What is considered stealing from other maps?

Just curious, is finding a place on another map and copying those coordinates stealing?
Obviously, It isn’t possible for everyone using JOSM to physically go to a location.



OSM contributors do not copy from copyrighted sources or import data from copyrighted sources without permission from the owner’s permission. (see more)


I would say based on this copying coordinates isn’t an issue.

OSM is not in a hurry. We can afford to wait until someone can actually go to a location.

Contributions made without visiting on-location are often low-quality - they can rely on third-party information like directories or aerial imagery which may be outdated, incomplete, or outright erroneous.

We should encourage everyone to contribute actual, surveyed information. First-hand information about a shop around the corner does more for OSM’s overall quality and reputation than a thousand objects copied (or traced) from other sources in regions the mapper has never set their foot in - even if permission were given for such copying.


No it isn’t stealing, you have your legal statutes mixed up.

But you did agree to respect third parties intellectual property when you signed up for the OSM account. And sure it is completely possible to go to places in person that you want to map.


Thanks! most of the locations I have checked on I have physically been to. I can update my data as I go to them. I haven’t uploaded any data yet.

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Copying coordinates from copyrighted sources is not allowed. As an OSM contributor, you don’t should copy from copyrighted sources:

OSM contributors are reminded never to add data from any copyrighted sources (e.g. Google Maps or printed maps) without explicit permission from the copyright holders.

See more on OSM Copyright and License.


That is pretty clear. Thank you!

Thank you!

:+1::+1::+1: … full acc!


So technically you can’t even use a commercially available GPSr, to get said coordinates or even an app on your phone.

You can record GPS tracks and use them for mapping.

Your GPS tracks are yours. You can use them to map and share them with the community if you want.


Underscoring the “your GPS (GPX) tracks are yours,” there was a potential case of copyright infringement in OSM about a decade ago, but GPX tracks “solved” it. In the USA, there is a (copyrighted, proprietary) nationwide network of long-distance bicycle routes published by a bicycle advocacy group that basically “pays their rent” by selling maps (and now, digital data versions) of these “commercial” routes. (These are also under constant development / improvement, a service certainly worth paying for). A couple/few pieces of these not-public routes found their way into OSM and at first glance it seems should have been redacted as copyright infringement, but then it emerged that some intrepid OSM volunteers had actually ridden these route segments, saved their data into their GPS and uploaded these route data to OSM based on their GPX data, giving them “legal nexus” to enter the data. The bicycle advocacy group “didn’t strenuously object” to this, and the data (less than parts of 3 of their dozens of routes) remain in OSM to this day, but (as I work with them to enter into OSM the public versions of national bicycle routes, which they develop with state departments of transportation) I have been careful to explain (on United States/Bicycle Networks - OpenStreetMap Wiki) that entering such data must come from data which are “personally sourced,” (such as via your own GPX tracks) and that even naming such things must be done carefully with an eye towards whether they meet our ODbL requirements.

So, such things “can be done,” but be very careful you are not violating copyright. And as we are not all lawyers and it can be hard to know if you are “threading this needle correctly,” it certainly can’t hurt to ask (in a forum like this) whether you might be on the right side (or the wrong side) of “the rules.” ODbL isn’t that hard to understand: if a map is copyrighted or data are otherwise “proprietary,” do not use them in OSM. Otherwise, happy mapping!


I cannot tell a lie. I copied Node: ‪Turning point 136‬ (‪10171227272‬) | OpenStreetMap straight from the International Boundary Commission data. It’s on the real CA/US border, which you will notice is rather different than the (no comment, but my Grandma called it “kid stuff” ) one on the OSM map.
I would visit it personally but I don’t know how to swim well, plus I can’t hold my breath for very long, to go to the bottom of the river and see if anything’s there.

Yeah I know what you’re saying, “What are you worried about Dan? It’s on the bottom side of Niagara Falls, not the top. No barrel needed.” But hey then there’s still the Whirlpool Rapids to deal with…

I’ve been framed by a signmaker with a Google habit!

The shop will very likely update their website with the new address once they’ve moved. Recording that fact should be permissible since an individual fact isn’t eligible for copyright, only a fixed expression of it.


The “Fair Use” doctrine

" Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances ."

U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index

Found this with Duck Duck Go(oogle)

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The article ”What Colour are your bits?” is an interesting explanation why you need to ensure the data source is “clean”. :slightly_smiling_face:


Although that’s true: (i) OSM is an international project, and copyright law varies by country, other countries have different standards. and (ii) “Fair Use” doesn’t include lots of uses that OSM wants to include, like “massive commercial reuse”/“reselling” etc.

(simplifying, IANAL etc.)


The article “What Colour are your bits” is a fascinating, highly amusing, quite serious, highly enjoyable read. It’s a bit long, especially with the 43 Comments, but it’s more fun than I’ve had in many hours.

Recommended; thank you for the link!

I suppose the moral of my story is: “if you chase down the reality of ‘what actually happened’ (something either actually or approximating ‘fair use’) instead of what ‘things appear to be,’ (copyright infringement) you can assign a way of looking at things ‘with a certain color’ that generates wide agreement.” When Adventure Cycling Association (ACA, the bicycle advocacy group I mentioned, with whom I have a wonderful relationship facilitating United States Bicycle Routes entering OSM), discovered that some small segment of a couple-plus of their routes entered our map, and I chased down the reality of “GPX tracks by actual cyclists,” I think a quote of what their response was close to “Well, some small, hopefully manageable amount of that is gonna happen.” And a decade later, thanks to due diligence of watching that “no more” of their routes have entered (as they ARE copyrighted), do enter or will enter OSM further, it is kept “manageable” and “mitigated” and the wheels keep on turning without any lawyers getting involved.

This really was an instance of “we’re scratching each others’ backs here, there is an honest explanation, no malice was involved, the cost (of “published” copyrighted data) is relatively small / minor, so as long as we recognize this, there is no need to fight about it.” Hey, I like that, so does ACA, it would be my educated guess that OSM likes that too, (no litigation), so results are “smiles all around.”


U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index

Yeah, please don’t try and generically apply US copyright law to an international project whose legal base is in England & Wales and whose servers are mostly in the EU.