Wednesday January 29th, 2020  

Yosemite map by Eureka Cartography

Map Copyright Information

Maps are intellectual property covered by U.S. and international copyright laws.

1. What does "copyright" mean?

The United States copyright law, Title 17 United States Code Section 101, et seq., provides protection for authors of original works, including maps. It is unlawful for any firm or individual to reproduce copyrighted works, in whole or in part, without permission of the copyright owner.

2. Are all maps protected by copyright?

Yes, virtually all maps (except some U.S. government publications) are subject to copyright, regardless of the media (print, Internet, CD-ROM, etc.). This is true of street maps and atlases, road maps, decorative maps, perspective view maps, wall maps, locator maps, cartoon maps, and globes. If you acquire a map "for free" from AAA or a similar source, the map is still protected by copyright.

3. How do I know if a map is a protected by copyright?

All commercially produced maps are covered by the copyright law. The name of the copyright holder and the word "copyright" or symbol "©" will usually be printed or displayed somewhere on the map. However, even if unauthorized copies without copyright identification are subsequently reproduced, copyright laws and penalties still apply.

4. Which maps are not copyright protected?

Some maps published by U.S. government agencies, including U.S.G.S., U.S.D.A., N.O.S, N.O.A.A., and N.P.S. and the Census Bureau.

5. Does the copyright law apply for every use?

Yes, neither a business nor an individual may reproduce copyrighted maps, in any quantity, without permission of the copyright owner. Even a single copy may be considered a copyright violation when the intended use is commercial, whether for profit or not. Specific exceptions have been made for "fair-use" reproductions according to Section 107 of the copyright law. Generally a single copy for personal use is allowable.
6. What are the penalties for violating a copyright?

The penalties allowed by law in copyright violations can be severe, and may include payment of any profits, damages, court costs and attorney fees.

7. How may I legally reproduce copyrighted maps?

You should request permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce a copyrighted map. Permission is usually granted by a written contract or a license which specifies quantity, royalty or licensing fees, and various terms pertinent to the use of the map being reproduced.

8. Are licensing fees expensive?

Not usually, unless the map is extreely large, detailed or unique. Such fees may be based on reproduced quantities, area of map coverage, and detail of the particular map being used. Generally, such fees are low, considering the skill, time, and effort required to produce a good map. This is how most photographs are "sold" for use in books, magazines, marketing materials and on the web. If exclusive licensing rights are desired, the fees are higher to reflect the nature of the agreement.

9. May I include any digital map I find on the Web?

Not unless the website specifically permits unlimited use of its maps for such purposes. Otherwise, you must request permission and pay a fee if required.

10. May I scan a printed map for use on a site?

Not unless you have secured written permission from the holder of the map copyright. A U.S. government produced map like a U.S.G.S. topographic map is an exception to this rule.

11. I am a printer; if I reproduce copyrighted maps for a customer without permission, who is liable?

You both are liable. The customer and the firm or individual who reproduces copyrighted materials without authorization can both be held liable for copyright violations.

12. Once a copyright contract is granted, how long is it effective?

A copyright contract gives permission for a specific use and quantity over a particular time. The contract expires when the limited quantity is reached or on the expiration date indicated. Additional reprints will require renewed permission.

13. Who do I contact to obtain permission to reproduce a map?

Contact the firm or individual identified on the map as the holder of the copyright.

Questions about Custom Mapping?
Call (510) 845-6277 or email us at

Copyrightable Materials

From the Columbia University Press Encyclopedia:

Literary matter, periodicals, maps, photographs, works of art, textile and other designs, sound recordings, musical compositions, photoplays, and radio and television programs are among the commodities that may be copyrighted. Since 1980, computer software has been eligible for the same copyright protection as printed matter, and in 1984, a ten-year period of copyright protection was extended to semiconductor chips.

San Luis Obispo wineries map detail

Mad Maps Sierra Backroads Map by Eureka Cartography


Home | Contact Us | Custom Globes | About Digital Maps About Map Copyrights

© Eureka Cartography (dba) — Kuehlthau Enterprises Inc.  2019 All Rights Reserved