Google Earth Free/Plus License Change: Allowed in Businesses

It appears Google did slip in one more little thing with the Google Earth 4.2 (beta) which I hadn’t noticed yet. The new release notes were just posted, and there is a line “Expanded terms of service for Free and Plus products“. That’s right, Google has finally fixed a problem a lot of people have been complaining about: using the free Google Earth in a business office setting (previously not allowed by the license). Sure enough, when you first go to download Google Earth 4.2, you’re presented with new license terms. I naturally did not read it in my rush to download the new thing two weeks ago, but I should have. Because look at this first paragraph:

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).

This is great news! At least, if I’m reading these terms correctly – it means you can, on a limited basis, install and use the free or Plus versions of Google Earth in a business setting. I’m no lawyer, so consult your company legal advisor before loading Google Earth at your office. Anyone want to confirm my interpretation?
Update: – I asked Google if my interpretation was right that Google Earth Free/Plus can be used in a business environment, and the answer came back: “Yes“. Stefan Geens also provides his interpretation: “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.”

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Interesting. On that release notes page, near the top under the “Products” heading, it still says for Google Earth Plus, “This version is for non-commercial use only”, but doesn’t say that for the free version. Is it possible that Google Earth Free is now OK for business use, but Google Earth Plus isn’t?

  2. You’re not the only one who didn’t read those release notes. According to the release notes, Google Earth Plus now supports the NMEA GPS interface, which most GPS units will support, and in particular which virtually all non-Garmin and non-Magellan units support. Before, GPS support in Google Earth Plus was limited to the Garmin and Magellan proprietary interfaces.

  3. Dear Frank
    This post remembers me a lot of doubts and hesitations I have concerning the possibility to generate and publish KML content. As I’m not familiar with legal language, the “terms and conditions” text is very cryptic to me.
    I wonder if you can dedicate a schematic post (for dummies) in the future to this issue.
    Maybe you can illustrate with examples. What are the obligations with Google of companies like Timoney Group,, etc?…. or someone that just includes KML content in his website (a website with some commercial purpose)?
    I think this kind of clarifying information could be a boost to KML creativity and dissemination, especially outside US (as my case),
    Best regards.

  4. I talked with a Google Earth engineer late last week and he didn’t mention this to me, but he did say that they expanded the free version (and I assume the Plus as well) to include government users and NGOs. Maybe this is what they mean by this, who knows.

  5. The usage conditions for business appear to be related specifically to using GE as a viewer [ie: its usage].
    Creating content from within GE appears more complicated and would require a commercial registration.
    But — to add insight for one of the posters who is asking about content generated as KML/KMZ. There is no limitation to generating KML/KMZ content in the variety of tools out there that do this. The recent update to Global Mapper, for example, includes outputting to KML/KMZ.
    What this appears to be — is an opening up in the appropriate direction for GE. GE is becoming a ‘standard’ browser for Earth and Science visualization — similar to how Web browsers have become ‘standard’, such as IE, Firefox, Opera, etc.
    This step makes absolute sense to me, and I could never quite understand why it wasn’t taken sooner. (But hey, I’m not complaining! It’ll help to proliferate the use of these datas, and mapping in this environment in general!)

  6. I’ve never fully understood stuff like this, but if I have a database at work with data that can be geo-coded, am I allowed to create a KML file (static or dynamic) and place it on my INTRANET to share with other users? If so, does any of that data “escape” from our network.

  7. @ Daniel, Javier:
    My read is that there is no limitation to streaming KML from wherever to the interface. However you can create a third-party application that includes a re-bundled Google Earth or any of its components.
    @ Gareth:
    Again, in my reading you can stream your databases as KML internally, and I’m fairly certain that data stays behind your firewall…

  8. Gareth, If your data is being linked to and loaded-up within a closed Intranet via KML/KMZ — no, it won’t escape the network. All you’re doing is overlaying your data layer(s) on top of GE’s layers.
    If you create a Network Link outside of the Intranet, however, then there’s no way to guarantee that it won’t ‘escape’. If your data is ‘sensitive’, then you might want to ensure that your organization’s network permissions won’t allow outside parties to view the area where your data (and KML structure) is contained.
    Hope that makes sense?

  9. Thank you vary much Brian for your comments+time
    Leí en tu sitio web que dominas bastante bien el español, así que muchas gracias denuevo (en mi lengua nativa).

  10. Just curious, did you checked the License after I asked the question over If the answer is no, then this is a really strange coincidence! In any case, thanks for answering my question 🙂

  11. Alexandre: I had read your “question” before I found out. But, I found out, as explained in the article, because I got the release notes for 4.2 and was reading them and saw they had “expanded the license for Free/Plus”. That’s when I went to look. I’m just glad I could answer your question with the positive news!

  12. I have been reading over and over the licensing information. My question is simple: Is a business (mine happens to be not-for-profit) allowed to create KML files in GE or GE Plus and place them on a web page as a link to a kml file for consumers (not employees of our business) to open on their computers in their own installations of GE?

  13. Bill A'Hearn says

    Does this free it up for use with government agencies too? I work for a local government and our I.S. department does not allow us to use it.

  14. Does this free it up for use with government agencies too? I am the County GIS Manager for a local government and our entire County wants to use the free version, but is concerned by the release notes not specifically including Public Agencies. Does it allow us to use it?

  15. Can anyone take a moment to help a rookie GE novice?
    I would like to learn how to purchase IR images of coordinates of my choosing at resolutions of one meter.
    I need to locate thermal surface water (natural hot springs), without trudging through the forrest.

  16. I just D/L Google Earth. I am somewhat confused…
    Is Google Earth Plus, available for free for home users? If so… How do I upgrade?

  17. Has anyone established definitively if Google Earth can be used internally within Local Government? I ran the Licence agreement past our Contracts staff who suggested I seek legal advise.
    I see others have asked the same thing so hopefully someone has already been through this process ?

  18. google eng user licence agreement page is up and i can not get rid of it

  19. Jamie 25 August. I have the same problem. A Google EULA window that won’t go away, reappears after I start up and is still there after I uninstalled Google Earth. Has anyone provided an answer?

  20. Nicholas says

    I too have the same problem, the eula window that won’t close, need help if anyone knows what to do.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.