OpenStreetMap – Germany

Česky Deutsch

The EU Copyright Directive threatens OpenStreetMap and the freedom on the internet we used have. Please join the protest:

Why do I see these black squares?

On 26 March 2019, the European Parliament will vote for a third time on the new EU Copyright Directive. Article 13 of the new directive will de-facto force content platforms to filter uploaded contributions by their users. If a platform does not prevent uploading of copyright-protected content in accordance with "high industry standards of professional diligence" (i.e. upload filters), the operator of the platform is liable for copyright violations of their users. The new rules do not affect large platforms, such as Google, Youtube and Facebook. Small, independent and free platforms like OpenStreetMap would be forced to introduce such filters. This threatens our project.

In addition, article 11 introduces a protection for press publications for online use following the German model, although the law has proofen unsuccessful there.

Why do you use the map for your political statements?

We do not do this deliberately. The European Parliament passed the bill on 12 September 2018 despite noticeable civil society protest. Since then, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and representatives of the parliament, negotiated a compromise. It is expected that the parliament will vote on the compromise in the last week of March. We think that passing the bill would harm the OpenStreetMap and many other small and medium-sized platforms - regardless if they are commercial or not. Black map tiles would not be the result, but with OpenStreetMap investing more resources on pre-filtering content than on anything else, the project would be a shadow of its former self. If nothing changes, a dark future awaits us.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation and FOSSGIS e.V., the official local chapter in Germany, campaign for free map data. We usually do so in financial and technical matters but sometimes we are forced to become active in politics to defend the project.

What is OpenStreetMap?

OpenStreetMap was founded in 2004 and is a international project to create a free map of the world. To do so, we, thousands of volunteers, collect data about roads, railways, rivers, forests, buildings and a lot more worldwide. Our map data can be downloaded for free by everyone and used for any purpose – including commercial usage. It is possible to produce your own maps which highlight certain features, to calculate routes etc.

OpenStreetMap is increasingly used when one needs maps which can be very quickly, or easily, updated, such as ambulance services, fire brigades, humanitarian development and humanitarian crises response.

But the directive does not mention upload filters, does it?

The term is not used in the current version of the draft. But operators of platforms will be liable for copyright violations of their users if they do not meet the following conditions:

  1. They must have made "best efforts" to get a licence to use the uploaded content.
  2. They must have made best efforts to ensure that their platform does not publish content if copyright holders have provided them with the necessary information.
  3. If they are informed about a copyright violation, they have to remove the content, or disable access to them, immediately.

Until now, platforms were excepted from strict liability if they reacted immediately to a notification of a copyright violation. This new directive would force platforms to use either upload filters or review all contributions manually. Upload filters are the high industry standard of professional diligence. For example, Google uses them on Youtube.

What's the problem with upload filters?

Upload filters have a number of issues for small and medium sized and/or free and independent platforms like OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia:

The directive aims to oppose the business model of big US companies. Indeed, the business model of Google and others is not laudable but the directive will harm small and medium sized competitiors, not the large ones.

Why do upload filters harm OpenStreetMap?

The OpenStreetMap project emphasizes openness. Map changes by all users, new and experienced, are applied immediately and are provided to all other data processors immediately. The map is always as up to date as possible.

Upload filter are very impracticable for multiple reasons:

There is an exception for Wikipedia, isn't it?

It is not clear whether the "Wikipedia exemption" would be valid for OSM and even Wikipedia does not feel confident: María Sefidari Huici, member of the board of Wikimedia Foundation, calls the proposed changes a threat for the living and free internet. The Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation behind Wikipedia, doubts that this exemption satisfies the requirements. We share these doubts.

The directive has to be implemented in national law by EU member states. The implementation will not be the same among the countries. Some differences are possible. In Germany, terms like "commercial" and "business-like" are interpreted very strictly. Our data is used in commercial environments a lot. There is a couple of companies using our data and contributing back to OpenStreetMap by developing software or paying their own data contributors – or just by making OSM available to the broad public. If OpenStreetMap becomes unusable for commercial data users by the back door, it will harm all of us.

What can I do against the directive?

There are multiple options to become active:

The web site provides suggestions and support to get in touch with members of the European Parliament. If we succeed in explaining to enough MEPs that upload filters as described in article 13 are a bad idea, the Parliament can reject the article or the whole proposal.

How can I get rid of the banner?

You can't. But it will disappear after the vote in the parliament.

Will you distribute black error tiles again?

We might answer every 7th request to our tile server by a black error tile. We hope that you understand that we become active against a threat to our project and use all websites using our services as our platform. We don't do this deliberately. If you really do not want to see any black tiles, we kindly ask you to switch to another (e.g. paid) map tile service based on OpenStreetMap data.

Press contact

We are happy to answer press inquiries related to this topic. Please email to or for inquiries in German and English. English inquiries can also be answered by the OpenStreetMap Foundation.

Other ways of contact

OpenStreetMap runs multiple forums, mailing lists and chat rooms. Your question might have been answered there and can be found using your favourite search engine. Apart from that, you are invited to ask you questions on the forum (OpenStreetMap account required for log-in), our mailing lists and in our chat room.