Since the end of January 2011:

"ArcGIS Online map services are available at no cost regardless of use." - http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/arcgisonline/standard-maps.html

However, the use of ArcGIS Web Mapping APIs may require a subscription. - http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/arcgisonline/common-questions.html

All the basemaps available from ESRI are accessible by REST services which do not require an API. There is already a new layer type in OpenLayers that can access these services.

The Terms of Service state:

In particular, you may not (or attempt to) (a) access Services or resources not made available to you through a standard web browser or Esri products;

Update - these TOS may in fact refer to the esri.com site and "services" rather than the map services themselves.

So is it legal and within the terms of service to use any of these layers in any web application such as OpenLayers or through the Google or Bing mapping APIs as these are all used in a standard web browser?


6 Answers 6


Your first quote says that you can use the map at no cost. The web mapping api's in my opinion are the querying, identifying, and other services that are available through api calls to a hosted mxd in the AGS. It's my opinion that if you just want to display a base map then you are fine.

i'm not a lawyer.


I did this way... http://mapperz.blogspot.com/2011/02/embed-arcgis-online-maps-for-free.html

Though this got more backlash from OSMers (OpenStreetMappers) because ESRI do not attribute OpenStreetMap in their ArcGIS Online http://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/talk/2011-February/056894.html

[OSM and ESRI now in talks to resolve the issue]

  • 5
    When ESRI themselves don't ensure their site meets TOS of a data provider what chance do we have! Mar 2, 2011 at 8:37

I don't think so at this time. I'm not anything close to a lawyer, but my reading is that AGS Online services can only be used with "Software", meaning ESRI proprietary, and "Applications", meaning programs developed with "Software".

Hopefully there will be a change in the language when they update the AGS Online TOS, which is surely coming with the recent change in pricing.


2.1 ArcGIS Online Standard Services. Esri grants Licensee a nonexclusive, nontransferable, limited license during the license term to access, download, view, copy, and print Web Service(s) identified as ArcGIS Online Standard Services for use solely in conjunction with Software or Applications. Licensee may integrate functionality generated by ArcGIS Online Standard Services into Web-enabled Application(s) under these Terms of Use and any additional terms and restrictions identified in Section 3 below.

From the same document


  1. DEFINITIONS The definitions in these Terms of Use are supplemental to the definitions contained within the Esri License Agreement.



1.3 "Application" means the computer software program or online services developed by Licensee that operates in conjunction with Software, Data, Web Services, and Documentation

From the ESRI License Agreement(PDF) dated 4/22/2010

"Software" means all or any portion of Esri's proprietary software technology accessed or downloaded from an Esri authorized Web site or delivered on any media in any format including backups, updates, service packs, patches, hot fixes, or permitted merged copies.

There is a long list in Exhibit 1 detailing what is "Software" and the ArcGIS Web Mapping API's are listed there.

  • Thanks for the further details. These seem clearer and on rereading the TOS referenced in my original question the "standard web browser" line seems to refer to accessing the esri.com web site and "service" Mar 2, 2011 at 8:43
  • That's how I read that portion as well. Also, looks like they are indeed working on an updated TOS. - forums.arcgis.com/threads/24157
    – wwnick
    Mar 2, 2011 at 16:50

World Imagery, World Topographic, and World Street are the three community maps that Esri maintains and these maps remain free of charge for the use of everyone as they are improved by GIS Professionals all over the world. (Most of them are governmental institutions)

However for rest of the map services you should follow the license regulations.



here's my tuppence worth :

  • This human readable version of the TOS seems to stipulate free use is restricted to users of ESRI software :


I suppose that "users" would be the individual browser sessions connecting to the basemaps, rather than the web server which is distributing the web app.? Google Maps API uses a key which is specific to the publisher of the web app to control transactions. Not sure how ESRI does this.

  • More general Q&A found here :


  • These TOS change quite frequently. Updated link to Human Readable TOS as of 5/22/14 (last updated 5/7/14).
    – Roy
    May 22, 2014 at 14:12

Use ArcGIS Online maps and map layers, imagery, and geometry services in conjunction with Esri software or an ArcGIS Online subscription for projects and applications that are both internal and external use

As long as you do not exceed the transaction cap if the cap applies to you.  Government, Education, and NGO users: Full unlimited use  Private organizations, Business Partners, and Developers: 50,000,000 transactions per year. For maps, a transaction is defined as eight tiles. For imagery and geometry services, a transaction is defined as one request.

This is taken from the Esri License summary. (I do not have a link handy, and this info is only true at the time of writing. Check with your Esri rep).

  • I´m new to this site, so i´m not able to comment Simon´s post... The source of his cite seems to be taken from the human readable TOS of esri. downloads2.esri.com/ArcGISOnline/docs/tou_summary.pdf My understanding says that it´s not allowed to use esri base maps, just with open layers. I would appreciate if anyone could provide me the opposite;)
    – marcel
    Sep 26, 2014 at 7:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.