Use of shopping mall online maps

Are we allowed to use them?

Have just spotted a few Notes where somebody has listed the web address for a shopping centre map, showing store locations e.g.

Their actual site Space Fix - Flinders Square certainly says Copyright, so are we able to use the online map, which, after all, they publish so that people can find the store they’re looking for!

Even if it’s not OK to do so, I believe it is OK to take a photo of a physical map at the mall, then use that to map?

To my knowledge if you use a weblink you don’t break copyright rules, especially if you mention the informationsource within OSM…
The copyright applies if you copy paste the map and use that in your website. Taking a photo in that respect is offending copyright if you use it in a website which does not belong to the owner ( in this case the mall owner). Just my 2 cents of Dutch OSM-er.


This is a really good question.

We copy facts from shop signs and websites without thinking twice, but we would never copy from a copyrighted commercial map.

In between there seems to be a lot of grey area.

With maps on the website of shopping centres, it is like you said, they put it there so people find the shops, not because they’re making money from the map itself. But I doubt that that’s a distinction that is made in copyright law.

Therefore I’ve only used such maps as a reference, for example to identify shops missing in OSM, and then I added those but only after verifying in person or if I knew for a fact that they were there (regardless of the map).

I wouldn’t do anything more than that, like tracing room geometry, but I haven’t done any serious indoor mapping so I would be curious to hear how others see this!

Also relevant: this wiki section about how we can use copyrighted maps (probably similar in Australia), a similar question that was asked on the OSM legal talk mailing list recently, and this thread.


Which would seem to suggest that No, we can’t.

May have to bounce this of Legal to get a ruling from them.

the copyright for a mall plan is by the designer of the mall / or maybe the people who made the drawing, not by the owner of the mall (unless they have acquired the copyright of the drawings, which was not typically done where I have personal experience, in 2 European countries).

1 Like

Yes indeed your right !
The overall outcome however stays the same… Copyright violation…


Publishing a photograph of a map could very well constitute copyright infringement. The question is, how much creativity went into the design.

Using the facts recorded in the map never can. Instead, it may very well infringe in sui-generis database rights. In the EU these are established according to directive 96/9. Wholesale copying certainly makes infringement.

Mind you: A map is a database! Something that should ring a bell with OSMers.

BTW: The US does not have such a right, as far as I know.


it is very unlikely that a map would be considered lacking necessary requirements to be copyrightable.

There are decisions in case law (Austrian court), where a map was actually found to be lacking. I would not put much faith in that though either :wink:

PS: In case the reproduction is sufficiently good, the related database law will match in any case.

I’d try actually asking them!

(if you haven’t already, of course)


Yep, that’s the simple answer, but in this case, somebody has raised 3 separate Notes for shopping centres, linking to their online directories.

@Fizzie41 I guess you are from the US? As long as you do not reproduce the map, as it appears on paper/screen, you should not feel anything copyright related. Using the facts recorded in a map, something that is regarded a database in the EU, might get you into trouble; in the EU, probably also the UK too, if they harmonized their law since 1996, when the directive got planted. Which might be ample time, but who knows?

In any case, you do not have to ask the people, that designed the map, but the people, that told them, what to show and where. Most likely, the operator of the mall.

Australia, actually, & from my understanding, our copyright laws are a lot closer to the UK than the US.

It’s a little more nuanced than that in the U.S. The laws here don’t recognize database rights, but courts have recognized copyright in compilations of facts that involve creativity or editorial judgment. To illustrate this distinction, suppose a telephone directory has two parts: a comprehensive, alphabetical listing of local businesses (the “white pages”), followed by a curated directory of many of the same businesses organized by theme and cuisine (the “yellow pages”). The white pages aren’t copyrightable, while the yellow pages might be – but only the design for organizing and presenting these facts.

Anyways, “rendered” maps definitely would be copyrightable, independently of the underlying data used to make them. A mall map probably filters out some details to reduce clutter and distorts geometries to look aesthetically pleasing to passers-by. If you primarily rely on the map to reproduce the shape of each store using the indoor mapping scheme, I suspect that would be considered derivation. But when I visit a mall, I do take a photo of the site map before walking around, if only to keep my notes organized and avoid cascading errors in case I accidentally skip a storefront.

1 Like

Well, putting a link to the map in a note isn’t copyright infringement, and I would say it’s actually quite helpful because there are legitimate uses of such maps. So unless the creator of the note was suggesting that you literally copy from the map without verifying the information, I don’t see a problem with that.

1 Like