New EULA for Google Earth Free/Plus: “Internal use” at work is OK

Frank Taylor brings news of the newly updated release notes for Google Earth version 4.2 and rightly homes in on a major change: Updated terms of service for Google Earth Free and Plus.

In brief: You can now use it at work for “internal use”.

The most important bit of the new license now reads like this:


Use of Software. For an individual end user, the Software is made available to and may be used by you only for your personal, non-commercial use according to these Terms of Service and the Software documentation. For a business entity user, the Software may be used by you and your employees for internal use according to these Terms of Service and the Software documentation (individual end users and business end users are collectively referred to as “You” herein).

Restrictions. You agree not to use the Software in connection with or in conjunction with a system in a vehicle that offers real-time route guidance or turn-by-turn maneuvers. You agree not to use the Software for any bulk printing or downloading of imagery, data or other content.

Whereas previously we had this, in version 4.1:

1. USE OF SOFTWARE The Software is made available to you for your personal, non-commercial use only. You may not use the Software or the geographical information made available for display using the Software, or any prints or screen outputs generated with the Software in any commercial or business environment or for any commercial or business purposes for yourself or any third parties. You may not use the Google Software in any manner that could damage, disable, overburden, or impair Google’s services (e.g., you may not use the Google Software in an automated manner), nor may you use Software in any manner that could interfere with any other party’s use and enjoyment of Google’s services.

(My italics) A “Find Differences” in BBEdit finds very few further differences between the two texts. Lawyers wanting to peruse both texts can use this link to the license from version 4.1. One minor change in version 4.2 is a link to a standardized Google policy on privacy (instead of spelling it out in the text). Google’s data licensors are also referenced together with Google when posting disclaimers, and this paragraph is new:


a. Google. […]

b. Third Parties. Data for map content in the Software is provided under license from Google’s licensors, including by Tele Atlas North America, Inc. (“TANA”) (the “TANA Data”), and is subject to intellectual property rights owned by or licensed by TANA and such other licensors. You agree that you will not engage in, and may be held liable for any unauthorized copying or disclosure of this material. By using the Software, you agree to make TANA a third party beneficiary of this agreement. Your use of TANA Data is subject to additional restrictions located in the following Legal Notices page:

So what does “internal use” mean for a business user? I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that Google Earth Free finally becomes a proper universal browser of georeferenced data. You no longer need Pro to do geoweb surfing at work, or to search and view KML files, even for doing business-related research or intelligence gathering, much as you would use an ordinary web browser to gather information from the ordinary web. Nevertheless, I suspect this new license does preclude businesses from using the Free application to produce commercial geospatial products. That would result in an “external” application of Google Earth. But, again, IANAL. Google Earth’s “Software documentation” is given as a source for further explication, but the online legal FAQs are currently still the old ones.

Also of interest is the restriction that prevents third parties from offering a sat-nav solution for cars that involves running Google Earth, much like the setup demoed by Volkswagen 18 months ago.

(Note: I’m still working setting up a reliable internet connection (again) in a very hot Cairo, so pardon the flagging blogging around here for another week.)

7 thoughts on “New EULA for Google Earth Free/Plus: “Internal use” at work is OK”

  1. Stefan:

    The licensing terms in the past have definitely hampered Google Earth uptake amongst traditional users of GIS and have allowed other vendors to gain market share with products featuring arguably poorer user experiences.

    Between this licensing re-wording and the submission of KML as an open standard, the value proposition for organizations looking to bring geo-visualization to a broad internal audience is compelling.

    And these changes are bound to spur a rapid expansion of 3rd party application development. So I guess I should expect company….


  2. I have to love all the double talk in agreements.

    For example. On one hand, section 7, people must follow/comply with local laws. But on the other hand, Section 16 part c, regardless what the local laws are, Google says otherwise.

    One question I do have. Since minors can’t enter into contracts without permission of a guardian(if they have a legal guardian). How does Google allow minors download and use the software without a guardian’s permission? I guess this would apply to not only Google but other software vendors.


  3. Correct that you are not a lawyer and based on direct communication with senior Google Earth staff, I understand these new 4.2 license terms do NOT change this application into the “universal browser” for business users that you suggest. If you install GE free version in a business location you may use it for non-commercial “internal use” period.

    Note the misunderstanding here is Google’s traditionally vague choice of contract language when they are riding in some new gray area. Their complete silence on these blogs is odd business behavior too. Internal Use is not a defined term, so we are each left trying to understand its meaning. Do they mean internal business use or internal personal use? My understanding is users in a business environment cannot use the free version internally to assist in work-related activities. You cannot be “on the clock” while using it.

    You may not install the free version on 10 office computers then have just one user subscribe to the $400 Pro license who there after feeds all the others business related KML/KMZ files for viewing. Users of the free version may not view, save or print images of business related locations, or otherwise conduct any business activities with the free software. With Google Earth Pro you are not purchasing a KML viewer, you are subscribing to a massive hosted commercial database that in the past we paid big bucks to license from the same 3rd party imagery providers. Think ArcWeb Services (which we also purchase).

    By saying “internal use”, perhaps users can look to see if the traffic is bad getting home or sneak a look at a vacation spot during a coffee break. That is the only change in the EULA.

    This is impossible to police in a larger business environment and ours, along with many others I know, still ban Google Earth free version from any of our thousands of computers. If you need it for work purposes, we buy a subscription and install it like any other business application. We say if you want to look at traffic or vacation destinations, open your browser to Google Maps or Virtual Earth.

  4. While the EULA in this BETA product does still have that message, I don’t believe this is the actual intent of Google. In fact, I think Google has made it pretty plain they encourage people to use any version of the Google Earth client, including the free version, in the work environment for personal use.

  5. I posed this question to Google legal and received the following response. Interpret how you like.. but if you are using Google Earth for any work shared at all outside your company or for any commercial gain (direct or indirect) I’d purchase Google Earth Pro. If you are using it for “personal use only”; again PERSONAL meaning “not to be used by or for the company at all”, then the Free version is still acceptable.

    Thank you for writing to Google. I can address the EULA change issue for


    If your business is looking to use Google Earth for any external use, Google Earth Pro is the appropriate software and will need to be licensed.

    External use includes creating and distributing KML/KMZ files, using imagery from Google Earth in reports and presentations, and developing information that will be used outside your organization. If there are employees who are using Google Earth (Free version) for personal/internal use (driving directions, viewing areas) within the organization, they do not need to remove Google Earth from their system.

    In short, you can use the free version of Earth within your company is this data is not being shared outside of your organization.

    Also, some of the Pro specific features that you will continue to benefit from are:

    – Faster performance

    – Movie maker lets you create your own compressed movies of the zooms and virtual tours (.wmv & .avi)

    – Area measurement tool (square feet, mile, acreage, radius, etc.)

    – Spreadsheet import – ingest up to 2,500 locations by address or lat/lon.

    – Premium printing and saving capabilities (4800 pixels)

    – GIS data import lets you incorporate GIS data in file formats such as .shp and .tab. including parcel, demographic and 3D building

    – Annotate the view with lines and polygons (with height)

    – Technical Support assistance (chat and email) during business hours PST

    Thank you,

    Richard Wan

    Google Earth Pro Sales

    eFax: 650-887-2472

  6. I try to install Googleearth on Linux Ubuntu 19.4.

    So it is indicated that my subscription Eula is mandatory

  7. How can I print letter size map when using free version of GE as to date I was only able to print 4.125 X 7.5 inches maps which is too small. This is for personal needs and hunting purpose only.


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