to show me where to go and the data I’m collecting (from a GPS logger) is a different kettle of fish. Sort of like using a SatNav to collect data (assuming ‘snap to road’ is disabled).


It occurs to me that there is a possibility that there may be a problem or two with this approach and that is the reason for this post.

So, what are people’s thoughts on this?


I think it’s just fine. Using a copyrighted map to get around whilst tracking and writing down stuff from what you see in real life isn’t violating any copyright. As long as you don’t copy names and such from the map you’re in the clear.

Just to parrot, because it’s important.

I understand it like you are copying names from google maps, and then checking them against reality. The problem is if you See the streetsign “Highstreet” and on Google it says Hihgstreet you might accidently use the Google variant instead…And that’s not ok.

But I like your method I wonder if should do the samething, since I usually audio record what I see many time it’s impossible to hear what the name of a street is

I think it’s fine to plan your mapping trips from copyrighted maps, but you need to be careful you don’t get confused where your data is coming from - eg. do you think it’s a secondary road because of a sign or because your google map says it is? (which incidentally is often incorrect on road classifications round my area.) How certain you are may depend on how good your memory is! I try to take photos of everything when possible, so I can be sure.

Also, be aware of the fact that the completeness of the map you plan using will affect the completeness of your survey - if a path or road is missing and you don’t walk it, you won’t add it to OSM.

PS good job on your village :slight_smile:

Yeah it looks really great, it really helps to take one area at a time… I usually just wander about, which is a pretty bad strategy… :slight_smile:


I agree that copying ‘Hihgstreet’ from Google would be a bad thing! I’m using printed copies deliberately to check for this - simply ticking the name if it’s correct or correcting it if it isn’t. I did find one in the village which Google list as ‘… Drive’ when it’s really ‘… Close’. Can’t seem to find it again though!

I drove around a bit again last night and printed off a Google map, highlighted the roads which still needed doing and followed that. This made it much easier! Now I need to re-visit it all and check streetnames and snickets/ginnels/alleys/passageways/paths!


Sneaky. :stuck_out_tongue: It probably show up when you search for “… Close” though…

This is what makes OSM worthwhile… :slight_smile:

This is one of the trickiest legal questions there is.

To a certain extent, it’s fairly clearly ok. Let’s say you live in London, and are going to see some friends in Birmingham. You’ll look at a road atlas and decide to take the M40. You put your Garmin in the window and record the track, which you then upload to OSM. No-one is seriously going to say that your tagging of the track as the M40 is therefore a derived work from the AA (or whoever) road atlas.

But if you do this on a substantial scale, it can indeed be considered an infringement - go to and follow the various links, which document a case in Singapore where exactly that happened.

So play safe. Don’t use a single A-Z as the basis for your surveying of an entire city. Do feel free to use its indication of “there’s a housing estate over there” to inform your surveying. As a very general rule, if you feel uneasy about something, don’t do it.