OpenStreetMap : Which license, what use?

OpenStreetMap : Which license, what use?

OpenStreetMap : Which license, what use?

Many individuals, organizations, and companies want to use OpenStreetMap data but don’t know the jurisdiction that protects them. In this article, we will try to answer and clarify these questions. 

1a. What is the license for OpenStreetMap’s geodata?

OpenStreetMap data is now licensed under the Open Database License.

When you upload data to OSM, you remain the copyright holder of your data, but you grant certain rights to the OpenStreetMap Foundation under the Contributor Terms. Some contributors additionally release their contributions to the public domain.
Please note that although OpenStreetMap data is free to all, access to our volunteer-donated servers is not. A tile usage policy applies.
(OpenStreetMap changed license on 12 September 2012. Any data downloaded before then is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0: see the Legal FAQ/CC-BY-SA Archive)

1b. What is the license for the software?

The core Rails port that powers the main site is licensed under the GPL v2. Individual projects have their own licenses. For example, JOSM is GPL v2 but Potlatch is WTFPL. If you’re writing software that uses OSM data, you may choose any license you like, including proprietary (non-open).

2. Contributing

2a. Can I trace data from Google Maps/Nokia Maps/…?

No. Other sources must not be used as the base of any data uploaded to OSM – whether maps, aerial imagery, or photographs such as Google Street View. This is because their licences and/or terms of use (contracts) forbid you to do so. Only sources with compatible licenses – such as US Government information released into the public domain – may be used as bases for adding OSM data.
It is ok to trace from:

  • Bing aerial imagery, as Microsoft has given specific permission;
  • a very small amount of imagery from local government agencies, as negotiated by local OpenStreetMap communities;
  • out-of-copyright mapping with compatible terms of use, usually hosted by OSM contributors or on OSM servers.

Better still, survey the data yourself!

2b. XYZ Organisation has data for free download under licence N. Can I use it in OSM?

Approach the data owners, explain OSM, and seek written permission to licence their data under our licence and contributor terms.
Unless the data is genuinely offered without any restrictions on use at all (i.e. public domain), please contact the Licensing Working Group for advice. Do not rely on your own legal interpretation of the licence. OSM is all about creating a freely and easily redistributable data set. Anything which taints the dataset or exposes OSM to possible legal action interferes with that objective.
Even if you only want to use a minor part, or compare the sources, you should still seek approval in writing. The legal principles involved are not well developed, and the OSM community wants to develop a free and untainted dataset and not test any of the legal issues involved here.

3. Using

3a. I would like to use OpenStreetMap maps. How should I credit you?

What credit to use

Our requested attribution is “© OpenStreetMap contributors”.
You must also make it clear that the data is available under the Open Database Licence. This can be achieved by providing a “License” or “Terms” link which links to or

Because OpenStreetMap is its contributors, you may omit the word “contributors” if space is limited.
You may optionally qualify the credit to explain what OSM content you are using. For example, if you have rendered OSM data to your own design, you may wish to use “Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors”.
(If you are using tiles from, you must also make it clear that the tiles are available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence. This may also be fulfilled by linking to
Where to put it
This credit needs to appear in a place reasonable to the medium you are utilising. In other words, you should expect to credit OpenStreetMap in the same way and with the same prominence as would be expected by any other map supplier. Therefore:

  • For a browsable electronic map (e.g. embedded in a web page or mobile phone application), the credit should appear in the corner of the map, as commonly seen with map APIs/libraries such as Google Maps.
  • For a printed map, the credit should appear beside the map if that is where other such credits appear, and/or in the “acknowledgements” section of the publication (often at the start of a book or magazine).

If you are producing library code that offers OpenStreetMap data or tiles, you should make sure library users are aware of these terms. We strongly recommend that you display this credit by default when your library is used.

3b. If I have data derived from OSM data, do I have to distribute it?

The license does not force you to distribute or make any data available.
But if you do distribute or publicly use anything derived from it – a Derivative Database – then the derivative database must be available under the same licence as the OSM data (the Open Database License). You must make the derivative database available on request to anyone who received your data, viewed the work made from it, or used your service. You could do this by putting it on a site for free download, or offering your users the option of emailing you for a copy.
Any of these are acceptable ways of making the derived data available:

  • The full database, as a dump or in a commonly understood format (e.g. OSM XML or shapefiles);
  • The ‘diff’ between the original OSM data, and your derived database (i.e. a machine-readable list of changes);
  • Instructions on how to make the changes, such as an algorithm, some software, or something as simple as an Osmosis command line.

If you’re thinking of building something using OSM, there is a Use Cases page which goes into detail about the license implications in various different scenarios.

3c. If I make something with OSM data, do I now have to apply your license to my whole work?

No. For example, if you have written a game or published an artistic map which includes OSM data, only the data is covered by the license. This is called a Produced Work.
However, if you make a database which includes OSM data and any additional information (including using information to decide on OSM features NOT to include in your database), then this would be classed as a “derivative database” and should be made available under the Open Database License as in 3b above.

3d. If I use your data together with someone else’s data, do I have to apply your license to their data too?

If the two datasets are independent, no, you don’t; this is a Collective Database.
If you adapt them to work together (for example, by taking footpaths from the OSM data, roads from the third-party data, and connecting them for routing), this is a Derivative Database and so you must (as per 3b). However, if the two datasets are matched “trivially” by, for example, automated matching using a simple criterion such as name/locality, this is not “substantial” and remains a Collective Database. There is a Community Guideline on what constitutes a trivial transformation.

3e. Can I charge for distributing OSM data or data derived from OSM data?

Yes. You can charge any amount of money you want for any service or data you provide. However, since the data that is derived from OSM data must be licensed as above, other people may then redistribute this without payment.

3f. Can I get permission to distribute OSM data under an alternative licence?

Probably not. The copyright to OSM data is vested in the individual contributors. However, if you happen to use data provided solely by one or a few OSM contributors, you can ask them if they are willing to provide their data to you under a different license.

3g. Can I use OSM data and OpenStreetMap-derived maps to verify my own data without triggering share-alike?

Yes, provided that you are only comparing and do not copy any OpenStreetMap data. If you make any changes to your data after making the comparison, you should be able to reasonably demonstrate that any such change was made either from your own physical observation or comes from a non-OpenStreetMap source accessed directly by you. I.e you can compare but not take!

  • Example 1: You notice that a street is called one name on your map and another in OpenStreetMap [1]. You should visit the street and check the name, then you are free to put that name in your data as it is your own observation.
  • Example 2: You notice that a boundary is different in your data and OpenStreetMap. You should check back to original authoritative sources and make any correction required.

4. You have infringed my copyright

If you have a concern regarding the use of copyrighted material published as part of the OpenStreetMap geo-database or this site, please refer to our take-down procedure here.

5. Finding out more

5a. I have questions. Can you answer them?

OpenStreetMap cannot provide legal advice. However, our volunteers and community members may be able to provide non-binding interpretations on an informal basis, subject to time constraints.

  • OpenStreetMap Foundation, Licensing Working Group:
  • Community-powered help centre:
  • Other Contact channels (Levels of response may vary, for example please do not expect discussion pages on this wiki to be actively monitored)

source :

Leave a Reply

en_GBEnglish (UK)