1 down, how many to go?

With the dust settling on A9’s decision to can its mapping operations … who’s next?

In my opinion, A9 are actually the smart ones … they tried, failed to see benefit and are now moving on. Unfortunately with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask and whoever else is hopping on the bandwagon, not one has actually proven its business model for sustaining it’s current “Gimme all the data you have and heres $1m to not give it to the others” mentality.

Despite the obvious monetary blackhole these operations must be, i am going to stick my neck out and predict a enormous problem which will unfold in the next few months; licensing.


In the past few days as was blogged by Bull, Rich of mappinghacks fame got another take down notice from Google for a small perl script that simply stiched together GMap tiles into a usable, downloadable image.

It sounds harmless, and an almost obvious tool to write. So why all the fuss? It broke Googles licensing restriction limiting use strictly to its mapping service. From mappinghacks,

Every single use of Google Maps involves downloading their ‘copyrighted images and data.” I don’t have to get into the whole ‘how the web works’ screed. Google’s _whole business model_ is based on downloading other people’s copyrighted images and data, and doing things with that data that the original creator’s did not intend.

Where am i going with all this? Case in point, Google Earth. The day someone “opens” the format of Google Earth’s cache, the application will literally fall apart. I’m sure many spatial professionals will be licking their lips at the thought of using the imagery outside of GE, but for the data providers nothing could be more damaging.
Will it happen? Yes. When? I’d say sometime soon.

*Watch this space*

I’m starting to sound like one of those 9/11 conspiracy theorists .. :)

5 thoughts on “1 down, how many to go?”

  1. The recent use of address data in Australia by Google is an interesting case study to watch. If you look at a company like Navteq they allow their data only to be licensed to Google (Europe) for the map site but not the API. Google has a different arrangement with Navteq’s competitor Teleatlas for the API data provision. In Australia I don’t think the licensor understood what an open API was.

  2. Well, look at what happened to Manifold when they included in their GIS an option to include Google imagery. Because they didnt stick to the license agreement, in fact completely circumventing it by accessing the raw image files delivered by Google to the client, they got a nice slap on their wrists from Google’s lawyers.

    Now, we can debate forever the good and evil of licensing terms and free geospatial data, but no one can kid themselves to think that all this data is truly “free”! and anyone using the data in any other way than Google wants you too will find themselves in a world of legal uncertainty and potential repercussions.

  3. Google Maps data is viewable in Worldwind. Google actually threatened to sue NASA about this.
    You can read some commentry about this on my blog.
    There are also several Google maps proxying applications floating around, but I believe the Google Earth cache is encrypted and not easily crackable just as ssl is not easily crackable.
    If you are up to risking google lawyer ire and want a google maps proxying script drop someone in the know a line.

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