Copyright - About Copyright

About Copyright

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization of the United Nations, WIPO, "copyright protection extends to expressions and not to ideas, procedures, mathematical concepts of operation, or mathematical concepts as such," (WIPO 2002). In essence, copyright is the legal protection of intellectual property, or a patent on an idea.  These laws protect writing, music, art, and many other intangibles.  Until recently, copyright protection was not extended or applied to spatial databases. Copyright also extends to spatial data with the same restrictions.

Even though there have been improvements to recognize the need of including copyright coverage to spatial databases, there is no one law for "international copyright" that is unified and avaliable for spatial databases throughout the world. Copyright of spatial databases is limited and is based upon national laws of a specific country. Most countries offer some protection for foreign works according to laws and acts that specify coverage of spatial databases.

The World Intellecutal Property Organization (WIPO) is an international oraganization dedicated to promoting the use and protection of works of the human spirit. These works- intellectual property- are expanding the bounds of science and technology and enriching the worled of the arts. Through its work, WIPO plays an important role in enhancing the quality and enjoyment of life, as well as creating real wealth for nations. With headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, WIPO is one of the 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations system of organizations. It administers 21 international treaties dealing with different aspects of intellectual property protection. The Organization counts 175 nations as member states.”

From the WIPO web site

International copyright treaties date back as far as the Paris Treaty of 1883 and the Berne Convention of 1886.  The full text of these and other international treaties can be found at

The primary international treaty is the Berne Convention of 1971.  In addition to international law, individual member nations have national laws that further specify copyright law for that specific nation.  The United States of America has comprehensive laws including the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that is one of the first of new copyright laws for the Digital Age.  More specific to spatial data are licensing agreements that spatial data users agree to when acquiring the data.


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