License and Registration, Please

I’m really loving the Google Earth Importing Functions with all their nifty benefits. One thing keeps haunting me though. It’s created a real issue that many users will blow past, but many firms better be watching. Are you ready for a visit from the Google lawyers? Find out why they might be knocking after the jump.

When you install software it gives you the ability to do many things. With the addition of the GE importing in 2008, C3D gives you the ability to create surfaces directly from GE for free. Here’s the problem: it doesn’t give you the right to do that. Just on suspicion, I checked out the license text from GE. It’s found at C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth\res\en.locale\license.txt or via the GE help.

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.

(My emphasis-JW)

See that bit in there about any commercial use? Unless you’re using C3D for your own giggles sitting around and playing Donald Trump, you’re not doing it for personal use. That means that every time you fire up and import a GE surface, if you do it from the Free edition, you’re violating the TOS.

Now let’s be practical for a second. You’re a five person shop and one planner in the corner fires up GE, drops in a surface and leaves the image behind. I’m not advocating piracy, but I’m a bit pragmatic about the world, so let’s acknowledge this situation. Simple fact is, it probably not going to show up on anybody’s radar.

Now let’s pretend you’re Carter & Burgess, or CH2M Hill, or our friends at GBA. You show up on Autodesk’s website or EE’s as a success story for C3D. Someone in Google sales gets bored, says, “Hmm…these guys all have this cool tool, but we’ve never sold them a seat. I wonder if they’re really not using it. Let’s give the lawyers a jingle….” Now you’re dealing with it.

I’ve heard rumors of firms doing a mass purge on Google Earth. I even ripped out a few installs at JBI in my days there. That would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater in my opinion. Take a look at the time involved in getting preliminary surfaces together and the $400 GE Pro license makes real sense. Multiplying that even 50 users though, and you have a pretty staggering bill. That’s what GE Enterprise is for. Contact Google and make it right!

No matter how you approach it, staying legit is the right thing to do. Don’t put your firm in hock just because you wanted a cheap surface, it’s just not worth it.

And before you ask, we’re talking with Google already about how we use this information in our book, in our classes, and on


  1. JoshNelson says:

    So are there no limitations then with the Pro and Enterprise licenses???

  2. Yikes!!!!!!!!

    Suffering from Sticker Shock.
    Thanks for the heads up, this is something we need to address.

  3. Craig Jole says:

    It strikes me as funny that you use CH2M HILL as an example of a potential Civil 3D success story, as they are by choice a “Microstation house.” I was there for many years as basically the lone Autodesk user in my local office, and was given the general polite smackdown whenever I even dared to approach them about getting any Autodesk product beyond base AutoCAD, and I could only get that in an older release – they were still using R2005 with no plans to upgrade when I left in July 2007. One of the main reasons I left, as a matter of fact. (The irony is that one of the reasons they hired me in the first place was that I had strong independent AutoCAD skills…)

    I was told that the offical policy regarding Civil 3D was, in a nutshell, that they had no plans to ever buy it or support it in any capacity, so chances are slim to none that they would ever be used as a Civil 3D success story. InRoads via MicroStation, maybe. Civil 3D? Not happening.

    However, they were one of the first, if not THE first, to get a Google Earth Enterprise license (or form some kind of partnership, or something, I was never quite clear on the exact relationship), but they still had very strict policies about when the imagery could be used, and in what capacity.

    CH2MHill was an example of a large firm, not a C3D success story, but interesting thoughts…. JW