Research Area: Copyright and Privacy Law Issues Arising from the Geoweb

Professor Elizabeth Judge, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Year 1: “Implied License for Downstream Uses of Copyrighted Information
on the Geoweb”

How does copyright law apply to material individuals submit to
government-operated websites, such as original compilations of
geographic data, surveys, or maps?

Authors of copyrightable works are the first owners of copyright and
have a bundle of exclusive rights, including the right to prevent others from
copying and publishing their works. Copyright arises automatically,
and authors need not actively affirm or register their copyright to obtain
protection. Moreover, individuals do not waive their copyright by a failure
to exercise their rights. However, certain actions by a copyright owner
may constitute an implied license or waiver of copyright, permitting
others to do activities that would otherwise be copyright infringing.

The Geoweb promises to connect individuals seamlessly, to allow individuals to
communicate with government, and for governments to use these inputs to
fashion policy responses. Copyright is potentially an obstacle to
realizing the potential of the Geoweb, especially the ability of the
public to contribute and use the information, as it may be difficult to
determine what information is protected by copyright and what uses the
government and the public may make of information posted online by

The research will discuss which material is subject to copyright
and examine how the legal mechanisms of implied license and waiver may
apply to information that individuals contribute to the Geoweb. It will
discuss the legal framework for addressing whether government may make
such information publicly available and what uses the public can
subsequently make of these works, and it will suggest best practices to
facilitate public participation in a copyright-compliant manner,
including licensing.