Copyrights And Copying Off a Screen Print of Google Earth

Have you ever had one of your friends or family print off a Yahoo or Google Map to tell you how to get to a family event or party? It happens all the time, but did you know there’s a good chance they are breaking copyright law? That sounds pretty funny doesn’t it? However, you might be doing this in your small business if you are having a sale and you print off directions to your business on a flyer. I’ve even seen maps in the Yellow Pages which were printed right from Yahoo Maps, they even left in the copyright. That’s interesting isn’t it?

On one hand Yahoo maps is getting the credit, and it is an advertisement in itself for them, but it is also a copyright violation for the individual who printed it off. Yahoo and Google obviously expect people to print the screen for their maps, and they even have easy print versions, although it does contain the copyright at the bottom. Now then, what about using the satellite pictures of Google Earth, or the Street view and printing those off as well? Is that allowed? Obviously Google maintains the copyright. Let’s discuss this for a few moments if we might. You see, in 1790 the first US copyright law was created covering;

Books

Charts

Maps

But over the years since it has come to cover a myriad of other things such as, but not limited to;

Engravings

Painting

Photographs

Motion Pictures

Radio and Television Broadcasts

Cable re-broadcasts

Music

Satellite Re-transmissions

Computer Software

Regardless of how that information is stored it is copyrightable. It is assumed to be copyrighted, and those that have created this information are entitled to that copyright. Not long ago, I was talking to a commercial real estate agent who copied off a file from a Street View on Google Maps, showing me a business location for sale. Interestingly enough he had that same picture on his website in the “for sale” listings. Now we are starting to get into trouble aren’t we? All that information is protected by copyright law.

Some might say that Google wouldn’t care, and that’s probably true. After all, Google has copied off quite a bit of past period works, old books, and such for instance. Nevertheless, when someone starts putting this information on their website in the same medium in which Google had produced it they are violating copyrights even if Google isn’t going to go after some lowly commercial real estate salesperson. Even if the entire industry starts doing it, it is doubtful that Google would want to file a lawsuit, or a series of lawsuits to stop it.

They don’t need the bad publicity, but that doesn’t make it all right. And therefore I hope you will please consider all this and think on it. If you’d like to discuss this at a much higher level, then please shoot me an e-mail.

Reference:

“How to Handle Basic Copyright and Trademark Problems,” by Richard Dannay Chairman of the Practicing Law Institute Audio Cassette Program, New York, 1990, 4-cassettes on 7 sides 30-minutes each.

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