[Talk-us] Tiger Street Names and Copyright

Alan Brown adbrown1967 at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 2 18:48:44 GMT 2009

There have been successful lawsuits between map data companies over copied street names that were copytraps (or "copyright easter eggs").  Thomas Brothers sued Etak (now Tele Atlas) many years ago because some data collector copied from them directly.  It was some amount over $1 million - I really don't know how much - for a small area.

I've heard of some company which hand copies listings from multiple company's yellow pages to form their own directory by hand ... any listing has to appear in multiple locations.  I have no idea if that would count for map data.

From: SteveC <steve at asklater.com>
To: Ian Dees <ian.dees at gmail.com>
Cc: richard at weait.com; Hilton Long <seldom.seen at verizon.net>; talk-us at openstreetmap.org
Sent: Sunday, February 1, 2009 3:29:02 PM
Subject: Re: [Talk-us] Tiger Street Names and Copyright

On 1 Feb 2009, at 13:36, Ian Dees wrote:

> On Sun, Feb 1, 2009 at 3:25 PM, <richard at weait.com> wrote:
> Hilton Long said:
> > Tiger line files are incomplete, especially as regards streets in  
> new
> > developments.  It's possible to draw the streets from Yahoo  
> imagery.  But
> > where to get the names?  Must they come off of street signs?  Is  
> it a
> > violation of copyright to take the names (and ONLY the names) from  
> Google,
> > Yahoo, or Microsoft Maps?
> It is absolutely a violation of copyright to take street names from
> copyright maps.
> That's incorrect. As discussed previously on one of the other OSM e- 
> mail lists [1], the US Supreme Court ruled long ago [2] that facts  
> are not copyrightable.

Right but the names on the streets might not be facts. They might be  
wrong *on purpose*.


> Street names are not copyrightable because they are facts. Google  
> Maps and similar do not add any creative spark specifically to  
> street names so the street names are not copyrightable. On the other  
> hand, the street centerline data is copyrightable because Google is  
> adding a spark of creativity to the factual data.
> [1] http://www.mail-archive.com/newbies@openstreetmap.org/ 
> msg00502.html
> [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_Publications_v._Rural_Telephone_Service
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