[Talk-us] Public Domain Non-GPS Data Question

Christopher Schmidt crschmidt at metacarta.com
Tue Feb 24 18:39:59 GMT 2009

On Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 06:19:07PM +0000, Dale Puch wrote:
> For some quick visualization with OSM data, Merkaator now can read shp files
> as well, but less options for the display.
> Asking the GIS department about the data is generally the best way to find
> out about the data.  As a general rule US local, state and national GIS data
> should be in the public domain due to...  


Works created by the US Government are not copyrightable, as per the
terms of copyright law:

 'The term only applies to the work of the federal government, not state
 or local governments. In general, under section 105 of the Copyright
 Act,[2] such works are not entitled to domestic copyright protection
 under U.S. law, sometimes referred to as "noncopyright."'

> The freedom of information act I
> think, and the clasification of GIS data.  A few places that have been
> selling the data have taken convincing via a lawsuit, but have so far lost.

FOIA allows *access* to the information at the state/local level for a
reasonable charge, but does not grant copyright, and the works can not
neccesarily be republished. 

Many local GIS departments are completely aware that their funds come
from taxpayers, and taxpayers should be able to use their data freely.
As it turns out, the Blacksburg GIS department is one of these, and
feels that their work is under the public domain. However, there is no
national law or even comon set of state laws that requires this; it is
generally simply policy by the GIS departments. 

This is why it is usually best to just ask; you'll usually get a yes
anyway, but it's best to have it done 'just in case'. 

Christopher Schmidt

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