GIS professional Nicholas Duggan has written an excellent article and a flowchart to help mapmakers and GIS analysts decide if they can legally use specific data sets in their work.
As Duggan points out, “anyone can make maps”, and as we emphasize in our book, today’s web mapping environment makes accessing data easier than ever. But even though it is possible to use a specific data set, does that mean that we legally have the right to do so? Duggan’s flowchart can help make these decisions. About his flowchart, Duggan says that “it does not cover the plethora of data or map license types, this chart provides an easy reference as to whether you may or may not use the material you intend to use. Of course this may vary from country to country and on a case by case basis; also this does not serve as a legal document; legal advice should be obtained in case of dispute.” I find the flowchart to be very useful and applaud Mr Duggan for creating and sharing it.
And yes, following his own advice and ours that we wrote about in the book, I did ask his permission if we could refer to his resource in this blog! Thank you Nicholas.
An infographic on The Visual Communication Guy website from Dr Newbold, whose background is Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design, offers a way to fairly quickly and easily help data users decide if and how they can use copyrighted online images. Given the ease of sharing of data in our cloud-based GIS world, we write frequently in this blog and focus part of our book on discussing copyright. While Dr Newbold’s infographic is intended for those using still photography, much can be applied to spatial data. Keeping with our theme of being critical of data, however, verify this infographic against other sources before beginning any project using imagery and data that are not your own.
My rule of thumb in using photography in web maps, storymaps, map layouts, web pages, and in other ways is to use my own photographs whenever possible, such as on this story map, since according to copyright law, I own the copyright to them. Lacking my own images, I then turn to US government or other non-copyrighted images, or images marked as Creative Commons, such as most images from Wikimedia. If all of these sources do not result in the images I need, and I truly want to use a copyrighted image, such as a few on this Colorado map I created, I ask permission, clearly stating my (educational) intent, and I do not use the image unless the permission is granted.
Clear, helpful definitions of key terms accompany the graphic: (1) Copyright: The protection given to any created image or work from being copied or distributed without permission. All images are immediately given copyright to the creator when the image is created. (2) Fair Use: The legal right to use copyrighted images as long as the images are used for educational, research, or personal use or as long as the image benefits the public good in some way. (3) Creative Commons: Images that are copyrighted but the creator has put provisions on their use. A creative commons license might stipulate, for example, that an image can be used as long as it isn’t modified in any way. (4) Public Domain: Images that no longer have copyright restrictions either because the creator willingly relinquished their copyright or because the creator is dead and no one owns the copyright.
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.