Mapping Without a Licence

An odd story out of California, reported on by Vice’s Chloe Xiang, from earlier this month. Ryan Crownholm’s website,, sells residential and commercial site plans. California’s Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists has fined him $1,000 for practising land surveying without a licence and ordered him to shut down the site. He’s fighting the citation in court with the assistance of the libertarian Institute for Justice: see their page on the complaint. Their argument is that California surveying laws are vague enough that a literal interpretation would make any map drawn in California, no matter how informal or non-authoritative, illegal.

It’s unlikely to say the least that the Board intends to ban Google Maps or every California-based instance of GIS. This is an edge case. Crownholm’s defence turns on his drawings being “non-authoritative” and a disclaimer that these are not legal surveys. The Board apparently thinks that’s insufficient. A spot of litigation seems required to clarify things.