OpenStreetMap doesn't allow editors to trace satellite imagery from Google, claiming that the imagery is copyrighted and tracing it would be a copyright violation.
But how can satellite images be copyrighted? In the US, as I understand it, copyright only protects creative expression, not factual data.
Feist v. Rural Telephone ruled that tables of factual data can be copied without violating copyright, for instance, and US law does not consider "sweat of the brow" as establishing any rights.
mere collections of facts are considered unoriginal and thus not protected by copyright, no matter how much work went into collating them. The arrangement and presentation of a collection may be original, but not if it is "simple and obvious" such as a list in alphabetical or chronological order.
There is some value-added content that DOES get a new copyright, but only for the actual new work (that is, it may be possible to remove the new copyrighted content to go back to a public domain document)
Since Google's satellite images are just collections of factual data, collected in a "simple and obvious" order using a mechanical process, with a purely utilitarian map projection, and presented accordingly, with no creativity involved, it seems to me they would not be subject to copyright?
Even if the satellite imagery has some added creativity/originality that creates a new copyright, the factual information of where a road exists, for instance, is public domain, and so it seems that tracing the imagery would "remove the new copyrighted content" and only copy the public domain data?