Current Status: You can't use data derived from restricted licence OS data with Google Maps.

There's been an on-going question about whether it is legal to display data derived from Ordnance Survey licenced mapping via google maps.

By derived data, I mean geometries which have been copied exactly from, or are composed of parts from, another dataset.

The blog post here: http://blog.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/2010/08/what-the-psma-really-means/ outlines the issue.

We've spoken to Google and they say that the OS have recently relaxed their licencing, but haven't been able to get any comment from the OS. The last post on the OS blog is from November 2012.

Does anyone have any ideas as to how the land lies here? Particularly if anyone has heard anything from the OS on this subject since November 2012.

UPDATE: 16th April 2013: We've got an account manager at the OS now and a collegue has just spoken to him. Long story short: nothing has changed since November 2012 - any data derived from OS licenced mapping which is not specifically "free" (such as OS OpenData) may not be displayed in Google maps. Our account manager didn't know when the OS was going to come back with an answer. He said he'd chase it up. *starts holding breath*

UPDATE: 2nd July 2013: Chasing our account manager, they reported the following (loosely quoted, do not base decisions solely on this) "The OS's position is unchanged and is not being pursued further. It is our (the data user's) responsibility to check with Google, or any other API provider, to ensure that OS rights are preserved. Rights to derived data cannot be given over to Google, as their T&C's require". Now, talking to Google, they don't think their T&C's violate the OS licence. I'm not sure this is too useful though. Our account manager has promised to send written clarification, which I will post here: a) If it ever arrives and b) if it isn't confidential. The OS blog hasn't been updated yet.

UPDATE: 2nd July 2013: Just had an email from our account manager which contradicts what we were told earlier: "...have had a chat with our lawyers who confirmed that we are in discussion with Google around the compatibility of their terms with ours. Currently, the position is that Ordnance Survey map data cannot be overlaid on top of Google Maps though we will not have an “official document/wording” available until the current discussions are concluded.". So there!

UPDATE: 6th September 2013: An email to a colleague from the boss of our account manager includes the line: "...Currently our data cannot be overlayed on top of Google Maps due to their rules around IP ownership". I don't know if this is now their official legal stance or this guy's opinion.

  • Bing Maps do this - but they have paid Ordnance Survey to do so. (£100,000's in licensing) see bing.com/maps/… (&sty=s) switches to os maps
    – Mapperz
    Mar 14, 2013 at 13:57
  • 1
    I have asked the Ordnance Survey directly - twitter.com/mapperz/status/312201556147707905
    – Mapperz
    Mar 14, 2013 at 14:01
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    They've tweeted back - Ordnance Survey‏@OrdnanceSurvey @mapperz we're aware of recent changes to Google’s Premier licensing terms & these are now under review, we'll update once review completed - this is basically what they said back in November...
    – GHC
    Mar 15, 2013 at 11:37
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    for other users the direct timeline tweet from Ordnance Survey GHC mentions is twitter.com/OrdnanceSurvey/status/312498284642070528 - shows social media does work.. (it's the fastest reply ever from os).
    – Mapperz
    Mar 15, 2013 at 13:43
  • As a matter of interest what features do you wish to trace? Rights of way for example? N.
    – nhopton
    Apr 23, 2013 at 9:08

1 Answer 1


I wouldn't trust anyone but a lawyer on this one.

Google's Terms of Service can be interpreted to mean that if you display any data on top of Google Maps/Earth, Google gains copyright over it.

Ordinance Survey holds the copyright over their data and any derived data. They say that you do not have the right to pass over the copyright to Google.

Only a lawyer can truly help you out, but in my opinion, Ordinance Survey is right, and you shouldn't listen to Google's sales team.

  • Indeed, we'd not do anything without either i) legal advice or ii) clear guidance from the OS. I'm interested in whether anyone has heard anything new on this issue since November 2012.
    – GHC
    Mar 14, 2013 at 10:28
  • I haven't; You should ask the person that you talked to at Google. Maybe they could give you the Document/Press release that details this change. Mar 14, 2013 at 10:31
  • I've updated the question to make this clearer. +1 for feedback though.
    – GHC
    Mar 14, 2013 at 10:39
  • Google can't "do" anything with data that is viewed as they have no access to the data you serve in a webpage unless the data sits at root or transfers through download. If they or others derive their own content from viewing your data and updating their own data that would be illegal, at least in the US
    – lewis
    Mar 19, 2013 at 18:26
  • @lewis Hmm. I'm not sure about that. If you display a kml file the Google servers will download the data and tile up raster images for it, at least that is my understanding of it. Also the Google maps api is obfuscated so it's difficult to tell what is going on under the hood. Anyhow, technicalities aside, if we're not allowed to use the service legally with os derived data, it becomes a moot point!
    – GHC
    Mar 19, 2013 at 19:25

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