[Talk-us] USGS has no problem using information from copyrighted maps

Dale Puch dale.puch at gmail.com
Thu Apr 8 20:02:47 BST 2010

It will probably take some digging to find out the full story, and it will
probably differ from state to state.  But it seems that around 1995-2005
time range federal, state and local governments started to share GIS data.
As they did this they also changed their copyright and access policies due
to the sharing.

To make matters worse, very few clearly state any copyright or restrictions,
even though there is a specific field in the meta-data.

While I do not know for sure, my guess is that the original map was indeed
copyrighted, but at a later date the map, or data was shared with other
agencies and the result was no longer copyrighted.

It would be really nice to have the copyright/usability status of various
data sets published by the various agencies.


On Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 7:18 AM, Nathan Edgars II <neroute2 at gmail.com> wrote:

> First, I'm not trying to start an argument or even a civilized
> discussion about our policies in this matter. I just found this
> interesting.
> http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/f?p=gnispq:3:::NO::P3_FID:1196597
> is "Rosslyn Station", a former railway station in Pennsylvania. The
> source cited for the feature is a map created by the Pennsylvania
> Department of Transportation:
> ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/BPR_PDF_FILES/Maps/Type_10_GHS_Historical_Scans/Allegheny_1976_Sheet_1.pdf
> This map, from which USGS got the name and location, is labeled
> "Copyright 1977 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania". (Yes, our GNIS import
> includes this feature.) The USGS doesn't seem to consider this
> information copyrightable:
> http://www.usgs.gov/usgs-manual/1100/1100-6.html prescribes a notice
> to appear "when copyrighted materials are used in an information
> product", which I don't see with the GNIS, and
> http://geonames.usgs.gov/domestic/metadata.htm#getacopy.0 says that
> there are no access or use constraints.
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