Using OSM screenshots under the CC BY 4.0 license

I have recently submitted a manuscript in the peer-reviewed, open access journal Plos One. The manuscript contains two screenshots that I took of an app I developed that includes OSM, showing a small section of a map. The manuscript describes a study I carried out where people need to move around some streets using the information provided in the map. The editor responded to me saying that these images are copyrighted and I have two options:
(1) Present written permission from the copyright holder to publish these figures specifically under the CC BY 4.0 license, or (2) remove the figures from your submission.

I do not mind removing the screenshots but I would rather keep them, as they make the document more explanatory. Is there any way to obtain this written consent or, suggesting a third options to the editor?

Thanks in advance.

There are actually 2 licenses you have to honour:

  1. the data license, OSM’s ODbL license, see
  2. the license for the rendered tiles, this will depend on where you got your screenshot. The license of the default style on osm.orf is CC-BY-SA. AFAIK, there is no way to get a different permission.

there was a similar question on the help-site recently.

The short answer: simply use a background map that is available under a more permissive licence, for example the “Humanitarian” layer.

The long answer:

  • you should have sent your question to
  • the ODbL, that is the OSM data distribution licence allows works that are created from the data that are not databases to be licensed on a wide range of terms, essentially requiring just attribution of the data source
  • for historical reasons, the map images aka tiles, in the “standard” style from are licensed on CC BY-SA 2.0 terms which is more restrictive than the licence of the journal, other layers are licensed on other terms.

In summary to be compatible with the license of the journal, you can either render the relevant area in OSM yourself, or use a layer from or elsewhere that has compatible terms.

Note: it should be pointed out that very likely your use would be covered by fair use / fair dealing in any case, but you probably don’t want to start an argument about legal fine points with the journal.

Thank you both, your suggestions are very helpful. Since the license for rendered tiles is more restrictive than the one required by the journal, I assume I have no other option than modifying my figures or remove them. I will definitely not start an argument with the journal’s legal team!

Before I forget: there is a > 0 chance that the tile license will be changed relatively soon, but probably not in time to solve your issue.