So, Can I Use Google Maps or a Bing Map Screenshot in Scene or Scape Images?

Whitepoint provides a smarter way to build virtual tours for mobile devices. As a result, the question sometimes comes up – can you use a Google Map or Bing Map screenshot in building your virtual tour for Whitepoint?

We’ve noodled on this topic a bit and before we go any further . . . there are a few things we have to tell you: First off, you will want to consult an attorney before proceeding if you’re not absolutely certain about your use of a map image.

Ultimately, if you take a screenshot of a Google or Bing map for example, then upload and use that as a scape or scene image, we can’t immediately stop you of course. However, 1) Whitepoint, Inc. expressly does not recommend that you use copyrighted material without the proper permissions and 2) Whitepoint, Inc. reserves the right to remove any images about which we receive complaints or identify and deem in any way to be offensive or in violation of the law.

Moving on . . . now, there are some resources that may help you determine if your use requires jumping through legal hoops when using screenshots of maps. Here are two:

Google Permissions: They’ve done a great job with publishing their permissions guidelines and providing a nifty permissions tool.

Microsoft Bing Terms of Use: Pull up a chair and get comfortable.

Finally, there are some things to watch for and some “definite don’ts” when using map images . . .

Definite Don’ts:

  1. Profit directly from the use of a screenshot map. This is a red flag. Instead of using a screenshot of a map service, have an illustration done in-house or by a trusted graphic designer instead.
  2. Alter the map in any way graphically. This is often expressly prohibited in the terms of use by map providers. Google has specifically mentioned not adding clouds, for example. Alteration is another indicator that your use may not be within the map service’s guidelines.

Watch For the Following:

  1. Are you a non-profit or is this for educational purposes? The odds are better that your use is OK, but we can’t tell you 100% for sure.
  2. Always credit the source from which the screenshot map was taken. This is almost always a requirement by map services. Some may even require links.
  3. When in doubt, illustrate. Most needs for map images in scapes or scenes can be met with a simple illustration by a graphic designer. That’s OK. It will likely even set your scape apart. Sure, screenshooting (is that a word?) is easier, but it is best to play by the rules.
  4. If you have a helicopter and can do aerial photography, knock yourself out. That would make for a really unique scape or scene image. Just make sure you’re following local, state, and federal regulations requiring aerial photography.

Again, none of this is a substitute for legal advice. But, we hope it helps navigate potentially choppy legal waters.

Happy #whitepointing.

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3 thoughts on “So, Can I Use Google Maps or a Bing Map Screenshot in Scene or Scape Images?

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