The Territory that GIS Librarians Cover

Some may not realize that maps fall under the same copyright protection as other fixed works, such as books and films. While the factual information provided in a map is available for everyone to use, the exact expression in which it is represented cannot be. An original and fixed expression of factual information is fully protected under copyright law. The names of countries and cities, their shape and coordinates are all facts that can be used by whomever, however, the colors used, the font, the way the map has been artistically represented and expressed receives copyright protection. Therefore in order to make an exact reproduction a map, the copyright owner must be contacted and permission must be granted.

A more in-depth type of mapping that is becoming more important in University, library, and other settings is Geospatial Information System mapping. GIS involves storing and visualizing geospatial data, and GIS librarians help with the software that stores and manages this data and assist with other related research and technology in this area.

UNC has two GIS librarians on campus that help provide expertise on these GIS services to students and faculty needing to learn more. They are available in the Davis Library Research Hub on the second floor and offer both walk-in and scheduled appointments. Some specific areas they offer assistance in include mapping (of course), using Liquid Galaxy and statistical software, data management and visualization, and digital exhibits and humanities.

Some people may not realize that they have actually already used GIS mapping many times in their daily life, through Google Maps. Copyright protection for Google’s maps and geospatial data applies equally here, but Google typically relies on the contractual agreement laid out in their website use policy in order to safe-guard against infringement and restrict the boundaries of use. Additional guidelines allow for the use of Google Maps and imagery so long as their Terms of Service are being followed, proper attribution is given, and they are being used for a non-commercial purpose. However, if you’d like to use Google Maps, Google Earth or Street View for a commercial purpose you can contact the Google Maps for Work sales team.

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