Openstreetmap. org faq

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?
Geographical data (geo data) is not free in many parts of the world, like the United Kingdom. Generally these places have given the task of mapping to various government agencies who in return get to make money by selling the data back to you and me. If you live in one of these countries, then your taxes pay for the mapping and then you have to pay again to get a copy of it. In the USA crude data (such as TIGER) from the government, is in the public domain, however refined data and finished maps are generally commercially copyrighted.
Data from commercial mapping agencies contains lies, or Copyright Easter Eggs, to catch out anyone copying it. These easter eggs take the form of fake or missing streets, or features like churches and schools that don’t in fact exist. If you make a map using their data, they can say “ah-ha! Gotcha!” from looking if you also copied these fake pieces of map. The map may also just be incorrect because for example you bought it a year ago and a path has been dug up in your local park since, or someone just made a mistake.
If you accept all of this then you still can’t do anything with the data but photocopy it. In lots of places that’s illegal too if you go beyond your fair use rights. You can’t correct a street name, or add the pub/bar over the road, or use the data in a computer program without paying a lot of money. More money than you probably have. What about sending it to a friend, enclosing it in an invitation or posting it on a notice board? A lot of these are less legal than you might think.
Advances in technology like cheap GPS units mean you can now create your own maps, in collaboration with others and have none of the restrictions outlined

above. The ability to do so allows you to regain a little bit of the community you live in – if you can’t map it, you can’t describe it.
Why don’t you just use Google Maps/whoever for your data?
Short answer:
Because that data is copyrighted and owned by people like the Ordnance Survey. Google/whoever just license it. If we used it, we’d have to pay for it.
Long answer:
Most hackers around the world are familiar with the difference between “free” as in “free beer” and as in “free speech”. Google Maps are free as in beer, not as in speech.
If your project’s mapping needs can be served simply by using the Google Maps API, all to the good. But that’s not true of every project. We need a free dataset which will enable programmers, social activists, cartographers and the like to fulfil their plans without being limited either by Google’s API or by their Terms of Service.
At this point, the usual rejoinder is “Why don’t you just get people to click a point on a Google map, then record the latitude and longitude in the Openstreetmap database? That’s free, isn’t it?”
Unfortunately not. The data used in Google Maps is either owned by Google itself, or sourced from NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas, two big mapping companies. They, in turn, have obtained some of this data from national mapping agencies (such as the Ordnance Survey). Since they’ve made multi-million pound investments in gathering this data, all these organisations are understandably protective of their copyright.
If you collect data from Google Maps in this way, you are creating a “derived work”. Any such data retains the copyright conditions of the original.

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Openstreetmap. org faq