Interesting post last week from Greg Sandoval at The Verge on the subject of overhauling copyright legislation in the US. Maria Pallante, head of the US Copyright Office, is trying to convince Congress to review and revise current copyright legislation and in particular the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was enacted to deal with Internet copyright issues.
Given that so many people now regularly access the Internet for all types of data and information, in ways not previously anticipated by the legislators such as via smartphones or by uploading user-generated content, copyright is an issue many Internet users run into on a daily basis, consciously or otherwise. Once again, it is another example of technological advances preceding a regulatory framework governing their use.
Copyright issues and the public domain are two of the major themes in The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data. Although vast amounts of spatial data are currently available via the Internet, just because the data are on-line that doesn’t mean to say they are free from copyright restrictions and in the public domain. Given the increasing focus from the US Copyright Office on illegal streaming and anti-piracy efforts, it is as important as ever to always check the terms and conditions for any copyright restrictions that may apply to spatial data, particularly if you intend to use the data for commercial purposes.
In our book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, we spend quite a bit of time discussing crowdsourcing, and rightly so: Over the past few years, crowdsourcing has become a viable way not only to collect data, but also to verify and update existing data. Reasons include budget constraints in those agencies that provide data and the subsequent need for field verification, a growing recognition that decisions based on spatial data are only as beneficial as the accuracy of the data sets themselves, the rapid expansion of citizen science, and growth in the number and variety of mobile and web-GIS tools that enable citizen scientists to contribute to the global community.
Examples of verifying and updating existing data are numerous, and a noteworthy one is from a group of researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria who lead an effort to improve global land cover/land use data. This effort, http://www.geo-wiki.org, verifies three land cover data sets, including GlobCover from the ESA, MODIS from NASA, and GLC 2000 from the IES Global Environment Monitoring Unit, through knowledge and photographs from people local to specific areas.
Besides an improvement of the data and, it is hoped, in the decisions based on those data, some of these efforts feature innovative projects that provide benefit to local people. For example, Geo-Wiki users were asked to identify the presence of cultivated land and settlements in samples in Ethiopia in a “hackathon” associated with USAID in an effort to improve local food security.
More information can be found on the Geo-Wiki site and in an article describing the project.
EuroGeographics, the membership organisation of the European cadastre, land registry and national mapping authorities, recently announced the release of EuroGlobalMap – a compilation of data provided by 45 European countries and territories. The 1 : 1 million topographic dataset will be available for free under the provisions outlined in a new open data license. The dataset includes administrative boundaries, name locations, transport networks, settlements, elevation, and the water network.
According to EuroGeographics’ President, Ingrid Vanden Berghe: “Our members are committed to ensuring that reliable, relevant and up-to-date geo-information is readily available and easily accessible“. Subject to registration, the data are available to download in geodatabase or shapefile format. The Open Data Licence permits end users to reproduce, adapt, distribute and commercially exploit EuroGlobalMap as long as the data source and copyright are acknowledged and appropriately represented. This follows similar licensing arrangements already adopted by other agencies, for example Ordnance Survey GB.
An global but very detailed map set of world water stress and risks has recently been released by the World Resources Institute (WRI): http://aqueduct.wri.org/atlas.
The map is associated with a great deal of data in the associated “dashboard.” This “Aqueduct” data combines 12 water risk indicators to create maps of where and how water risks may be prevalent. An added bonus is that users can adjust the weights used in assessing risk. The source data is available as a downloadable Esri geodatabase. Users can also upload locations for study, and export the results to Excel. After spending time with these data sets and maps, I found them to be easily accessible and usable both online and downloaded and used in a desktop GIS.
An article describing the map and data and the reasons behind creating them:
This is an important and much-needed resource. How might you use it in your own work?