Gavin’s Odd Bits of Code

2009-05-19 (Tue)

OS Overlays re-enabled by the Ordnance Survey

Filed under: Google Earth — Gavin Brock @ 9:41 pm

We’re back!

First I would like to thank you all for your support! I believe that your emails, posts and comments, regarding yesterdays blog post, made a difference. It’s great to hear from you – it’s what makes writing software for fun, erm.. fun!

I just received a detailed message from the Director of Products at Ordnance Survey, apologising for the communication regarding the disabling of the service. He explained, that this is not a “derived data issue“, but rather to do with the licenses:

The issue we seem to have with your application is related to the Terms and Conditions of Google Earth, which end users viewing your data accept when they decide to use that product. These Terms state that by using your content (Ordnance Survey data) in Google Earth you/they grant Google a right to that data (“By submitting, posting or displaying Your Content in the Service, you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute Your Content through the Service and as search results through Google Services”). You or end end users of your application do not have the right to grant Google any rights to Ordnance Survey data, and that’s really where the problem is. Google claims similar rights when you use the Google Maps API.

We at Ordnance Survey do not understand why Google would require this perpetual right to data that their users only want to display, and are therefore working with Google’s lawyers to get these terms changed or at least get a formal clarification.

IANAL, but I think this is referring to the Google Earth License and it’s reference to the Google Terms of Service. Now to me this seems to only refer to search within Google Earth. That said, I couldn’t see references to the Google ToS in the Chrome license.

In the mean time, the OS have already re-enabled my Openspace API key but:

The purpose of re-instating this key is to allow you to explore these other tools. You will need to make it very clear on your web pages that the KML stream is not to be used within Google Earth, as that would breach your licence.

For now, I will add a this to the relevant pages, but I hope we can clear it up soon.


  1. Excellent news! I am starting to feel proud of the long tradition of Ordnance Survey’s excellent mapping in Great Britain again. OS maps are some of the best in the world, and it’s very sad that they have been so restricted in their use.

    Of course Google Earth only loads the OS mapping from the OS servers: the data and map images never go anywhere near a Google server. Google’s T&C are indeed there to allow them to index any public data they find while crawling the web (and they’ve already explained that, several times!). The OS maps won’t be included in that.

    Comment by Anthony Cartmell — 2009-05-19 (Tue) @ 10:01 pm | Reply

  2. […] UPDATE  19/5 : The OS has reversed its decision, see Gavin’s blog for details […]

    Pingback by OS puts the “No” back in Innovation | — 2009-05-20 (Wed) @ 1:25 am | Reply

  3. Until Google sort out their own Terms and Conditions giving them the right to use all the layers put over Google Earth or Google Maps you may want to use Microsoft’s Virtual Earth instead as their Terms and Conditions don’t give them the right to your own data or anybody else! and therefore permit OS data overlays.

    Comment by Justin — 2009-05-20 (Wed) @ 8:03 am | Reply

  4. Great to see direct interaction on a thread like this from OS staff and a positive result!

    It would be good to see the OpenSpace developer’s forum receiving similar informative contributions from the OS.

    A tile quota of 1,000,000 a day is pretty good too. Is your service still going over quota late at night?

    When I last looked, my wheresthepath had been given a 500,000 per day tile quota.

    Comment by Bill Chadwick — 2009-05-21 (Thu) @ 12:04 am | Reply

  5. […] Gavin writes in the comments that the site is back up. […]

    Pingback by Fail Maps » Blog Archive » Ordnance Survey FAIL — 2009-05-21 (Thu) @ 1:23 am | Reply

  6. Thanks for creating this OS addition for GE Gavin, it’s impressive, and will be very useful to me.

    I only found out about your overlay a couple of days ago, have kicked myself for missing it, but I had done similar in the past manually, though on a much smaller scale. I saved 10×10 km of Landranger OS maps from (screen shots, proper sophisticated, like), edited and stitched them together, and overlaid it on an area I was looking at in GE. One extra step is that I saved the map’s background colour as the transparent colour in the OS map image. This overlays just the map info on the Google Earth pictures, and with the terrain turned on the contours very visibly wrap round hills, etc.

    Is there a trick at all with your overlay to do a similar thing?

    Cheers again :)

    Comment by :ninja: — 2009-07-07 (Tue) @ 12:34 pm | Reply

  7. Hi Gavin,

    I’m interested in seeing the 1:25000 maps and was wondering if you could help me write a python version of the tileserver you were using? I’m happy to share what I’ve got and may also be able to integrate getmapping’s aerial photography (which is available at a lot higher resolution than the website indicates – try looking at tile get parameters). Great work btw!! We’re sitting here stunned at how cool this is!!!


    p.s. I’m looking for it so I can plan my landscape photographer (see my website)..


    Comment by Tim Parkin — 2009-07-22 (Wed) @ 7:37 pm | Reply

  8. Hi Gavin,

    As at 20 March, 2011 are we allowed to use OS maps with Google Earth or is this still prohibited by the OS. If the latter, do you have any feel for if / when the issue will be resolved?


    Comment by Martin Hurrell — 2011-03-20 (Sun) @ 10:11 pm | Reply

    • I’m afraid the status has not changed as far as I know. That said, I haven’t contacted the OS recently to check – when I get back home, I’ll bounce them another mail – just in case.

      Comment by Gavin Brock — 2011-03-20 (Sun) @ 10:15 pm | Reply

  9. […] It seems to bore down to the fact that Google are obsessed about owning all content that they publish. There have been numerous articles published on issues with Google terms of use and using Ordnance Survey data. […]

    Pingback by When is Google going to starting using OS maps? « Digital Signals — 2011-08-01 (Mon) @ 10:13 pm | Reply

  10. Hi Gavin,
    I must be one of many (probably thousands) who use your overlays on a regular basis. Ten years on and it is still working, although there have been a few anxious times when I thought it had gone forever. Just to let you know how much I, and am sure I can speak for all, appreciate the service you have provided.
    All the best

    Comment by Andrew — 2019-10-11 (Fri) @ 2:36 am | Reply

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