Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for cartographers, geographers and GIS professionals. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
  • Client "A" provided a paper copy map of certain routes.
  • The owner of the map (map creator) wants to sell the SHP file
  • Looking at the map, I figure it'll take me an hour tops to digitize the thing

Are there any legal issues with me doing that?


The map is very similar to a TSP solution. So all i have to do is draw or linear reference the same routes as the map.

share|improve this question
Which law (country) you're operating under? – underdark Aug 27 '10 at 13:00
I work in Canada – dassouki Aug 27 '10 at 13:02
Is there a "trap street" or "Fictitious entry" in it? otherwise you can probably get away with violating any copywrite? – MathiasWestin Aug 27 '10 at 14:00
Yes, but is "getting away" with it the best choice? What about ethics in GIS? – Michael Todd Aug 27 '10 at 14:05
please spell out or link to a definition of "TSP solution" – matt wilkie Aug 30 '10 at 20:30
up vote 7 down vote accepted

A. What is the cost of the shapefile of the route solution? This is the result of an analysis and thus time and energy invested by the map creator, for which s/he wants payment for.

B. What is the cost for you to repeat that analysis? Thus creating an independent solution, for which you/client have the right to determine use constraints etc.

Have your client, not you, choose the lesser of A and B.

share|improve this answer
Reading between the lines, the client may feel like they paid for the work already in acquiring the paper map and feel they're being held hostage for more. Perhaps this why you have the contract in the first place and not the map creator. Advise them to always ensure they get paper and digital deliverables in their contacts. This is something we too learned the hard way, and consequently invested a lot of money and resources re-inventing work in order to be free of future restrictions. For us, it has been worth the investment. Swallow the bitter pill now and be immunized. – matt wilkie Aug 30 '10 at 20:43

I don't know about Canada but in the UK this would fall under "derived work" and is a problem. The original copyright holder can (and in the case of the OS did) sue people for tracing (or digitizing) data from their maps.

At one point they held that any two points in the OS National Grid coordinates belonged to them.

share|improve this answer
Interesting. This may be a violation in Brazil too, but "everyone" does it. – George Aug 27 '10 at 14:37
In the U.S., we use USGS data all the time, and it's in the public domain. It's a good thing the USGS doesn't sue people like the OS does. – jswise Aug 27 '10 at 16:07
That is because you won the war of independence and threw out Crown Copyright. – iant Aug 27 '10 at 17:38

Solution: Charge Client 'A' for the cost and admin/your hours of getting SHP (from map creator) and doing your enhancement for the TSP. add disclaimer to the Map or Data (MetaData)

Client 'A' gets the route, Map Creator gets the royalty, You get map done. You get paid. (everyone then are happy bunnies.)

Any other way would be breaking Copyright 'data derived' law of Canada

a) to produce, reproduce, perform or publish any translation of the work,

[I am NOT a lawyer!]

share|improve this answer

Ethics aside:

Not a lawyer but I would worry about that being a derivative work in the US and considering ACTA and such it is probably safe to assume that if you are setting yourself up to be legally screwed on US terms you are probably setting yourself up for a really bad day in Canada as well. Since you are basically copying the data that should fall under copyright.

Usually I go by a general rule:

Will this cut into somebody's revenue and piss them off?
share|improve this answer
That's a good rule, although cutting into somebody's revenue isn't a requirement for pissing them off. – jswise Aug 27 '10 at 16:08
@jswise - I'll remove this comment shortly, but the standard bakery is amazing – dassouki Aug 27 '10 at 16:31
-1: That rule can shoot you in the leg quite easily. Blown-up legal departments want to be fed too, and they can be quite creative when it comes to finding your offenses. As long as they can convince their client that he would make more money selling you the map than giving it to you, they'll probably be allowed to sue you. – relet Aug 27 '10 at 16:52
I think we all have a duty of care to be ethical in our work. I have been here before, and received the legal guidance I needed to make me think twice about contemplating it in the future. It's all well and good taking the moolah now, but factor into your charges how much it may cost you in fines, legal representation and damages as otherwise, this few quid you're onto making, will seem like small change tomorrow. If that was my data, prodiced from my hard work, I';d throw all of my toys out of the pram, legally speaking; causa latet, vis est notissima – Hairy Aug 8 '11 at 10:39

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.