Opening up for 3rd party CC-BY content?

I’ve come to learn that it is not allowed to upload 3rd party (that is, other people’s) photos to Mapillary, even if those photos are licensed CC-BY. (That means the owner has allowed reuse of their photos.)

This is a bit weird coming from a company that publishes all the content we upload with a CC-BY licence.

What are the reasons for this limitation? Is it because Mapillary does not have the resources to check the proper attribution? I feel that this is not an issue specific to attribution; obviously I may not upload copyrighted content, but Mapillary does not have a problem controlling that, because that is my own responsibility, and it should be the same with attribution.


In the terms and conditons, look at section 1.3 “Mapillary User Licenses to Us.”
That states how you license material to Mapillary. The terms stated in the sections are not compatible with any CC license.

Basically you grant Mapillary the rights to do anything with what you upload and they can add all the restrictions they want. Under CC licenses you must grant the people, you provide copies of the content to, the same rights that you have. That is not possible under the current terms.

Currently Mapillary publishes the pictures under a CC license, but that can change at any moment. Mapillary is funded by venture capital, so even if the owners are idealistic, they may be forced to go evil.

The terms also have statements that limits both the user of the Mapillary service (which is ok) but also how you can use images that you have downloade under the CC license. There are statements such as " You will not" … “(d) use the Mapillary Solution or Content to create a database of places or other local listings information, except as expressly permitted by us as described on the Site.”

I don’t believe that is compatible with the CC license.

See also How open is mapillary

1 Like

I know nothing about licensing and what is and is not possible. But it seems to me like we are giving out out photos with two licenses. A CC license to the general public, and a less restrictive license to Mapillary. Is that not allowed under CC terms?

But it doesn’t really tell me why Mapillary doesn’t want to accept CC licensed photos from 3rd parties. (Even though that is obviously their right.)

Licenses can be complicated, but I will try to explain. Basically this case is like trying to put a large ball into a small basket.

Note there are several CC licenses with different requirements and in different versions. They can be seen on .

Take Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0 for short), which is the one Mapillary shares the images as.

As a license it tells you what you can do with the images and how you can share them with others, if you can share it. So the license applies if you give the image away, if you alter the image or use the image in a larger work.

The Attribution (BY) part means, that you must always give credit to everybody who contributed to the image - that is e.g. the user name of the Mapillary user.
ShareAlike (SA) is special for Open Source and Free Software. It states, that you if you share the image, you must give others the same rights to the image as you got. So you cannot take a ShareAlike image and tell others they cannot copy it, because you have the right to copy it.

If you read the terms and conditions of Mapillary, section 1.3 “Mapillary User Licenses to Us.” it specifically states, that they can pretty much do anything. They are not obligated in any way to give any attribution.

In CC-BY the BY is a shorthand for Attribution, so it requires you to tell who made the original image. But when contributing to Mapillary you allow them NOT to do this. That means, you cannot publish CC-BY material on Mapillary because Mapillary demands there are no such restrictions on the images.

If you publish it on Mapillary, you are voilating the CC-BY license and if Mapillary accepts it, they are essentially publishing pirated images.

The whole thing is extra confusing because Mapillary is a very open company, but actually only accepts images under a very closed license. Then afterwards they use those rights to share the images under a CC license, but they are not required to do this and is allowed to alter this at any time.


I understand now :smile:

The problem lies in that we are giving Mapillary a special, less restrictive exception to the general license. And that is why we can’t offer them CC-BY images from 3rd parties.

You are correct, the Mapillary terms are confusing mess because if this exception we are granting them.

Reading their terms, this also makes OpenStreetView unsuited for uploading CC-BY photos.

So, now the search is on for a image host that allows uploading CC-BY photos, and that has an integration with the OSM editor… (WikiMedia? Flickr?)

@pbb Hey Peter. Let me explain.

I helps to think of this in terms of incoming and outgoing licenses.
Example: OpenStreetMap has the OSMF contributor terms as ingoing license that regulates what OSMF can do with content contributed by the community. Then the OSMF licenses the OpenStreetMap data under an outgoing license of ODbL which regulates what people can do with the data collected.

Now for Mapillary we have the following.

Photos contributed to Mapillary are done so under the Mapillary Terms which regulate what Mapillary can do with this content. This gives Mapillary the rights needed to build and run the service, for example creating derivative works, relicensing and distributing etc.

Photos on Mapillary are licensed by default under CC BY-SA, this means that anyone can take the photos and do what they like as long as they provide attribution (our recommended wording: Photos from Mapillary, CC BY-SA, by @username.) and share works under the same license. Now, in addition to CC BY-SA we can provide alternative licenses and we do so for two main cases:

  • OpenStreetMap: Since OpenStreetMap wants content contributed under the OSMF contributor terms, we give a license for contributing to OpenStreetMap under the OSMF contributor terms.
  • Cities/GIS: Cities or organizations editing their own geo data are not always able to share this data under CC BY-SA and we then grant specific licenses for them to edit their data with the help of Mapillary content.

Now to answer the question about accepting CC BY content. This is complicated by the fact that the originator of the CC BY content can define attribution requirements as they like. Keeping track of this on Mapillary and in all possible downstream use is near impossible. When derivative content is created between several photos (as is common in Mapillary as all 3D data comes from multiple photos) how would you handle the downstream license of this combined work. Nightmare. We don’t want to go there.

(By the way, this is also why not all CC BY content is acceptable for OpenStreetMap imports either, since OSMF might not be able to live up to all possible requirements on attribution)