Note: I asked a very similar question on StackOverflow but did not get much attention, so was directed to http://programmers.stackexchange.com as licensing issues seem to have more interest here...

I am not an expert in Google Maps policies although I am aware that downloading / caching map tiles is not encouraged at all.

In Android, developers were given the MapActivity and MapView classes which attempt to provide all possible services for displaying map tiles and even modifying them on the fly if needed, but they are pretty useless for me as I would like to use map tiles as a texture on a 3D OpenGL object.

I'd like to know under which conditions the use of map tiles as an OpenGL texture is allowed.


UPDATE to clarify my question after Gavin's comment:

"Given that the Google Maps API does NOT provide a way to directly access map tiles as low level bitmaps, which is required by OpenGL texturing functions, is there any way to implement this without breaking Google licensing policies?"

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    That sounds like a legal question you're asking, and I doubt a programmer could give you a decent answer. If you're asking how to do it, that'd be a different discussion. – Neil May 10 '12 at 10:26
  • Thank you Neil, see my question update above - you'll see it is not purely a licensing issue - there is a bit of implementation mixed in, as I could not find any way to download / access Google Map tiles as low level bitmaps. It seems like there used to be a simple way (similar to this wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Slippy_map_tilenames) but that it does not work anymore... – John Doisneau May 10 '12 at 23:36
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    @JohnDoisneau: With regards to your updated question, it looks like this is now more of an implementation question than a licensing one. You fit into the Google Maps API or Google Maps API for Business category depending on whether you charge for your app or not, assuming you can find a way of converting the data to a format you need. Otherwise you may need to purchase the data via OEM Licensing, at which time you may be able to convert it yourself then use it. – Gavin Coates May 11 '12 at 8:24

The Google Maps API licensing page explains this fairly well, to summarise, there are three types of license:

Google Maps API

The Google Maps API is a free service that lets you embed Google Maps in your freely accessible web pages or mobile apps.

Your service must be freely and publicly accessible to end users.

Google Maps API for Business

Google Maps API for Business provides enhanced features and added support to organizations who are adding maps to their fee-based websites or mobile apps, or to their internal websites.

OEM Licensing

You can license Google Maps as an embedded feature of your stand-alone software or device.

Your question does not make it clear exactly what your application does, so it is difficult to say which category you fall into. If in doubt, contact google and ask them.

Basically, if your application is for a mobile device and is free, then you can use the free Google Maps API. If it is for a mobile device but you will charge a fee, then you need the Google Maps API for Business. If your application is not for a mobile device (possibly both free and paid for) then you need an OEM License. If your application is not for a mobile device, but is web connected, then it is a bit of a grey area, you may be able to use a free Google Maps API, or you may need an OEM License.

I suggest speaking to Google and explaining what you wish to do, they will then be able to advise you what type of licence is required.

  • Thank you Gavin, this is helpful although it does not fully answers my question. I guess it is hard to make it entirely clear as I still am at the early stages of my application development process and I am not sure whether I will want to charge a fee for it... The application will be an Android app, using OpenGL to display a terrain, which I would like to texture up with Google Terrain tiles. Have a look at the update I made to my question - I made it clearer now. – John Doisneau May 10 '12 at 23:26

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