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First Google Maps Hack Takedown 325

An anonymous reader writes "Despite "users accelerating innovation" with Google Maps the 'hacks' are not immune from Google's legal team, who have taken down "Google Wallpapers for violating the terms of agreement. From a quick skim through the terms it would seem that most sites using the Google Maps data are in violation. Are Chicago Crime and Google Sightseeing next to go?" It may be a shame to shut down Google Maps offshoots, but that has to be the nicest take-down note I've ever seen; it's polite, friendly and reasonable. Update: 06/08 21:22 GMT by T : Below, a few more of the current uses for Google Maps.
An anonymous reader submits "The AP is running a story about the multiple uses for Google Maps. Among the uses, Tracking sexual predators in Florida, Guiding travelers to the cheapest gas nationwide, Pinpointing $1,500 studio apartments for rent in Manhattan, and Finding crime in Chicago. It'll be interesting to see if Google allows these sites to remain online or not."
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First Google Maps Hack Takedown

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  • by Greg Wright ( 104533 ) * on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:55PM (#12761779) Journal
    Funny, you can still get to the python script that generates the wallpapers from the cached pages of [] on Google itself: []

    Get it while its still there! :)

  • Nicest Shut down? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:55PM (#12761780) Homepage
    So if RIAA sent you a bouquet of flowers with a cute, humorous, handwritten greeting card personally signed by the PR manager informing your court appearance date, it wouldn't be so bad?

    I don't think there is anything wrong for a listed company to protect its interest, control its IPs and maximize its profit, but the fanboy twist is totally unnecessary.
    • by martok ( 7123 )

      Though this is true to a point, there is something to be said about sending a notice to the site operator directly. Afaik, the *aa folks tend to harass upstream providers and do not contact site operators directly. Though, I am sure google would have done likewise if a favourable response was not fourthcoming.

    • I didn't notice anything about google requesting a court appearance. If RIAA did what you stated above and came across in a manner that made you feel they were doing this for the greater interests of their other customers (Artists and Music License Purchasers) then it would be a whole different story. If they sent a bouquet of flowers ... and all, along with a simple request to have it taken down for the good of the upstart artist and other music patrons, I'm sure your take on it would be far different.
    • by N3WBI3 ( 595976 )
      No, Google was polite they explained themselves, did not start with "we'll sue your @$$"...
    • Oh spare me. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nobodyman ( 90587 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:32PM (#12762139) Homepage
      So if RIAA sent you a bouquet of flowers with a cute, humorous, handwritten greeting card personally signed by the PR manager informing your court appearance date, it wouldn't be so bad?
      Well, if I was serving up MP3's of $.50's latest album, yeah, it wouldn't be as bad. But your question is apples/oranges anyway. Yours is a piracy issue whereas Gogglemaps is a Terms of Use violation. Me and a friend were discussing just this very thing. In spite of what some Google employees might say about how they like to foster innovation and so on, if the terms of use say you can't do it you can pretty well expect that you will probably run afoul of Google. Without getting into the legality argument of certain Terms of Use, let me limit this to just an analysis of likelihood of getting on the wrong side of a lawyer. Caveat Scriptor. You are asking for trouble if:
      • You take someone elses content and pass it off as yours (even if you say "gee thanks google")
      • Violate a Terms of Use agreement. Even if it's the ToU is hopelessly vague you can bet that you'll get a call as soon as your site gets popular enough
      • You rush headlong into making a beta API the centerpiece of your website. Yeah, do it because it's neat, but don't whine when it breaks unless you want people to say "what the hell were you even thinking?". Even if it's Google's endless beta phase, if you rely on behaviour of a beta app, and then your site/app breaks... tough noogies.
      The gyst is that Google is a company that makes a product and wants to make money and has investors blah blah blah..., just like Microsoft or Wallmart. You can argue tell your blue in the face about right/wrong, nice/not nice, good/evil, but the simple fact is that if you do something that legalize says you shouldn't do, and you get burned... don't be surprised. Google is going to oversee what people are doing with the googemaps... if they like it, they'll take the idea and incorporate it into their business model, if they don't like it (don't like == taxes resources or threatens revenue), the lawyers come knocking.
      • by mattgreen ( 701203 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:12PM (#12764950)
        AOL Instant Messenger's Terms of Use forbid use of third party clients from connecting to the network. How come whenever AOL tries to lock out third party clients it is evil, but when Google does it, it's okay? Both are terms of service violations.

        Grandparent hit it head on: enough fawning over Google.
        • Google's argument would be that when you access Google Maps you are accepting their terms of use, which are incorporated by means of the link at the bottom of each page. This is probably correct, but their argument would be stronger if you had to view the terms and click on an "I accept these terms" button before you accessed the website.

          If you use a third party client to connect to the AOL IM network, on the other hand, you're not seeing any of AOL's terms of use - so how can you be bound by them? As a le
    • "I don't think there is anything wrong for a listed company to protect its interest, control its IPs and maximize its profit..."

      It's a pity Blizzard wasn't given that consideration.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      AFAIK, the Mafia from days of old would send a pre-ransom letter to potential victims that was flowing with praise and gratitude. The idea was to make a normally unpleasant act easier for both parties - nobody gets physically injured and the correspondence is very civil.

      So yeah, being polite doesn't mean that everything's cool.

      more likely, since every other company sends harshly worded C&D letters, maybe Google just wants to be different.
    • by timeOday ( 582209 )

      I don't think there is anything wrong for a listed company to protect its interest, control its IPs and maximize its profit

      Google's demeanor aside, this is the real question.

      Google is in somewhat of a special position, because virtually 100% of their content comes from other websites! While issuing takedown notices, Google must remember it's only a matter of time until somebody challenges the google cache, or even of including textual context on the search results page.

      For now, I'm sure google i

    • Actually, yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sterno ( 16320 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:57PM (#12763030) Homepage
      I have to say that sending a polite, could you not do this, e-mail is very cool of google. For a time, I ran a radio station off of my server. Not many people listened to it, but anyhow, I got a letter from ASCAP asking me to not do it.

      There's letter was much more legalese ridden, etc, ultimately, they had the decency to send me a warning notice before they sicked a pack of lawyers onto me. After it was clear to me that they were serious about it, I stopped.

      If I was swapping songs and the RIAA sent me a letter saying, "hey could you please stop?", I probably would. Instead, they'd probably just sue me, and charge me a lot of money I don't have.

      So yeah, there's something to be said for how you say things.
    • On a related note, the gmail invite spooler [] has also been taken down recently.
    • Yep, necessary (Score:3, Interesting)

      I don't think there is anything wrong for a listed company to protect its interest, control its IPs and maximize its profit, but the fanboy twist is totally unnecessary.

      It's very necessary. Consider:

      Things google could have done: 1) sued. 2) threatened to sue until you settled for $3000 (yeah, I'm talking to you DirecTV!). 3) Claimed rights they don't actually have 4) contacted his ISP and gotten him shut down.

      Things google actually did: 1) asked him respectfully and nicely to stop. 2) provided a le

      • Re:Yep, necessary (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Momoru ( 837801 )
        This is very common...most companies do not come right out with lawsuits, I used a BMW logo on my site once and BMW sent a notice asking if I could remove it because it violated yadda yadda. I also knew of a bar that was using a Jimmy Buffet trademark, and got a similarly nice letter first. This is the way you are supposed to approach violations...warn the person first, friendly lawyer notice second, angry lawyer notice third, in court finally. Most companies realize you get more bees with honey, but whe
  • by straponego ( 521991 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:56PM (#12761785) least be nice about it?
    • by Morel ( 67425 ) <eugenio@invisiblei n f> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:24PM (#12762060)
      I think Winston Churchill said it best:

      "If you must kill a man, it costs you nothing to be polite about it."


    • I don't think it's evil. I know a lot of people who hold IP, and if they could, they wouldn't mind most of the infringing uses. Unfortunately, our legal system says that if you don't defend your IP, then you lose it, and losing it usually means that some rapacious evildoer manages to find a way to rook you out of what should be yours. In some cases, the IP holders just ask that you write and ask permission, that's all, then nobody needs to get into take down notices.

      But being polite goes a long way in m
  • Noooooooooo! (Score:3, Informative)

    by professorhojo ( 686761 ) * on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:56PM (#12761789)
    i hope my favorite mashup, google housing, that uses the craigslist rental pages won't get taken down!! []
    • Re:Noooooooooo! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alphakappa ( 687189 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:05PM (#12761879) Homepage
      I don't think they will take down the craigslist-googlemaps mashup since they themselves praised it as a featured project on Google Code.

      There is a reason why this particular project got the takedown notice:
      1. The satellite/air imagery is probably not owned by Google - they must have licensed it from AirphotoUSA or whoever else is the supplier.
      2. The wallpaper site simply takes the images and stitches them together as a wallpaper - which means that are not simply incorporating a google product, but appropriating the images therein. Google's terms of use with their provider would necessisate the takedown.
    • housingmaps is also In Violation of the Google Map Service as stated on [] , quote: "The photographic imagery made available for display through Google maps is provided under a nonexclusive, non-transferable license for use only by you. You may not use the imagery in any commercial or business environment or for any commercial or business purposes for yourself or any third parties."

      Basically every site out there using any kind of images from the Google Map service i
    • Why does it show me a map of the SF bay area when looking for an apartment in Austin? My friend in Austin always says its a lot like San Francisco but I didn't think he meant it that much.
    • While we are on the subject, got any bittorrent sites that you want to expose?

      (I say that with total humor, you're not an asshole. I don't think...)
  • That is friendly, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrByte420 ( 554317 ) * on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:56PM (#12761790) Journal

    1. Lawyers
    2. Due Dates
    3. Use of the word "compliance"
    4. Use of the word "further action"
    5. Nice invitation to a developers conference.

    I'll take that over the .*AA any day.
  • Interesting wording (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) * <> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:58PM (#12761808) Homepage Journal
    It sounds like Google Maps had to sign an agreement not to let the image data be used for commercial purposes. I wonder if they got a letter telling them to take down the offending site or be sued?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I would additionally wonder if the satellite views are subject to a different license (for Google) than the roadmaps.

      I must admit that making large standalone images from the satellite views does, in fact, seem notably different than most of the other homebrew Googlemap sites out there, which may be why this particular site recieved this letter while the others didn't.

      But who knows... maybe this is just the start.

    • Uhhh yeah. Since we're speculating, don't you find it MUCH more likely that Google plans to offer businesses a way to tap into Google Maps for a fee?
  • Tough call (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nos. ( 179609 )
    I love google, and google maps is wonderful to play with. I had actually considered building something like the Chicago Crime page, but given the terms of service, thought I'd better not. I can see Google's point. They are providing a free service for individuals. Haveing another person/group/company use that freedom to build a new service and possibly profit off of it at the expense of the individuals it was created for is rough.

    That being said, I think there is a lot of potential for other uses of Go
    • Re:Tough call (Score:5, Informative)

      by xiando ( 770382 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:11PM (#12761941) Homepage Journal
      Making such a site would not be a problem if you simply ask Google for the proper permissions. Who knows, if you are lucky then you might get a deal. And if you don't, at least you have tried, all they can do is say No. IP and Copyright does not need to be a problem if you are willing to talk and explain your intentions. Takedown notices generally come when you violate Copyright without even trying to get a permission deal.
      • Re:Tough call (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Em Adespoton ( 792954 ) <> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:27PM (#12762093) Homepage Journal
        As someone who has tried to get a number of permission deals from various industries, I'll let you know right now that RIAA and MPAA related companies tend to completely ignore you, even when you've emailed, faxed and sent snail mail (there's no way to get to a real person in charge of such things at the phone numbers I've tried).

        Software publishers (I've never tried to contact a BSA publisher) and other independent media publishers are usually delighted to make a deal; often, even for free, or with a small percentage kickback if you're doing something for-profit.

        I'm glad Google has decided to side with the independents instead of the corporate behemoths on their treatment of individuals in this case, and actually acknowledge that corporations share the world with individual human beings.

    • They are providing a free service for individuals. Haveing another person/group/company use that freedom to build a new service and possibly profit off of it at the expense of the individuals it was created for is rough.

      It's only indirectly that your comment makes sense. The people using Google's stuff (including the infrastructure and all of that overhead) aren't doing so at the "expense of the individuals it was created for" in the sense of end users. What Google creates, it creates for its investors.
    • Re:Tough call (Score:5, Informative)

      by holovaty ( 678950 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:34PM (#12762158) Homepage
      Here are two pieces of evidence that Google does *not* disapprove of Google Maps hacks:

      1. A post to the official Google blog: apscraigslist-mashup.html []

      "While we have no official API for Maps yet, work like this really is amazing and deserves recognition."

      2. aps_hac.html []

      "They responded that they had every intention to not shut them down as long as their licenses permit it, and one of the engineers insinuated that they might be working on a Google Maps API or a similar way to build on top of Maps (he actually said, "to make them not hacks," by which I think he meant not unauthorized)."

      Disclaimer: I'm the guy that did, so I'm biased in favor of openness.
  • Go Google! (Score:5, Informative)

    by oldosadmin ( 759103 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:00PM (#12761826) Homepage
    I must say... they really are, "not being evil".

    I've recieved a DMCA takedown notice before. Most aren't pretty. Personally, I never understood why most DMCA takedown notices were taken directly to ISP level, without even a word to the webmaster.

    In this case, Google sent a nice letter, requesting they take it down, and even explaining why. This is far superious to any other company takedown letter I've ever seen.
    • I have also got a DMCA takedown notice and it was intentionally mailed the upstream provider without any attempt to contact the proper e-mail given on the site and the DMCA link on the site. I think this is common for evil corporations. Like TPB kindly points out to someone who mailed them a DMCA notice: "Additionally, you have mistaken our ISP for us." []
      • Yes -- same thing happened here.

        I've gotten two dmcas. First one went to my shared hosting provider, who cut off my http, on a friday around 5pm, and it had to stay off until I could contact them monday.

        Second time, I just got an email from my vps provider,, passing it along, and saying "handle it". I actually put up a forum thread on their site praising them for it.

        If any of you want a good provider, go with Linode []. The staff is great, service is great... no real negatives to it.

        In c
  • by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:01PM (#12761838) Homepage
    ...and then we finish the job with a Slashdotting. Nice.
  • Down.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by devross ( 524605 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:01PM (#12761842) Homepage
    Are Chicago Crime and Google Sightseeing next to go?

    Unfortunately yes, but that's because of us, not their violation of terms with Google.
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:02PM (#12761858) Journal
    I'm actually surprised Google let others leech on their bandwidth like this without paying them or anything. Same with e.g. GoogleFS and other hacks. Either this is a sign of more things to come, or it's just one of few sites they didn't like even with their highly relaxed stance about others leeching on their services.
    • Leech? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Colin Smith ( 2679 )
      You couldn't *pay* for the publicity that people like /. readers, admins, developers give for Google.

      Know the first thing I tell a new user who know bugger all about the Internet? In fact, I usually set it as their home page to make my life easier.

      That translates directly into advertising revenue, and I do it because they have a spectacularly good search system, very cool add on tools and they let us play with them for free. They know *exactly* what they're doing and I'm fine with it.
    • I'm actually surprised Google let others leech on their bandwidth like this without paying them or anything.

      Google is flush with IPO cash.
      Bandwidth is cheap, but ideas are expensive.

      By letting others "leech on their bandwidth" google fosters creativity. Creativity that has google at its foundation. If the result is even just a couple of good and new marketable uses of google's product, then the investment in bandwidth will have paid for itself a hundred-fold.

      Think of it as a cooperative model of devel
  • by product byproduct ( 628318 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:03PM (#12761861)
    Google Maps uses a fixed longitude/latitude distance ratio of ~0.772, while the true ratio depends on latitude (the ratio should be cos(latitude)). So Google Map is optimized for 39.5 of latitude (N or S), and the maps are increasingly distorted as you go toward the poles or the equator.

    For example, Anchorage is stretched horizontally by a factor of 1.60 [] (yup those should be right angles).

    MapQuest is similarly distorted, but Yahoo Maps is not.
  • One day... (Score:5, Funny)

    by LegendOfLink ( 574790 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:04PM (#12761877) Homepage
    "but that has to be the nicest take-down note I've ever seen; it's polite, friendly and reasonable."

    Many years from now, we will see a similar Slashdot post when Google becomes the New World Order:

    Dear Bill,

    The GoogleOS team recently noticed that you guys have had your asses handed to you, by us. We commend you on your many years of somehow staying at the top, despite the fact that you sorely neglected securing your software. Sorry we had to break your record; but your evil violated the official Evil Google TOS, listed on our home page.

    Lots of love and warm tapioca,
    Larry and Sergei
  • They might as well just post the offending URL here. Down quicker than you can say "Service Unavailable".
  • by compmanio36 ( 882809 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:07PM (#12761904)
    I used Google maps once, and I got SO lost in downtown Seattle. Their service is nice and full of features, but I prefer simple accuracy over fancy graphics anyday, especially when it means getting lost in the maze of one-way streets and idiot drivers that is downtown of any major city.

    No, Google is good at a lot of things, but right now, maps is NOT one of those things.
    • Don't worry. I'm sure the maps will be better once Google Maps is out of beta.

      You wouldn't trust a beta service to do something as vital as navigation, now would you?
      • The real problem with both Google Maps and MapQuest is the underlying data. Both get their street data (at least in large part) from the same company: TeleAtlas.

        This is the company that still hasn't picked up on the fact that many roads near here were renumbered four years ago to meet 911 law requirements. My company's official postal address is 2075 High Hill Rd., but TeleAtlas still thinks the only valid block number for this road is 200-299.
  • First takedown, courtesy of Google...
    Second takedown, courtesy of Slashdot...

    Anybody got a copy of the note?
  • Google isn't threatened by people creating new services out of maps. If it was up to Google, you could probably do anything you wanted.

    However, Google has suppliers. They are very interested in protecting their copyrighted data. They are, as yet, willing to allow modification of the Maps service for things like the housing map, etc. I'm not even sure that their agreement permits them to complain, as it is still Google serving the images.

    Creating derivative works of the actual map photos crossed a line
  • By stitching and thus changing the images. It is a really neat thing... what would be better is for them to release it as a tool that home users can use for free which would avoid the TOS violation as far as I can tell.
  • The site looked like it was about to die a slow and painful death, so here's the notice in full:

    "The Google Maps team recently noticed your Google Maps tile "stitcher" to see developers interested in our products and we commend you on the service. That said, we would appreciate it if you voluntarily remove your service and stop using Google Maps on your web site. The service violates the Maps Terms of Service available at [], and jeopardizes our ability to make Goo
  • Shouldn't this headline be: "World's First Google Maps Hack Takedown"
  • Google's Merits (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ikegami ( 793066 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:23PM (#12762050)

    I don't see anyone arguing the merits of Google's action, so I will. From what I can see from the Google cache [] of the web site, I see that following:

    1. They perform automated queries on Google to get the map pieces in order to produce composite images. (Terms of Service violation)
    2. They produced composite images from Copyrighted material. (Copyright violation)
    3. They hosted (distributed) the composite images made from Copyrighted material. (Copyright violation)

    This gives Google good reason to shut down "Google Wallpapers" as it stands. I don't think it Google has any claims against the python script itself, just its users (which includes "Google Wallpapers").

    This differs from "Google Sightseeing" and "Chicago Crime" (as far as I know, since I can't verify util the sites are back up), which only link to maps on Google, which means

    1. There are no automated queries. The user must click on the link to view the image.
    2. No derivative product is made. They only provide a link to Google.
    3. No distribution is made. The maps are solely on Google's server.
  • Frankly, I've been increasingly suspicious of Google since they decided it was such a neat idea to keep other people's email. That's something with serious opportunities for abuse--and there's no good reason these days. Everyone (who counts) has GBs of disk space and powerful CPUs, and there's no reason that the email couldn't be stored, indexed, and searched on your local machine. Why do they need *MY* email on *THEIR* machines? Something is wrong there.

    This new event is something different. It doesn't m

    • I mostly like the fact that I can access gmail from anywhere. That way I don't have to boot a kid from the one computer that has my email on it, I can just use another one.
      • Okay, so they could add an option to keep some of the latest email on the Web server. Why do they need to keep all of it? And do you really want *ALL* of your email to be accessible to anyone who manages to put a key logger on any computer you happen to check your email from?

        Even Gandhi had enemies.

  • Google has website shut down, asserting their intelelctual property rights = reasonable

    MPAA has website shut down, asserting their intellectual property rights = Gestapo
  • On two occasions in the last few weeks I've tried to use the point-to-point directions based on post codes.

    The information is utterly incorrect and extremely ambiguous.

    Take note, fellow UK /.ers, it's an alpha release for us.
  • by uberdave ( 526529 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:31PM (#12762125) Homepage
    Google is releasing a new beta project called Google Posters. With it, you will be able to have large poster sized satellite maps of any point of interest.
  • They appearantly posted a windows executable version, does anyone have a mirror of this?
    • by AyeRoxor! ( 471669 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @07:16PM (#12763218) Journal
      Yes. Google does, in fact.

      The cache for the page, Linked here [], has a link to the executable. The link still works. Get it while it's hot.

      In fact, I think every person that makes a google utility should make an executable version for this very reason. It would save you bandwidth, it would save me loading time. Release it GPL and someone can make a multi-utility. Sounds great. Get to it, programmers!
  • by expro ( 597113 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @06:27PM (#12762696)

    It is ludicrous to claim that Google invested that much in the original content, since everyone just gets it from US Geological Survey.

    So, go to the National Atlas [] and download and use to your heart's content. If that is not good enough, then go download all the data you can imagine []. Still not enough, you can access all the layers via web services that comply with specifications published by the Open Geospatial Consortium [] at run time from your own web pages.

    Now, write your congressmen and tell them how you appreciate that they made all this available to you, the citizen, for free, instead of spending all that tax money only to add a fee that makes it prohibitive for all but corporations who can be gatekeepers to keep you out. And hope that this doesn't become another casulty of Iraq budgets.

    While you are at it, start a USGS support mailing list and an open source project to keep this sort of alive.

  • NASA World Wind (Score:4, Informative)

    by fourtyfive ( 862341 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @09:42PM (#12764378) [] I just wanted to let people know that the latest CVS of NASA World wind has a plugin engine that allows people to do the same thing (Their is even a plugin already made to do it!)

The world is coming to an end--save your buffers!