There are a couple questions about licence interpretation, both for Google and the UK Ordnance Survey.

Can someone explain in simple terms the licence on Google “satellite” images?

What are the licence limitations on the free Ordnance Survey (OS) data sets?

I understand that these licences are difficult to interpret, but I also worry that this kind of question may come with liability for the person answering the question and for the site.


6 Answers 6


is there really a legal liability when someone who is not a lawyer and doesn't profess to be one to offer an opinion on what provision X of license Y means?

I think it's crazy that fear of litigation causes people to self-censor their speech in a public space such as this on something as mundane as what a corporation allows or disallows with their products (as opposed to something serious like slander or hate mongering). I think it insane that this fear could be real.

I would not close the questions outright, but they should be watched carefully and the answers cautioning to take any answers therein with a large grain of salt should be upvoted to float near the top.

  • 1
    I would personally hesitate to offer such advice. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I can easily imagine a situation where I said something "in my opinion", then a company acted on that opinion and got sued, and dragged me into court. Maybe this comes from living close to US? (Alaska doesn't count) :) When posting here, especially with badges etc, we gain a certain amount of implied authority.
    – JasonBirch
    Jul 24, 2010 at 10:45
  • 3
    I think that's USA. You guys are crazy and sue anyone for just about anything :P. I think these questions are valid, so, let them open. Jul 24, 2010 at 18:33

Both of the questions given as examples have reasonably clear responses that send the respondent to the legal document for those products. I don't think we should close these questions simply because the advice given may be bad, just downvote the bad responses themselves.

As an example, Stackoverflow entertains questions about licensing, such as this one on the LGPL. The best answer repeatedly mentions that talking to a lawyer is the right course of action, but does give some basic advice to get the user pointed in the right direction. This feels like the right solution to me.


I also worry that this kind of question may come with liability for the person answering the question and for the site.

Food and Cooking faces a similar issue. https://cooking.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/266/are-food-safety-questions-a-liability


Let me give my full 2 cents here:

Someone who asks about a certain licensing type, and follows Mr. X's advice. That someone gets sued. Who fault is that? Mr. X's advice? Remember, this is an advice. Someone who is doing business decisions with information found on the internet, it doesn't matter how reliable that information is. You should get legal advice from a specialized lawyer.

The idea is: if you ask about licensing issues on product Y, and assumes the responsibility of making a decision based on a internet based answer, you should take the responsibility. It's not the guy who answered fault. That's like blaming your friend when he advices you to break up with a girl.

If someone asks if it's legal to download and commercially use Google Earth's imagery, and someone answers yes, it's our responsibility to place different views on that matter. It is not OUR fault the decision the FINAL user will make.

As I said: 2 cents, or 3.


The same could be said for any answer to any question legality based or otherwise though. The validity of an answer is not given by those posting but those up or down voting. IMHO the FAQ should mention that the use of any answer is at the user's own risk.


I agree with pretty much everything that has been said here. I just want to add that perhaps we could put a rider in the FAQ along the lines of:

What does license x mean?

While you are welcome to ask questions about spatial data licensing, remember that this site is for GIS professionals, not lawyers. Please seek professional legal advise.

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