Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sanction your mashups with Google Maps API

A few days ago a visitor posted a link to a news story about a patent infringement case involving a successful real estate agent making use of a computer mapping system without acquiring a license for it first. The mapping system wasn't the same as Google Maps but does hold a patent and royalties are owed for those who profit from it. In the story it states that "an average residential real estate agent may owe royalties of as much as $50,000 before the company's patent expires in 2008." Check for the full story here.

The case raises some important questions when considering the possible actions that could be taken for those not making use of a sanctioned API (such as the Google Maps API), thereby licensing the application or mashup you are creating. I found a discussion surrounding this in the Google-Maps-API Google Group where the following question was posed:

> What about for intranet use?
> Say we wanted to use the Google API to plot all the points where our

> company inspects drainage ditches. We're a government agency, and it

> would be on our intranet and of no use to the public (and obviously

> non-profit).

> Is that within the terms of use?

The Google Maps product manager Bret Taylor referred the user to the following link which contains this Q&A:

Is the Maps API available for commercial websites?

Yes, it is, as long your site is generally accessible to consumers
without charge. For example, if your website is supported by advertising, it likely falls within the terms of the Maps API. Or, if you charge people to place information on your map (e.g., to list their homes for sale), but you list this information on Google Maps on a free part of your site, you'll also meet the Maps API terms of use.

However, not all commercial uses are allowed. For example,

* Premium websites - If your site is only available to paying
customers, you cannot use the Maps API.
* Enterprise websites - The Maps API is not available for use within
enterprise or intranet applications.

Remember, Google reserves the right to suspend or terminate the use of the service at any time, so please read the terms of use carefully.

This is just something to consider as you're building your Google Maps mashups using the Google Maps API, or not using the Google Maps API as the case may be. Otherwise, you might end up like this guy's friend.
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