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Maine GeoLibrary <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 19 Dec 2008 17:08:09 -0500
Maine GeoLibrary <[log in to unmask]>
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"Smith, Michael" <[log in to unmask]>
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I spoke to Christian Halsted about this, who is very likely state
government's most senior Google Earth expert.  DEP researched the
legality of Google Earth before committing to it, and they contacted a
senior Google executive who oversaw the Google Earth product.  According
to that executive, the product is free to be used anywhere by anyone for
viewing KML or WMS data, or other data that it natively supports.
Google wants to keep developers from embedding GE into other commercial
products such as vehicle navigation devices (car GPS devices) or in
other commercial GIS packages.  For example, ESRI could not take GE and
embed it into one of their products for resale without Google's
approval, nor could Garmin use GE in their next Nuvi model.

Chris also mentioned that GE is widely used in EPA, and I also know that
US Fish and Wildlife distributes the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI)
data in KML, so federal usage of the free version is going on in big

The question of GE licensing came up in the MEGUG round table due to GE
being removed from PCs in certain county and federal government offices.
Reading the license agreement
( for the free version on
my desktop, it clearly says in the first paragraph:

"For a business entity end user or government entity end user, the
Software may be used by you and your employees for internal use
according to these Terms of Service and the Software documentation..."

and later 

"You may not use the Software in connection with any products, systems,
or applications installed or otherwise connected to or in communication
with vehicles for or in connection with: (a) real time route guidance
(including without limitation, turn-by-turn route guidance and other
routing that is enabled through the use of a sensor); (b) any systems or
functions for automatic or autonomous control of vehicle behavior; or
(c) dispatch, fleet management or similar applications. You may not use
the Software in a manner which gives you or any other person access to
mass downloads or bulk feeds of numerical latitude and longitude
coordinates. You may not use the Software for any bulk printing or
downloading of imagery, data or other content."

Now I'm not a lawyer, but this seems clear that as long as you are not
repackaging GE, as long as you are using it just to view KML files, that
is fine and legal.  I think that Google would make it very clear if they
expected governments and businesses to shell out $400 a seat for GE just
to use it.

I haven't seen anything yet which indicates to me that commercial or
government use of GE violates the agreement if you use the free version,
as long as you are not redistributing GE.

I believe the reason Google recommends businesses use the $400 "Pro"
version is because it has more capabilities, things like GPS support and
better printing capabilities, but they are not requiring
businesses/governments to use it in lieu of the free version, as long as
the users realize they are getting less for using the free version.  The
bottom line is you can't redistribute the service or data, you can only
use the GE you are licensed for, or use the Google-approved API to
program against Google.

Michael Smith
State GIS Manager
Maine Office of GIS

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