How do I quote screenshots

Google Maps: Danger of warnings for screenshots

by Bianca Schillmöller and Carola Sieling

You chat in a relaxed tone on Facebook and post a screenshot from Google Maps for clarification - and then an expensive warning flutters into your mailbox. Right?

This scenario is annoying but unfortunately not that far off from a legal point of view.

Basically, under German law, the use of works protected by copyright (such as photos or maps) requires the consent of the respective rights holder. At first it does not matter whether it is private or commercial use.

Google offers extensive maps under Google Maps and satellite images under Google Earth.

Now there are numerous uses of Google maps on the Internet and one wonders to what extent these uses are permissible - is every website that describes its journey via Google Maps really in danger of being warned?

This can only be answered by looking at the license conditions and thus the uses of the map material and the satellite images permitted by the rights holder.

Screenshot or API?

A clear distinction must be made here between the screenshots from Google Maps or Google Earth and the API ("application programming interface") offered by Google for the Google Maps service.

According to our knowledge, Google itself has no exclusive rights to the map material or the satellite images. Here, Google obtains the content itself from other third-party companies that produce the images. Google is therefore not the decisive owner of the rights, but only has a corresponding license, so that the respective third-party companies are allowed to warn about the further use of their images or maps - e.g. by taking screenshots.

In 2006, for example, the aerial photography provider Geocontent warned an entrepreneur who used images from Google Earth for her company blog. Der Spiegel published this case, among others.
Geocontent was of the opinion that they would allow private use of the Google Earth images, but that commercial use would not be approved.

Something different applies to the Google Maps API: Google has set its own license terms and thus allows the user to integrate the API (and thus also the maps as content of the API) into their own websites.

The following brief overview of the individual uses of Google Maps and Google Earth is intended as a first aid:

Google Earth images

Private use on the Internet:
permitted, with attribution of Google and the respective data provider (for more information, see Google's attribution guidelines)

Commercial use on the Internet:
not permitted

Google Maps map sections as a screenshot or something similar

Private use on the Internet:
not permitted
Commercial use on the Internet:
not permitted

Google Maps API

Personal and commercial use permitted under Google's license terms

Use of Google Maps API:
Google differentiates between various uses of the API and not all of them are free. There are standard and premium models and the location (e.g. web, IOS or Android) and the respective call of the API by the user within a certain period of time are decisive for the license model.
Google lists the exact variants.

Frequent usage variant: Do you want to embed a map or share your location? Then you will find them here!


In conclusion, it can be said that the use of content from Google Maps or Google Earth should always be carefully checked, since not only Google is keeping an eye on Internet traffic.

Carola Sieling / About Author

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