Why Google MapMaker is not Open

I get asked a lot lately if Google Map Maker data is compatible with OpenStreetMap. There seems to be an effort within certain quarters to position GMM as “Open” data, when it certainly isn’t … Google completely owns MapMaker data, and applies strict requirements to using that data. This is hardly news, but just for convenience, I’m posting this quick analysis of the Map Maker Licensing Terms.

There are three main points in the Google Map Maker Data Download that makes it incompatible with the license of OpenStreetMap data. And in my opinion, even outside of my involvement with OpenStreetMap, Google’s terms are too strict and anti-openness.

- Non-commercial use only (8.1, 8.2, 10.2)
- Attribution method is quite strict (8.3)
- No use for services that might compete with Google (10.4, 10.5)

OpenStreetMap permits commercial use; we do give full attribution, but not in the way prescribed; and the data may be used for any purpose, including services similar to Google’s.

From any data user’s point of view, I’d say that all three points are also problematic, and I’d advise that they would want to either require share-alike (CC-by-SA/ODbL) or public domain data licensing from its partners.

OpenStreetMap currently uses the Creative Commons Share-a-Like license, and is moving to the Open Database License. The ODbL applies the principles of share-alike in a more appropriately legal way to databases.

8 Comments

  1. Wiley Coyote said,

    March 16, 2010 @ 5:24 am

    The license applied to USGS data is in most ways even less restrictive:

    1. Commercial use is permitted.
    2. Attribution is not necessary
    3. You can compete with Google… but!

    You can’t use the data to compete with (i.e., overthrow) the US Government.

  2. mikel said,

    March 16, 2010 @ 5:40 am

    Whoa … does that make USGS data incompatible with OSM? ;)

  3. rn said,

    March 16, 2010 @ 7:33 am

    it’s not legal to work for a us corporation for free. thus, the people who contribute their time to GOOG need to be paid min wage, or stop.

  4. James Michael DuPont said,

    March 16, 2010 @ 9:58 am

    see my video review of the GMM license and why it is a problem.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crmsIJFjgY4

  5. Harry Wood said,

    March 16, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

    I had some other thoughts about Google MapMaker here: http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/Harry%20Wood/diary/9332
    …plus discussion in the comments

    I hadn’t thought about google’s attribution requirement. OpenStreetMap isn’t all that great at giving attribution to data providers (we don’t show anything alongside the map) but there’s a good reason for that. Its a slippery slope, potentially necessitating listing an awful lot of contributors and causing confusion around whether the license requires downstream user to do so. The best kind of attribution we can provide is a mention in the ‘source’ tag (hidden away in the underlying data itself) and/or a mention on the Contributors wiki page: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Contributors But generally we prefer to avoid importing data from any provider which requires attribution, which can be a shame, but it means our data comes with less baggage attached (it’s more open)

    I think another key point is that Google MapMaker only release their underlying data in certain areas, where there is sufficient humanitarian cause. It would be unfair to say that this is just cynical publicity stunt, but the thought does cross my mind. In other areas they simply use free labour to build up their dataset which they keep for themselves, only externalised through rendered map tiles and other not-quite-so-open map services.

    Meanwhile OpenStreetMap release all contributed data (the raw underlying data of the map) worldwide through APIs and planet.osm downloads.

  6. Twitter Updates for 2010-03-16 « Kelso’s Corner said,

    March 17, 2010 @ 5:21 am

    [...] @mapperz: Why Google MapMaker is not Open: http://brainoff.com/weblog/2010/03/16/1541 #osm wins as can be used commercial with sourcing [...]

  7. Geospatial « Briefing Paper for eResearch & IE Call – 10/2010 said,

    October 11, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    [...] There are community concerns for the “openness” of ubiquitous geo services such as Google, Yahoo and Bing maps: http://brainoff.com/weblog/2010/03/16/1541 [...]

  8. Mapping Hacks » Blog Archive » Maps Tell Stories, redux said,

    April 12, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

    [...] copied OpenStreetMap. First their MapMaker product is directly modelled on OSM, but with a restrictive data license, where you can not use the data as you see fit. Second, they have stolen the idea of Mapping [...]

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