FAQ

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For License, see Open Database License.
For Legal aspects, see Legal.
For Developers, see Develop.
For Modelling questions, see Map features.

In addition to this FAQ, there is a collaboratively edited question and answer site where you can read more questions about OpenStreetMap and ask your own. Feel free to contact the community as well.

Contents

Is it OpenStreetMap or Open Street Maps?

OpenStreetMap is the correct spelling. One word, three capital letters, one map. OpenStreetMap is also a Trademark.

Why OpenStreetMap?

Why are you making OpenStreetMap?

Main article: Why OSM and not another collaborative mapping service

Why don't you just use Google Maps/whomever for your data?

Main article: Google

You seem to have a lot of existing map data. Where did it come from?

Many keen contributors, and sporadic imports of data from open-licensed sources. In areas where there are no such data sources (most areas) we have to start from a blank slate, and head out there to survey the streets ourselves. Despite starting from scratch, we have achieved a good level of completion in many places.

Who owns OpenStreetMap?

You do. The data and software are owned by you, the contributors.

There is an organisation called the OpenStreetMap Foundation which exists to protect, promote, and support the project, but does not own the data.

What does your license allow me to do with the OSM Data ?

See Legal and Open Database License for more information.

How do I help?

Can I show my support by purchasing cool stuff?

Yes! See the Merchandise page for mouth-watering goodies.

Is there any ongoing scholarly research on OpenStreetMap?

Numerous universities worldwide are studying various aspects of OpenStreetMap or are using OSM data in their research. See Research for more information.

Editing

Your best option may be making the data available to the community and if someone is interested they can proceed with the import process.

What images and maps may I use to make maps from?

Most maps have copyright restrictions. This includes any data from "free beer" sites as Google Maps and Wikipedia and printed paper maps, even if you scanned them yourself. Most Commercial aerial/satellite photography is also copyrighted.

You should not use copyrighted maps in any way while editing OpenStreetMap (unless it is compatible with our license). "Using" includes tracing over the map, copying a name from the map, or pinpointing a coordinate on the map. To be on the safe side, we tend to regard all of these as a form of copying, or "creating a derived work". Generally speaking, it's best not to even look at copyrighted maps while you are editing OpenStreetMap.

So what can you use? Not very much, which is why we are doing all this re-surveying from scratch. However OSM has permission to use some Datasources including imported TIGER data in the USA, AND Data in the Netherlands, and recent aerial imagery from Bing and Mapquest.

Why is the satellite imagery low resolution? Is there other satellite imagery that I can use that has more detail? Can you update it? How often is it updated?

The Aerial Imagery is from a variety of sources that we have permission to use - Bing and Mapquest are the most popular and have the largest coverage. The resolution and age of the imagery varies, and it is not updated on a regular basis. You may even notice the age and quality of imagery from same source may be different in your town. See Aerial Imagery for more details. OSM neither controls nor owns the satellite imagery so we cannot request updates.

How do I track edits of a region?

See the list of various tools at Quality assurance#Monitoring Tools.

Editing with Potlatch

Main article: Potlatch/FAQs

Potlatch 2 is the map editor that you get when you click the arrow next to the "Edit" tab on the main site and select "Edit with Potlatch 2".

You should read Potlatch 2/Primer before editing.

Editing with JOSM

See also the Josm Guide.

I tried to download my town/city/region - why doesn't it work?

Chances are the area you tried to select is too large and the server probably timed out before getting the data to you. In order to conserve OSM's bandwidth, you cannot download or select to edit an area larger than 0.3 degrees in either dimension through the web interface. For editing, it is recommended to work on smaller areas.

If you really want larger areas of data, the best approach would be to download planet.osm or an extract. These are snapshots of the OSM database for the entire planet or a specific area.

I want to create a very long way - how do I download OSM data for such a big area?

In order to be able to easily handle long roads, you should not make one long road out of it. You should rather split the road into several ways. As a rule of thumb, no way should be longer than 10-15 km. Typically, they will actually be much shorter.

Applications like route planners for example will be able to easily join the ways to one road again. This type of application will need to postprocess the OSM data anyway.

For motorways for example, it makes sense to make a way from one exit to the next. Also, intersections of motorways should be the point where you split a road into ways.

Using OSM maps and data

Main article: Using OpenStreetMap

How can I display maps on my website?

Read Getting Started With Leaflet on switch2osm.org

How can I extract information [e.g. POI's] from OpenStreetMap (like a list and location of all of the Churches in a certain area)?

  • If you want a large batch of POIs, download planet.osm or an extract and then use software that processes OSM data (e.g. osmosis) to extract your desired information.
  • Or use the API. See getting poi data from OSM for a more detailed explanation.

How can I download this data and put it in my GPS?

If you have a Garmin unit, see OSM Map On Garmin. Several users provide ready-made Garmin format maps for you to download and copy to your GPS.

Why doesn't 'Export' work?

When the rendering servers have a high load from traffic to the main map some of the exports gets temporarily disabled. This is because the rendering of custom images from the export tab takes a lot of resources compared to the slippy map.

If you want to use the exports you can try again later or see other alternatives.

Where can I find software using OSM data?

For current software using OSM, see the Software page or its category, and also neat stuff for more experimental ideas.

For a more development-related angle, see Routing (and its category), the Beginners Guide topic on usage, and the Developers' pages.

Questions from GIS people

What geographic datums are used in OpenStreetMap?

OpenStreetMap uses the WGS 84 lat/lon data exclusively. All uploaded tracks and edits should always be in WGS 84, the default data for GPS receivers.

What is the map scale for a particular zoom level of the map?

Main article: Slippy_map_tilenames#Resolution_and_Scale

Why aren't you using Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) schemas and software for OpenStreetMap?

We choose technology for openstreetmap.org based on speed & flexibility. Some OGC standards and implementations fit this bill, but others do not. We used to use MapServer for serving static versions of our maps, but unfortunately we found it to be unthreaded, slow, and hard to extend - we replaced it with Mapnik. If you'd like to develop integration with OGC tools, let us know.

See Why not GPX? for a similar discussion about why GPX was rejected as a transport format.

What Geotagging do you use?

Main article: Geotagging

Admin

Why doesn't my login work?

There are two different logins for the OSM project: one is for this wiki only, and the other is for the website, API, forum and the help site. You need to register on the website to edit OSM data.

How can I close my account?

Send an email to the support address and an administrator will disable your account and remove your details from the OpenStreetMap database. Your email address will usually be retained in the event that an OpenStreetMap administrator needs to contact you in the future.

Can I have more than one account?

Yes - see Creating_an_Account#Account_Names_and_Multi_Account_Policies.

Help - someone keeps deleting/reverting my edits. What do I do?

Please see the disputes page for details

I think someone's been entering copyrighted data - how do we deal with that?

If you find data that you suspect may have been copied from a copyrighted source or imported from a copyrighted source into OpenStreetMap without the owner's permission, please:

  1. Contact the user via using the 'send message' link from their user page (i.e. "www.openstreetmap.org/user/[user-name]") with the evidence. Be polite: it is important to remember that you might be wrong, they might have permission or it could be a simple misunderstanding. See Contact for more information.
  2. If there is no response (after 5 days) or you are deeply unconvinced by the response, email your evidence to the OSM Foundation so that the problem can be investigated.
  3. It may be that your report will be posted to the legal-talk mailing list (or a country specific list if this is more appropriate) for discussion - if so, you will be informed so you can join the discussion.

I am a copyright owner and my content is being used in OpenStreetMap Without Permission

  • If you are the copyright owner or represent the copyright owner, we can assist you directly by e-mail. You may contact us at data@osmfoundation.org with an informal request. Please cite the exact content in question. Correspondence is answered by a small team of volunteers.
  • This address is not for requesting permission to copy content from OpenStreetMap.
  • If you prefer to use or make a formal OCILLA request, you can send it to our designated agent. Digital Millennium Copyright Act Notice

I found a website using OSM that doesn't display the license

Our license says you have to display both the author and license (see Legal FAQ). If it's a major page, please read Lacking proper attribution.