Legal, economic, and organizational issues in GIS

Legal, Economic,
and Organizational
Issues in GIS
Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights
GIS in Court
Government role in data dissemination
GIS industry
Legal Issues
The law in the digital environment is in
There is little precedence, or case law,
upon which to build for the internet
community in general and the transfer
of electronic spatial data in particular
Copyright and Intellectual
Property Rights
Copyright is the exclusive right given to a
creator to reproduce, publish, perform,
broadcast, and adapt work
Intellectual property typically refers to the
rights conferred by the grant of a
Copyright protects the investment of time
and effort by preventing the unauthorized
use of protected material
How Does Spatial Data Fit?
Facts are not copyrightable
spatial data = facts
But data presentation (i.e. maps) are
Therefore data providers protect their
interests through non-disclosure
Electronic Data…
Cannot strictly be considered a commodity of
trade or a good
When stolen, the victim may not know of the
When information is sold, the vendor still has
it and may sell it again
Intellectual property right laws vary
internationally – internet impact
Thus the boundaries between criminal law and
intellectual property law blurs
“To permit legal action against data
theft, data publishers will have to
devise an armoury of techniques to
investigate and ‘reverse engineer’
images and digital maps to assert
and prove provenance.
printing’ of geospatial data with
distinctive but invisible features thus
seems certain to become more
widespread.” (Rhind chap 56: 777)
Legal liability is based on the concept of
causing harm
“Knowing where liability lies is the whole
basis of the legal argument” (Cho 1998)
There are two key forms of liability:
Liability in contract
Liability in tort
Liability in Contract
Liability in contract arises when one
party fails to perform their duty or
responsibility (express or implied terms)
A breach of contract entitles the other
party to a remedy
Liability in Contract II
Four types of computer contracts and
therefore four sources of liability:
 Software
 Personal contracts
 Contracts for the use of service bureaus to
conduct computer work
Limitations to Liability
Exclusion clauses
Boilerplate clauses
e.g. financial or time
the classic fine print
e.g. accuracy specification
GIS Vendors Limit Liability
By typically inserting a no-liability
clause in their software
No warranty on
 suitability of functions
Liability in Tort
Incorporates common law principles of:
duty of care
 breach of that duty
 damage incurred
 causation
Difficulty in determining extent
Tort liability is subjective and
The potential “victim” also has a duty to
minimize the impact of damage or loss,
i.e. who is to blame when a silly GIS
user does bad GIS?
Areas of Negligence in GIS
Hardware, software and systems
operations – avoided by disclaimers
Error in supply of data, incorrect
analysis, and misrepresentation and
Breach of statutory duty – sovereign
So Who Do We Sue?
“There are a number of possibilities. They include: data
providers (for neglecting to tag their data with error
information, for charging too much, for imposing unreasonable
and archaic precomputer-age access restrictions, and for slavish
adherence to outmoded copyright legislation to protect their
investment); GIS vendors (for selling systems that have no
warranty, for overcharging users, for selling deficient systems,
and for neglecting error propagation and certain areas of
functionality); system builders (for failing to develop intrinsically
safe applications and customizations from the GIS tools
available); the end user (for pressing the keys or wiggling a
GUI); and the decision makers (for believing the results).”
(Openshaw 1993: 457)
Minimizing Liability in GIS
The universal adoption of standards
Rigorous application of metadata
Professionalization of GIS practitioners
international accreditation
 code of conduct
Another Way is…
to just give the data away
“Neither the U.S. Government nor any agency
thereof, nor any of their employees, contractors, or
subcontractors, make any warranty, express or
implied, nor assume any legal liability or
responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or
usefulness of any information, apparatus, product,
or process disclosed, nor represent that its use
would not infringe on privately owned rights.”
GIS in Court
GIS is used as substantive evidence in
legal proceedings
….but GIS can lie
Industry needs certification to ensure:
Expertise – in a quickly changing field
 Professionalism – ethical conduct
Economic Issues
Government Role in Data
Two options:
open access
 limited access through “user pays”
Government uses public money so data
belongs to public?
Does a democratic society stem from
one’s ability to access information?
Open Access
increase social and economic benefits
 ensure primacy of public interest
 avoid creation of government monopoly
 encourage development of industry
National security
 Who assures accuracy, is legally responsible?
The U.S. Situation
Data is disseminated by the federal
government freely or at cost of
reproduction or dissemination
Exceptions include:
matters of national defense
 confidential commercial information
 Some geological and geophysical
Limited Access (e.g. UK)
Spatial data is sold at a price “the
market can bear”
Profits are reinvested into equipment
and related activity
Closed access to commercially valuable
GIS data prevails in UK and much of
Commodification of
Spatial Data
In US a huge industry in secondary data
products has developed as a result of
government policy
This has led to product differentiation in
order to capture a market niche
Future of services over software
(ArcIMS) – even more added value
The Future of GIS
From data providers to service providers
From monolithic GIS to distributed GIS
over the internet
 in other software packages
From GIS specialists in monolithic
software to GIS specialists in niche
applications or services
Organizational Issues
Dispersed GIS
Formerly GIS was centralized
now it is dispersed among various
Problem of data coordination
we need standards
(National Spatial Data
“a comprehensive and coordinated
environment for the production,
management, dissemination, and use of
geospatial data. The NSDI was conceived to
be the totality of the policies, technology,
institutions, data and individuals that were
producing and using geospatial data within
the USA.”
(Rhind Chap56: 782)
(Global Spatial Data Infrastructure)
A global framework of compatible
NSDI’s to support the examination of
critical global issues as environmental,
social, and economic issues cross
Supports ISO/TC211 standards towards
ISO/TC 211 and OGC
There is overlap and co-operation between
these two specifications
They aim to enhance communication and
ensure interoperability
OGC’s vision:
“the complete integration of geospatial data
and geoprocessing resources into mainstream