[OSM-legal-talk] GPS traces and copying of facts

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemed.net
Fri Jan 9 14:01:25 GMT 2009

Nic Roets wrote:
> It has been said on this list that facts cannot be copyrighted. 
> And IMHO gps traces are facts. Does this mean we can use data 
> from any of the sites mention below ? Or are gps traces subject 
> to the same type of copyright as photos ?

In Britain and several other jurisdictions, the question is whether there's
enough "originality" or "creativity" in the work.

If you're just driving to work anyway, and you stick a GPS receiver on your
dashboard to get the tracklog, I doubt the result merits copyright
protection. But if you go out and survey an entire housing estate
purposefully, does it? I'm not sure. In US law I suspect not (Rural vs
Feist, as usual). In the UK it might.

There's also the question (in the EU) of database right over a collection of
separate tracks, but database right probably doesn't apply to one single

(One of my ongoing regrets about the whole PD-vs-copyleft thing is that
we've missed the opportunity, as the first and biggest open collaborative
data project in the world, to make a stand and say "facts are unambiguously
free": for edge cases like this, we should be playing the good guys, not
trying to assert copyright over something marginal. If we'd been PD from the
start, this would have set a precedent for others to do so - exactly what
copyleft tries to achieve, but without the hassle of the licence getting in
the way. Still, all water under the bridge.)

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