Google’s strategy for populating its Earth with 3D textured buildings has just gotten a lot sharper — literally (ha). If you download the newest build, 4.0.2722, the default layers have now started to show this:
What you get is the best of 3D Warehouse‘s textured buildings uploaded by users, downloaded by default as you zoom in. Smartly, if such buildings are located in spots where gray untextured “placeholder” buildings have been available by default, these have disappeared in favor of the new improved version. Here’s downtown New York with just the 3D Warehouse best-of buildings:
Here’s the same view with the placeholders added:
As speculated on Ogle Earth before, and now confirmed, Google is harnessing the creativity of its users to populate its Earth with 3D textured buildings, whereas Microsoft Virtual Earth is engaging in “central planning”, with a concerted effort to map 3D textures onto models using technology from its recent acquisitions. Which is quicker and/or better will become apparent over time.
But what happens when a user deletes a contributed building from 3D Warehouse? I went looking for the answer in the terms of service, and the answer is quite clear (I think): Although you own your content, uploading it to 3D Warehouse gives Google a “perpetual license” to reproduce both the content and derivative works of the content, even if you later remove it from your account. In other words, Google Earth won’t suddenly see its textured buildings go AWOL. Below the fold, the exact wording of the relevant bits of the terms of service…
PS. If you want to see all current 3D Warehouse content, including on older builds of Google Earth, you can still download the 3D Warehouse network link.
[Update 2006-01-08: Flying around some more, it’s clear that in several cities at least, a good portion of the textured buildings are credited to Google, so it looks like Google’s strategy is flexible, filling in the gaps where user content isn’t available.]
Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through the 3D Warehouse. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the 3D Warehouse and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content through the 3D Warehouse, you grant Google and its end users a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual license to exercise the rights in the Content, as stated below:
1. to reproduce the Content;
2. to create and reproduce derivative works of the Content;
3. to display publicly and distribute copies of the Content;
4. to display publicly and distribute copies of derivative works of the content.
Furthermore, for the avoidance of doubt, Google reserves, and you grant Google, the right to syndicate Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through the 3D Warehouse and use that Content in connection with any of the services offered by Google. Notwithstanding the above, end users may not aggregate the Content obtained from the 3D Warehouse for redistribution, and may not use or distribute Content obtained from the 3D Warehouse in a mapping or geographic application or service without Google’s prior authorization.
You retain the right to make the Content available under different license terms or to stop distributing the Content through the 3D Warehouse at any time; provided, however that any such election will not serve to withdraw the license granted under these Terms of Service. In order to stop distributing the Content through the 3D Warehouse, you must terminate these Terms of Service as set forth in Section 9, or utilize the content removal function provided within the service, in which case the content removal will be effective within two (2) days.