Before the advent of GPS and navigation apps, cartographers sneaked “paper towns” and “trap streets” into their maps—fake points of interest that they used to detect plagiarism. If someone copied their map, it would be easily identifiable through the inclusion of those locations. That same trick has found its way into modern-day mapping systems: A new lawsuit brought against Google and its traffic app Waze cites sham points of interest as evidence that the Google-owned service copied from a competitor’s database.
Apparently these two companies tried to make a deal before Google snapped up Waze and PhantomAlert is alleging that Waze used their database to “boost its profile”. One of the biggest concerns in the OpenStreetMap community is allowing these intentional mistakes into their database. Copyright Easter Eggs is well documented on the OSM website.
A Copyright Easter Egg, in terms of mapping, is a feature that is drawn in a distinctive way in order to help identify its original author. It may be a nonexistent, or slightly or heavily distorted, map feature, or its name may be wrongly or unusually spelt.
The supposed main purpose of such a feature is to strengthen the author’s case in a copyright dispute. If he can show that his own unique feature appears in the defendant’s work, it is easier to prove that the defendant’s work is a copy of his.
Hey look, I got to use the new Google logo already!
Yea so if this is true, PhantomAlert has a pretty good idea that Waze stole their data and it could mean big trouble for Google. Having a closed database like this opens Waze up to these kinds of lawsuits because they are unable to have the community police the data. The big question is was this data imported into Waze intentionally or by accident. I don’t think the latter will get them off the hook but if there was intent it could be costly. We’ll have to see. The Waze byline about “outsmarting traffic, together” might not be too smart.