Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spatial Law and Policy Update (December 5, 2009)

James Fee recent post on his blog discusses the difficulties he has faced in connection with trying to obtain spatial data from the City of Phoenix. Many of you who work with or for local governments will understand the complexity of the issues involved here - how much can and should a municipality charge for granting a license to its GIS data? I recommend reading the state statute that he provides a link to, as it is illustrative of the issues involved, and the role of law. One will note that under the law the local government is required - not permitted - to charge market value for the data. Putting aside how the local government official can determine what is market for this data, one wonders if local government should not have more discretion to decide whether or not to charge market price.

Although somewhat complex - from both a technical and a legal standpoint - I recommend that anyone that is interested in spatial data licenses, read the post dated October 12, 2009 on the Ogleearth blog. (I was not able to link directly to the post and did not want to cut and paste the entire post here.) The technical issue is the ability to overlay certain files on Garmin devices using - I believe, an application such as Google Maps. The legal issue concerns the language of a disclaimer suggesting that the user make sure he or she either have the necessary rights to overlay a map that he or she owns or gets the necessary permission from the copyright holder. Ogleearth asks why should one need permission to scan and overlay a map and use it for personal use as long as that map is not shared with others. The reason, I believe, that Garmin is concerned is that under terms of use of some sites, the act of uploading and overlaying a map onto that site's map gives the owner of the site rights in the data on the map. In many instances, the granting of such rights would violate the rights of the original copyright holder. I wonder if others have a different read of this?

I mentioned this story in an earlier post. But I thought this post on Cnet added to the potential impact on spatial technology companies - particularly the following:

"Manulife, while confirming (footage from Sky News embedded here) that it does use social-networking sites to, well, check up on its customers, also said, 'We would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on Web sites such as Facebook.'"

An interesting - and humorous - take on the licensing of spatial data from a proponent of open data.

I guess I should not be surprised at this story about a town in California installing a system so that it can take an image of the license plate of every car entering or leaving the town, but for some reason I am.

Coincidentally, I was speaking this week with a GIS manager about this very issue - whether metadata should be considered part of the public records. In Arizona at least, this answer if somewhat clearer.

This article, written by a trial lawyer, discusses some of the challenges associated with obtaining spatial data as evidence in a trial.

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