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

Cary Bass cary at wikimedia.org
Wed Mar 31 20:19:13 UTC 2010

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Dan Rosenthal wrote:
> (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).
> http://openjurist.org/967/f2d/135
> 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.
> -Dan
If I'm not mistaken, the thread is not about the copyrightability of
maps themselves, but the copyrightability of location data pertaining
to digital maps, i.e. the very "non-pictoral fact compilations"
mentioned in the statement you provided.

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Cary Bass
Volunteer Coordinator, Wikimedia Foundation

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