[Talk-us] Tiger Street Names and Copyright

Russ Nelson nelson at crynwr.com
Mon Feb 2 03:05:36 GMT 2009

SteveC writes:
 > Right but the names on the streets might not be facts. They might be  
 > wrong *on purpose*.
 > 	http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Copyright_Easter_Eggs

What about the public domain USGS topographic maps and DOQ (Digital
Orthographic Quads aka aerial photos) available via WMS from
Terraservice?  These terraservice layers would make great base layers
for JOSM.


My understanding of the current state of U.S. law is that a
"clickthrough" license is acceptable: where you are presented with a
contract of adhesion, and if you click to indicate your acceptance,
you have agreed to the contract, and are bound to whatever terms are
presented to you.  Without that event (offer and acceptance), no
contract is formed, and your relationship with the data provider is
limited to copyright law.

If someone legally transfers a copyrighted work to you, you are free
to do anything you want with that copy.  You can examine it, you can
give it (THAT COPY) away, you can destroy it.  Just like a book.  A
WMS service is transferring a potentially copyrighted work to you.
Merely using a WMS service is not infringing.

In the case of publishing a public-domain work like U.S. Federal
Government works, the publisher can't claim copyright infringement
unless they have added their own creativity to it.  This has been held
to be something as obvious as a page numbering system (Westlaw).  It's
not clear that terraservice is exercizing even that much creativity.

The reason mapmakers get away with copyrighting facts about the world
is because no map includes everything.  The decison of what to
include, and how to render it, is very much a creative decision.
Creating map features which don't exist on the ground is (as Steve
points out) also a creative decision.  Copying those features is

I know of no evidence that Microsoft has been creative with either the
topo maps nor the DOQs.

I'm not a lawyer; this isn't a legal opinion.

--my blog is at    http://blog.russnelson.com   | Delegislation is a slippery
Cloudmade supports http://openstreetmap.org/    | slope to prosperity.
521 Pleasant Valley Rd. | +1 315-323-1241       | Fewer laws, more freedom.
Potsdam, NY 13676-3213  |     Sheepdog          | (Not a GOP supporter).

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