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

Dale Puch dale.puch at gmail.com
Wed Feb 25 08:42:18 GMT 2009

A follow up on the CA case
   The county also claimed that it has a federal copyright in the basemap.
It argued that copyright protection authorizes the county to condition
release of records, under freedom of information laws like
   California’s Public Records Act, with restrictions on the requester’s use
of the records or sharing of the records with others. The Court rejected
this claim, agreeing with the Coalition that state freedom of
   information laws preclude a state agency’s reliance on federal copyright
unless state law clearly permits it for the specific records in dispute.

   The Court stated: “We conclude that end user restrictions [on disclosed
records] are incompatible with the purposes and operation of the CPRA.”
So this case seems to open up California GIS data to the same extent as


On Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 6:04 AM, Russ Nelson <russ at cloudmade.com> wrote:

> A good summary,Chris, and I incorporate your disclaimer by reference.
> It's all very complicated, made more so by supreme court decisions
> which make it clear that facts about the world are not subject to
> copyright.  You can't copyright the blue of the sky.  It simply is;
> not something anyone created; and without creativity, copyright law
> simply doesn't apply.  All that does is drive the decision point to
> the creativity expressed in a dataset.  Clearly there is much in OSM,
> in the choice of tags that someone puts on the data.  You would think
> that the law of a country would be in the public domain, and ours is,
> sort-of.  Westlaw numbers the pages of these public-domain laws, and
> lawyers and judges make reference to these page numbers.  Somehow they
> managed to convince the Supreme Court that they are being creative in
> the order of the numbers, the size of the pages, the location of the
> numbers on the page, etc, all of which ends up being copyrighted.  So
> you can GET the laws themselves in the public domain, but in order for
> them to be useful, you have to buy them from Westlaw.
> All of that exposition is to let you know that creativity can be
> judged on some pretty bare characteristics.  Parcel locations are a
> fact of the world.  So are the parcel owners.  But who knows, maybe
> the format of the shapefile is considered to be copyrighted?
> Unless it's:
>   1) the work of U.S. Government employees, or
>   2) has no copyright and predates the US entry into the Berne
> Convention, or
>   3) explicitly licensed under a license compatible with OSM's
> license, or
>   4) has had its copyright expire (a complicated topic; when
> registration was required, so was a renewal mid-way, plus the
> copyright duration has been changed several times).
> then you can't use it.  Even when you do, you should always import a
> dataset under a dataset-specific username.  That way, if it turns out
> that the importer was incorrect about 1, 2, 3, or 4, the data can be
> removed.  The law recognizes the concept of an innocent infringer --
> where you thought you had permission to use a work -- but you have to
> immediately stop copying if you want a judge to believe that you're
> innocent.
> On Feb 24, 2009, at 11:23 PM, Christopher Schmidt wrote:
> > * US Government Work: Public Domain
> > * Florida Government Work: Public Domain
> > * Most places: Can get *access* to GIS data -- often for a fee,
> >   occasionally for free.
> > * Many places: GIS data is considered copyrightable
> > * Any places not specifically mentioned: Unless there is
> >   a clear statement of rights that makes it clear that it is okay to
> >   OSM, it's best to ask. Even *if* there is, it's often still best to
> >   ask, because it can help you get your local GIS people interested in
> >   OSM.
> >
> > One more time: This is personal opinion, does not reflect on any legal
> > opinion, nor on the legal opinions of MetaCarta or any of its
> > subsidiaries or stuff like that. Just want to make clear the
> > distinction
> > between 'free' as in 'access' and 'free' as in 'license'. Generally
> > speaking, if you have to pay for the former, you're likely going to
> > run
> > into someone who's arguing against the latter...
> >
> > Regards,
> > --
> > Christopher Schmidt
> > MetaCarta
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Talk-us mailing list
> > Talk-us at openstreetmap.org
> > http://lists.openstreetmap.org/listinfo/talk-us
> --
> Russ Nelson - http://community.cloudmade.com/blog -
> http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/User:RussNelson
> russ at cloudmade.com - http://openstreetmap.org/user/RussNelson
> _______________________________________________
> Talk-us mailing list
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Dale Puch
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