[talk-au] Sourcing street names form existing maps

Matt White mattwhite at iinet.com.au
Sat Nov 24 05:16:29 GMT 2007


I realise this topic has sort of been discussed before, but I'm still
curious about the copyright implications of using a street map to source or
cross check street names (and only street names). Is it a closed issue
because someone has actually received legal advice indicating that, or is it
just nobody has any real idea, and erring on the side of caution seems
better way?

I'll preface this saying I'm not a lawyer...

I spoke to the State Library of Victoria regarding sourcing street names
from their online MMBW sewerage maps (which cover pretty substantial chunks
of Melbourne - inner 15kms or so especially - and still seem to be pretty
accurate from my initial checking). These maps are online at
http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/cgi-bin/map_item.pl?init=MAIN_GRID_SYSTEM

The answer I got back was that it would be permissable to use these maps as
street name sources without any issues (many of the maps are out of
copyright), and that even sourcing street names from the still copyrighted
maps (post 1957) would also be allowable as the street names themselves are
NOT copyrightable - they are regarded as 'facts', which are not covered by
the Copyright acts of 1911, 1912, 1968 or 1988.

Maps are covered under copyright as an artistic work, while certain items
(such as bearings and distances) can be copyrighted as a literary work. But
street names are (based on the advice received so far) public domain, so not
covered. Initial responses have even indicated that using a current street
directory for street names would not be an offence under the Copyright Act.

There's really only been one legal case testing this is Australia that I
could track down - DtMS V Telstra - which was over the fact that DtMS copied
the Telstra phone book in it's entirety (headings, details, the whole
shooting match), then made it available as a separate product. DtMS lost
that case, but the reasons appeared to be that they copied the entire data
from a single source. So checking multiple sources (two different street
directories) might change the equation somewhat

Either way, I've got additional feelers out with an IP/Copyright lawyer, the
Oz Copyright Council and a couple of other places to attempt to resolve this
question properly.

Cheers

Matt






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