Copyright and Cartography

Copyright and Cartography is a research project exploring the historical relationship between cartography and copyright law.

Throughout history, maps have been made and used in different ways and for different purposes. They can be seen as cultural artefacts, artworks, sacred objects and tools for wayfinding. Often their purposes are legal—they can be used to administer property regimes, resolve proprietary disputes or make territorial claims. But what about the laws that regulate the maps themselves, that decide who can own them or who can distribute them? This website explores these questions, juxtaposing images of maps with the legal documents intimately involved in their creation and circulation.

The project focuses on mapmakers in London, Edinburgh, Melbourne and Sydney, and seems to be in the early stages, with only a dozen cases, relating to infringement and other copyright disputes, listed.

This project is limited to cases in the U.K. and Australia. Back in 2000, J. B. Post compiled a list of cases of copyright litigation in the U.S. from 1789 to 1998: the page is no longer online but can be accessed via the Wayback Machine.

Author: Jonathan Crowe

I blog about maps at The Map Room, review books for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and edit a fanzine called Ecdysis.