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Small Question about Legality

Started by CacherInTheRye2022, January 18, 2022, 06:56:18 AM

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Hello everyone,

Are all of the maps here legal to download and use? I know the answer should be pretty straightforward, but I tend to get anxious about this kind of stuff. I appreciate any and all insight.


Site policy addresses this here

There is little or no policing of the site however, so I don't think there's a definitive answer to your question. If you really want to get into the weeds, Garmin's software license specifically states that your are not permitted to create maps in their own format and not permitted to reverse-engineer their software.

By this narrow definition, none of the maps here are "legal". However, Garmin realizes that free maps like this are one reason that people buy their GPS'es, so they tend to "look the other way".


Alright, I see. I suppose it's mostly a question of ethics, then. I looked at the maps from Garmin, and they are... well, a tad overpriced, to say the least. I know most the maps on this website were created using legal means, through programs like OSM. I think that's what my main concern was. This probably shouldn't bother me. I don't know -- if anyone has any good insight on this, please let me know. I appreciate your response, kind person.


I've been told that I just can't legally copy or reproduce garmin-branded maps, but third party maps should be fine. Garmin supports the use of custom maps on their devices, right? The .img and .gmapi format doesn't seem wholly unique, either, though I cannot confirm that. I can't seem to find anything online that contradicts this, either. Nothing pops up that tells me it's illegal to do. But I get worried about this stuff, so any further comments are welcome. Thank you again.


I actually just got confirmation from a Garmin tech support employee myself, so I think we're doubly okay. I'll attach the screenshot below. If someone can confirm that I asked the right questions, I think I can rest easy for real.


Okay, so I actually found the place in the software license where it stated the only thing I could find that might be similar;

"You agree not to otherwise reproduce, copy, modify, decompile, disassemble, reverse engineer or create derivative works of any portion of the Application and Data, and may not transfer or distribute it in any form, for any purpose, except to the extent permitted by mandatory laws."

The application refers to the interface, garmin software (the gps itself), and the map data. The map data is actually third-party information that is licensed, not sold, to Garmin. So I think as long as you aren't trying to reverse engineer those copyrighted maps/ interfaces and/or trying to sell or redistribute them, you are fine. I have gotten numerous accounts of confirmation from Garmin that third-party maps are allowed. I even found an official article instructing you how to properly download third-party maps -- which requires putting those maps into the .img format in order to enable/disable them.

So unless I've missed something, I think we're okay. Any outside comments are appreciated.


Garmin obviously doesn't have a problem with the maps on this site, they have lawyers and they would have shut it down long ago if they did. There are other "pirate" sites that contain cracked versions of Garmin's commercial maps, it should be immediately obvious that is not legal.

But you found the applicable part of the SLA

"You agree not to otherwise reproduce, copy, modify, decompile, disassemble, reverse engineer or create derivative works of any portion of the Application and Data"

Garmin has never published their .img file format, it is not open source software, it's proprietary. The only reason the maps on this site exist is that somebody "reverse engineered" Garmin's map format. This was (AFAIK) originally done by Stan Kozicki with his cgpsmapper program which was used to create most of the maps on this site. But he decided to cease development a number of years ago. Others created their own tools, such as openstreetmap and mapwel. But all of them are the result of reverse-engineering.

And, as you can see, Garmin forbids reverse-engineering their software. Anyway, this is all a bit silly. Garmin doesn't care if you use GPSFileDepot maps, but they won't help you if you have problems.


That makes a lot of sense, thank you for your help. You've put this to rest for me, and I appreciate that alot.


The main issue here must thus be one of ethics. I had a look at the maps from Garmin, and they are, to put it mildly, a bit pricey. I am aware that the majority of the maps on this website were made via authorised methods, utilising tools like OSM. I believe that was my primary worry. I shouldn't be bothered by this, probably. I'm not sure; if anyone has wise counsel on this, please share. Thank you for your thoughtful response.