[Foundation-l] Copyrighted maps and Derived works from copyrighted sources.

Dan Rosenthal swatjester at gmail.com
Wed Mar 31 20:12:11 UTC 2010

(This is meant as a reply to GerardM, not WJhonson)

Pure data such as longitude and latitude, in the US,  is treated significantly differently from the act of creation and determination of a map, particularly one that involves "inherent pictorial or photographic nature".

"It is true that maps are factual compilations insofar as their subject matter is concerned. Admittedly, most maps present information about geographic relationships, and the "accuracy" of this presentation, with its utilitarian aspects, is the reason most maps are made and sold. Unlike most other factual compilations, however, maps translate this subject-matter into pictorial or graphic form.... Since it is this pictorial or graphic form, and not the map's subject matter, that is relevant to copyright protection, maps must be distinguished from non-pictorial fact compilations.... A map does not present objective reality; just as a photograph's pictorial form is central to its nature, so a map transforms reality into a unique pictorial form central to its nature."

See Mason v. Montgomery Data, 967 F.2d 135 (5th Cir. 1992). 

I'm not familiar with the particular project/maps/geodata in question, but a blanket statement that claiming copyright on a map is "absurdity" is itself wrong.


On Mar 31, 2010, at 3:58 PM, WJhonson at aol.com wrote:

> In a message dated 3/31/2010 12:21:33 PM Pacific Daylight Time, 
> jamesmikedupont at googlemail.com writes:
>> In openstreetmap we are not allowed to import the positions of items
>> based on the locations in wikipedia because they are derived from
>> geoeye/googlemaps for the most part. So there is a rift between what
>> is supposedly creative commons and what is really creative commons.
>> Basically wikipedia is turning into a minefield of copyrighted material.>>
> Are you suggesting that the mechanical determination of a longitute and 
> latitude of some object is copyrightable material?  I.E. it's "position" is 
> copyrightable?
> Or am I reading this wrong?  Perhaps you're suggesting merely that the map, 
> as an entirety is copyrightable.
> W.J.
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