Copyright is, briefly, the legal right of the holder of the copyright, usually the creator of the object copyrighted, to have exclusive control over the making of copies and to make such copies without the copyright holder's permission is a crime. Many disputes are settled out of court so this guide cannot be considered exhaustive, but the decisions reached in courts of law set the precedents for subsequent cases. It has been said that legislation without litigation is empty, undefined, unrefined and only court decisions shape and define the law and evolve it. This is an attempt to chart court decisions from 1789 to 1998. It is written by a non-lawyer, to be read by other non-lawyers, and must not be considered in any way as an authoritative legal history.
The methodology was simply to go through issues of the Copyright Office Bulletin (Washington: G.P.O., 1898-1985 nos. 1-49) and issues of Copyright Law Decisions (Chicago: Commerce Clearing House, 1978- ) for cases involving maps in some fashion. Copies consulted were at Haverford College and Villanova University. The early indexing of the Copyright Office Bulletins leaves something to be desired, but a cumulative 1909-1970 index and better indexing in later volumes helped. A casualty of the Reagan Years, the Copyright Office Bulletin ceased in 1985 with number 49. A commercial product, Copyright Law Decisions, picked up the slack, though with less rigorous indexing. After transcribing the case as listed—including citations to other sources—I have attempted to briefly summarize the decision. In-depth research will necessitate going to these sources—and even to the trial transcripts—for the full story. Certainly one should at the least read what is in the Copyright Office Bulletin and Copyright Law Decisions rather than depend on my summaries. Lack of uniformity in citing these other sources indicates a change in how they were cited; I have made no attempt to do more than transcribe, with a few shortcuts, what was listed.
The Copyright Office Bulletin numbers 13-16 cover the years 1789-1909. Subsequent numbers first cover a few years, then two years, and, finally, a single year per number. There is a cumulative index covering the years 1909-1970. In searching any given index, I used only the most obvious of terms (“maps,” “charts,” etc.) and hope not too much has been missed.
One may wonder why the starting date of this survey is 1789. At that time, the Constitution had firmly established copyright as a Federal matter. Blunt v. Patten (1828) is the earliest map copyright case I found. To research copyright litigation earlier than 1789 would mean State and Colonial court records must be searched. I leave this to others. For those interested, Copyright Office Bulletin Number 8 is Copyright in Congress 1789-1904 (Washington: G.P.O., 1905) “A Bibliography, and Chronological Record of all Proceedings in Congress in relation to Copyright ….” Citations are given in legal style: volume (or number), title, page (or section). Abbreviations are the standard ones for the legal sources; a list of abbreviations follows this introduction. Cases are listed here chronologically from the date of the first appearance rather than the date of final decision. With Copyright Law Decisions, I have given page number as well as paragraph/section for ease in finding the decision. This is not the place to explain the structure of the court system of the United States. Let us leave it at saying a decision of a lower court may be appealed on grounds of law and grounds of fact to a higher court. Let a lawyer explain it.
A word should also be said about “pirating.” Currently, the term means, briefly, the unauthorized copying of a protected work for distribution, usually for commercial gain. Historically, it also meant the perfectly legal—at the time—printing of works from other countries with no payments to author or foreign publisher. This was a two-way street between the United Kingdom and the United States. Originally, copyright was to protect nationals, and “aliens” rarely were able to obtain copyright protection on works published abroad. There were ways around this, as we shall see, but problems persisted even into the twentieth century.
Finally, one may wonder why a former map librarian is interested in such matters. When I was in the process of compiling An Atlas of Fantasy (Baltimore: Mirage Press, 1973), I obtained photographs of hitherto unpublished manuscript maps by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I carefully added to each one a copyright notice indicating Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. was the copyright holder. This was in the bad old days before current copyright reform when a defective notice invalidated the copyright. The printer cropped the notice on some of the reproductions. Though I only claimed copyright on the text and map selections, I, as holder of the copyright on the package, had become the owner of the copyright on these maps. As soon as I found out a few years later, I immediately signed the rights over to ERB, Inc. where they should have been. In another instance, I obtained permission to reproduce a map from its U.S. publisher only to find later that this publisher did not have the rights to give. It was all handled discretely and there was no court case, but I became very aware of copyright then.
|C. L. D.||Copyright Law Decisions|
|C. O. Bull.||Copyright Office Bulletin|
|d/b/a||doing business as|
|East||East's King's Bench Reports (102-104 ER)|
|E. D.||Eastern District|
|F. or Fed. R.||Federal Reporter|
|F. 2d. or Fed. (2d)||Federal Reporter, 2nd Series|
|F. Cas.||Federal Cases|
|F. Supp. or Fed. Supp.||Federal Supplement|
|L. Ed.||Lawyers' Edition, U. S. Reports|
|L. J. Q. B.||Law Journal Reports, New Series, Queen's Bench|
|N. D.||Northern District|
|N. Y. Wkly. Dig.||New York Weekly Digest|
|Paine||Paine's U. S. Circuit Court Reports|
|S. Ct.||Supreme Court Reporter|
|S. D.||Southern District|
|t. a.||trading as|
|U. S.||U. S. Supreme Court|
|U. S. C.||United States Code|
|USPQ||United States Patent Quarterly|
|W. D.||Western District|
|Definitions taken from Mary Miles Prince Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations, 4th ed. (Buffalo: Hein, 1993)|
Blunt v. Patten
Circuit Court, S.D. New York June Term, 1828
3 F.Cas 762 (No. 1580) 2 Paine 393 13 C. O. Bull. 284
Blunt v. Patten
Circuit Court, S.D. New YorkJune 19, 1828
3 F.Cas. 763 (No. 1580) 2 Paine 397 13 C. O. Bull. 287
“The unauthorized use by a map-maker of the surveys upon which a copyrighted map is based is an infringement of the copyright.” In 1821, Edmund Blunt had surveys of Nantucket's South Shoals and of George's Shoals made with some assistance from the U. S. Navy. The Nantucket Shoals were found to be about 20 miles too far south on previous charts. Copies of Blunt's survey were given to the Navy for its use and Blunt published his chart of the northeast coast which was duly copyrighted. Richard Patten published his chart in 1827. Blunt sued for infringement. Depositing a copy of the survey with the Navy did not make it a public document, the courts ruled. Historians of nautical cartography will find the footnote on 13 C. O. Bull. 289 relating to the 1785 case of Sayre v. Moore (1 East 361) to be interesting in which authorities are quoted at length on the value of specific charts for navigation. There is a discussion of “plain charts,” which I suspect is a court reporter's mistake and that “plane chart” is meant.
Stevens v. Gladding et al.
Circuit Court, D. Rhode Island July 18, 1850
23 F.Cas. 15 (No. 13,400) 15 C. O. Bull. 2455
James Stephens, Appellant v. Isaac H. Cady
U. S. Supreme Court December Term, 1852
55 U.S. (14 How.) 528 14 L.Ed. 528 15 C. O. Bull. 2444
Stevens v. Cady
Circuit Court, D. Rhode Island November Term, 1854
23 F.Cas. 8 (No. 13,395) 15 C. O. Bull. 2453
James Stevens, Appellant v. Royal Gladding and Isaac T. Proud
U. S. Supreme CourtDecember Term 1854
58 U.S. (17 How.) 44715 L.Ed. 115 15 C. O. Bull. 2462
Stevens v. Gladding et al.
Circuit Court, D. Rhode Island June Term, 1856
23 F.Cas. 14 (13,399) 15 C. O. Bull. 2468
James Stevens, Plaintiff in Error v. Royal Gladding and Isaac T. Proud ….
U. S. Supreme Court December Term, 1856
60 U.S. (19 How.) 64 15 L.Ed. 569 15 C. O. Bull. 2470
As can be seen from the above, the case went around and around. What emerges is the ruling that a map copyright is intangible and exists apart from the means used to produce published copies. In 1831, Stevens (this is the correct spelling of the plaintiff's name) produced a topographic map of Rhode Island. In 1846, across the state line in Massachusets, a judgement against Stevens resulted in the seizing of the copperplate engraving of the map and it being sold at auction to Isaac H. Cady. Gladdings & Proud were Providence booksellers selling the disputed copies. The claim was made that the right to use the copperplate to make—and sell—copies was intrinsic in the purchase of the copperplate at a sheriff's sale. While copyright, like other intangible property, may be seized, the courts noted, it cannot be done by the mere seizure of the physical means of producing copies. A parallel with book production was used as an example, noting the seizure of printing plates does not carry with it transfer of copyright. While copyright was protected, flaws of a legal nature in his appeals kept Stevens from getting what he would have considered justice.
Pennsylvania v. Desilver
Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County 1858
3 Phila. 31 14 C. O. Bull. 2039
“The publication of a map made from materials collected while in the service of the Commonwealth, as draughtsman of a party working at her cost, will be restrained by injunction; all the results of such labor belong to the Commonwealth.”
Farmer v. Calvert Lithographing, Engraving, & Map Publishing Co.
Circuit Court, E. D. Michigan April 8, 1872
8 F.Cas. 1022 (No. 4651) 13 C. O. Bull. 962
Much of this case concerns affidavits and legal wrangling. What emerges in relation to maps is that new editions are protected and that township boundaries, though set by statute, may not be copied from a protected map. The case involved a map of Wisconsin with portions of Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota.
James H. Rees et al. v. Otto Peltzer et al.
Illinois Supreme Court September Term 1874
75 Ill. 47514 C. O. Bull. 2152
Rees et al. v. Peltzer et al.
Illinois Supreme Court June 16, 1875
1 N.Y. Wkly. Dig. 129 14 C. O. Bull. 2152
W. P. Davie, an English map maker, in about 1860, made a series of maps of Chicago which he sold to several real estate dealers and the Board of Public Works of Chicago. Davie took out no copyright and made no exception to copies being made from the Board's copy. All but two sets were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the firms owning these copies established a monopoly on the information. Some additions were made to these copies. A copy was made and sold to the Board of Public Works. One of the firms sued claiming ownership of the copy gave it rights. The court ruled that mere ownership of a sole copy of public domain material conferred no special rights and that any copy could in turn be copied by anyone.
Perris v. Hexamer
U. S. Supreme Court October Term, 1878
99 U.S. 67425 L.Ed. 30814 C. O. Bull. 2050
This is an extremely important case. Richard Perris sued Ernest Hexamer for using the same format, symbols, and color keys that Perris used in his maps of New York City. Hexamer published similar insurance maps of Philadelphia, the earlier ones using Perris's symbols and color code. The court ruled that as one set of maps dealt with New York and the other with Philadelphia, there was no infringement. Symbols themselves were ruled to be beyond copyright protection. While this seems a reasonable decision, I can envision some symbols being created which are so unique and artistic as to call out for protection. The call may be vain, however.
Chapman v. Ferry and another
Circuit Court, D. Oregon December 3, 1882
18 F. 539 13 C. O. Bull. 594
It is commonly accepted that a map protected by copyright is not infringed if used only after another map is compiled from original sources or public sources for purposes of “comparison and correction.” Merely changing scale and color is an infringement however. The court admitted it can be difficult with maps to determine what we now call “fair use.” An analysis of both maps of Portland, Oregon, and vicinity satisfied the court that copying took place. The court also ruled that depositing a tracing of the map met the statutory requirement for depositing copies.
Sanborn Map & Pub. Co. v. Dakin Pub. Co. et al.
Circuit Court, N.D. California June 10, 1889
39 F. 266 15 C. O. Bull. 2311
The description of this case is vague: which Sanborn atlas is not noted nor is the actual business of Hutchinson & Mann specified. Hutchinson & Mann purchased a set of Sanborn maps and proceeded to note updates and corrections on the individual sheets. Dakin Pub. Co. was hired to “go over the field, note the changes, and make the corrections on the map.” Paste-overs (called “pasters”) were used, but Dakin also reproduced whole sections of a sheet. The court ruled that while a purchaser of a map has the right to add information, use paste-overs, cut up the map, and even destroy it, there is no right to reproduce a map or a portion of it.
Black et al. v. Henry G. Allen Co.
Same v. Same
Scribner et al v. Same
Nos. 4,718, 4,750, and 4,719
Circuit Court, S.D. New York June 26, 1890
42 F. 618 13 C. O. Bull. 247
This case involves the reprinting, in toto, by Henry G. Allen, of the ninth edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Certain articles and maps were copyrighted by U. S. citizens. While several issues were addressed, three are most closely related to maps. “A copyrighted book, published by the consent and license of the author as part of a foreign encyclopedia, the remainder of which is the product of aliens not protected by the copyright laws of the Unites States, does not thereby become public property, and cannot be used without the consent of the author in a reprint of the encyclopedia.” “That the alien publishers of the foreign encyclopaedia procured copyrighted articles from citizens of the United States for the express purpose of preventing the work from being reprinted in the United States, does not affect their right to protect the copyright in the courts of the United States.” “Each map contained in a statistical atlas need not be separately copyrighted, for they are all protected by a copyright of the entire work.”
Charles Scribner's Sons became involved because that firm published Scribner's Statistical Atlas of the United States and allowed Adam & Charles Black, the British publisher of EB, to use some maps in the 9th edition of EB. Fancis A. Walker wrote and copyrighted the article “United States. Part III. Political Geography and Statistics.” The two cases listed in 13 C. O. Bull. which immediately follow also concern the encyclopedia case.
Treasury Department Decisions
T.D. 11,440July 7, 1891
Treas. Dec. (1891) 837 15 C. O. Bull. 3178
This is not a court case, but as it was listed, for completeness, it gets noted here. Apparently it is for Customs purposes. It states “Maps, charts, dramatic or musical compositions, engravings, cuts, and prints, paintings …” are to be added to the list of titles of copyrighted items sent by the Librarian of Congress to the Treasury Department.
Walker et al. v. Globe Newspaper Co.
Circuit Court, D. MassachusettsMay 25, 1904
130 F. 593 15 C. O. Bull. 2670
Walker et al. v. Globe Newspaper Co.
Circuit Court of Appeals, First Circuit August 30, 1905
140 F. 305 15 C. O. Bull. 2674
Globe Newspaper Company v. Walker
U. S. Supreme Court Argued April 23, 1908—
Decided June 1, 1908
210 U.S. 356 28 S. Ct. 726 52 L.Ed. 1096 14 C. O. Bull. 1080
This is a legal can of worms. George H. Walker & Company published a map of the electric railways of Massachusetts which accompanied the report of the Railroad Commissioners. The firm alleged it had complied with the requirements of the copyright statutes. The case became one of jurisdiction, a court's right to enlarge statutory penalties, whether maps are covered since the statutes use “books,” and whether because maps are separately discussed in the statutes they should not be treated as books.
Woodman v. Lydiard-Peterson Co.
Circuit Court, D. Minnesota, 4th Div. January 17, 1912
192 Fed. R. 67 17 C. O. Bull. 217
Lydiard-Peterson Co. v. Woodman
Circuit Court of Appeals, 8th Circ.March 3, 1913
204 Fed. R. 921 17 C. O. Bull. 154
In the original case, the decision was for the plaintiff. The court ruled that a map is subject to copyright even if the material is derived from prior publications not copyrighted if it constitutes a new arrangement and contains new and original features. That both the map in the pocket of the book and the book itself had the title “Map-Directory” means they consitute a package and the proper copyright notice in the book also protects the map in the pocket with its less than adequate notice. The court questioned assessing damages and felt they were less than the statutory minimum. The court also questioned whether the defendant's giving away copies presumes the loss of the same number of sales.
The appeal dealt with the validity of the copyright notice on the map, citing the fact that 500 copies of the directory of the Lake Minnetonka area were printed and that 1,000 copies of the map printed, 500 copies of which were in the pocket in the book with the extra copies being sold separately. The court affirmed that on just the map the notice was insufficient but the map and book constituted a unit so the map was protected even though more copies were printed than of the book and were sold separately. Circuit Judge Hook dissented citing a British precedent in Heywood v. Potter (22 L.J.Q.B. 133) relating to wallpaper samples. The majority held that while insufficient in itself, the copyright notice on the map, because of the package nature of the publication of book and map, did not invalidate copyright.
Morris County Traction Co. v. Hence
Circuit Court of Appeals, 3d Circuit July 3, 1922
281 Fed. Rep. 820 19 C. O. Bull. 293
The decision for Hence in a lower court was reversed, noting that the Morris County Traction Co. neither printed, reprinted, published, nor vended copies of a northern New Jersey map which violated Hence's copyright and the fact the violator gave the company, unsolicited, 500 copies of the violating map does not make Morris County Traction a party to the violation. The violator, one “Latassa,” saw Hence's map in the offices of Morris County Traction and was given Hence's address to get permission to use the map. Latassa chose to ignore this and reproduced the map without permission on a sheet of advertising.
Chamberlin et al. v. Bekins Van and Storage Co.
District Court, S.D. California, N.D.January 13, 1928
23 Fed. (2d) 54120 C. O. Bull. 148
“That defendant, in bringing down to date in 1926 a city map, which it had made in 1922, borrowed from plaintiffs' maps of 1924 to such a material extent as would make such appropriation a violation of plaintiffs' copyright, other maps and public records being also resorted to by the defendant, and the special matter on plaintiffs' maps which defendant used not being so distinctive as to give particular character to plaintiffs' maps, Held not shown by the evidence.” In this case concerning a Fresno, California city map, Perris v. Hexamer (14 C. O. Bull. 2050) was cited as the basis for the decision.
General Drafting Co., Inc. v. Andrews et al.
Circuit Court of Appeals, 2d Circuit January 1930
37 F. (2d) 54 20 C. O. Bull. 263
Reversing a lower court decision, it was determined that the defendants, operating as American Map Company, did violate the plaintiff''s copyright. The manner in which General Drafting compiled its maps is carefully described and should interest historians of cartography. A former General Drafting employee was used by the defendants to make their map and his testimony was considered discredited when offered by the defense. Woodman v. Lydiard-Peterson Co. (17 C. O. Bull. 217) was cited. Similarity of errors was considered significant. American Map published a “… Greater Metropolitan Area” map which was ruled derived from General Drafting maps of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New England.
Andrews v. Guenther Pub. Co.
District Court, S.D. New York July 12, 1932
60 Fed. (2d) 55520 C. O. Bull. 28
While the defendant did use a portion of a map by the plaintiff, the defendant's map showing cities in which the Schubert Company had theaters did not violate the plaintiff's copyright as the outline used was derived, without change, from government sources and not subject to copyright by the plaintiff. As what was original on the plaintiff's map was not used, no violation occurred. The plaintiff's techniques for creating its map are described in detail.
O. V. Blackburn v. Southern California Gas Company et al.
District Court, S.D. California Decided May 1, 1936
29 USPQ. 437 (14 Fed. Supp. 553) 21 C. O. Bull. 21
While it was decided, on the basis of similarities, that the defendant's map was taken directly from the plaintiff's map of ten counties in southern California and did violate copyright, the waiting from 1927 to 1934 to file a charge showed a lack of diligence on the plaintiff's part. Minimum damages were awarded and the defendant was enjoined from any public distribution of its map. It could continue to use its map internally for its own business.
Freedman v. Milnag Leasing Corporation et al.
District Court, S.D. New York June 22, 1937
20 Fed. Supp. 802 21 C. O. Bull. 130
In January of 1932, Freedman published a map and guide for New York City. He hired an artist named Spofford to draw the city “as it would appear from a point above the harbor south of Manhattan.” Selected buildings were shown enlarged and street, pier, district, etc. names were also shown. The back of the sheet had guide information. A copyright notice was placed on both sides of the sheet. In January 1933, the plaintiff contracted with the defendant to provide modified copies highlighting the Hotel Edison. These were delivered and had a copyright notice on both sides. In 1934, the defendant had an aerial photograph taken giving much the same view as Spofford's drawing and proceded to modify the photograph and publish it with the verso guide information essentially unchanged. The defense claimed that its photograph did not violate any copyright on the drawing and as the the original publication was identified as “Spofford's Map,” only the map, not the directory, portions were protected. They argued, further, that the delay in depositing copies with the Copyright Office invalidated the copyright. The court ruled that, whatever it was called, the intention was to copyright the entire product, both sides of the sheet, and the delay in depositing copies did not violate the idea of “promptly.” The co-defendant, National Process Company, printed the maps “on the assurance by the Milnag Company that it did not infringe the plaintiff's map.” The summary leaves unclear the extent of National Process Company's liability.
Towle v. Ross, et al.
District Court, OregonFebruary 26, 1940
32 F. Supp. 125 45 USPQ 143 23 C. O. Bull. 321
“The position of defendants as employees of the United States could not protect them from an award of damages on account of their infringement of a copyrighted map, even though acts done were for the benefit of the government, since immunity of the government does not extend to its agents.” A 1938 map of generating stations and transmission lines in the northwest was validly copyrighted. Members of the engineering staff of the Bonneville Administration chose not to purchase additional copies. The plaintiff sued when he discovered that portions of the map had been reproduced. The plaintiff was awarded minimal damages, but not legal fees. The court ruled that absence of a part of a map or the reduction of the map does not protect the infringer. No injunction was issued. The court noted that “the use by the United States of the maps which are owned by them must be protected.”
Sawyer v. Crowell Publishing Company
District Court, S.D. New YorkApril 30, 1942
54 USPQ 225 46 F. Supp. 471 24 C. O. Bull. 520
Sawyer v. Crowell Pub. Co.
Circuit Court of Apeals, Second Circuit May 1, 1944
61 USPQ 389 142 F. 2d 497 25 C. O. Bull. 380
Ernest Sawyer, while Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior, had a map produced showing Fairbanks, Alaska, at the center of a “Great Circle Map.” He had a notice on the map that he held the copyright though it was also noted that the map was compiled from official sources. In December of 1937, Collier's published a copy of a subsequent government map, which was not copyrighted, showing additional data. Sawyer sued. The courts held that a creation or invention by a government employee is not automatically government property, but if that creation is done in connection with the job, especially if government resources are used, it is. Even if valid, the copyright is held in trust for the government. It should be noted in passing that many of the current Country Studies produced by the United States government are copyrighted with the Secretary of the Army representing the government.
Crocker, et al. v. General Drafting Co., Inc.
District Court, S.D. New York April 15, 1943
50 F. Supp. 634 24 C. O. Bull. 183
Howe Caverns, Inc. for several years had a brochure map produced by the National Survey Company. It evolved that National Survey only claimed copyright on the map and allowed its reproduction by newspapers and magazines if the copyright notice appeared. In 1940, the contract was given to General Drafting. There is a detailed description of the compilation techniques of National Survey and General Drafting and of the maps each produced. The court determined copying occurred and that there was infringement. One of the key similarities was the way the outer fringes were distorted to fit the map. There was also the question of the validity of extending copyright protection to minor revisions. It was held that new portions of a map which represent small changes are protected by the original copyright.
Christianson v. West Publishing Company
District Court, N.D. California, S. Div. January 18, 1944
60 USPQ 279 53 F. Supp. 454 25 C. O. Bull. 75
Christianson v. West Pub. Co.
Circuit Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit April 18, 1945
65 USPQ 263149 F. 2d 20225 C. O. Bull. 78
West Publishing Company originated the National Reporting System for court decisions. In 1909, T. L. Christianson produced a map showing the regions. West subsequently issued its own map on a calendar. The courts examined both and decided there was no infringement, the primary similarities (outlines of the U. S. and individual states) being in both cases derived from public information.
Hillyer v. Nash-Kelvinator Corporation et al.
District Court, N.D. Illinois, E. Div. Decided September 30, 1948
No. 48 C107 79 USPQ 50 26 C. O. Bull. 130
Infringement was admitted, though it was inadvertant and resulted from carelessness. The question became, since the infringing map was used in advertising in three newspapers, was there a single infringement or three? The court decided on three.
Amsterdam v. Triangle Publications, Inc.
U. S. District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania September 25, 1950
Civ. A. No. 8422 93 F. Supp. 7987 USPQ 90 27 C. O. Bull. 2
Amsterdam v. Triangle Publications, Inc.
U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit Argued February 20, 1951 , Decided May 25, 1951
Nos. 10340, 10348 189 F. 2d 10489 USPQ 468 28 C. O. Bull. 16
This is one of the most central—and controversial—decisions in map copyright cited subsequently. This case involved Lewis Amsterdam's Franklin Survey and Triangle Publications' The Philadelphia Inquirer. After considering how Franklin Survey compiled its 1932 map of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, the courts ruled “all information shown on the plaintiff's map came from maps already in existance, although none of this information had been published previously on any one map.” In 1946, The Philadelphia Inquirer published a map of Delaware County crediting Franklin Survey as the source of the base map, but did not seek permission to reproduce it. The crux of the courts' decision was that not sufficient original work had gone into making the Franklin Survey map and mere compilation of existing data is not copyrightable.
C. S. Hammond & Company, …, Plaintiff v. International College Globe, Inc. …
U.S. District Court, S.D. New York December 3, 1956
146 F. Supp. 514 112 USPQ 291 30 C. O. Bull. 331
C. S. Hammond & Co. … v. International College Clobe, Inc. ….
U.S. District Court, S.D. New York March 30, 1962, As Amended April 6, 1962
210 F. Supp. 206 135 USPQ 5633 C. O. Bull. 253
While there are legal issues of unfair competition and harassment in this case which have nothing to do with maps, there is much of cartographic interest. The description of the making of inflatable globes and of the courts' examining the similarities on the two productions is most interesting. The conclusion that common errors may result as much from using the same flawed sources as from outright copying seems new. The final decision was there was no infringement.
Marken and Bielfield, Inc., etc. v. Boughman Company
U. S. District Court, E. D. Virginia, Richmond Div. June 18, 1957
162 F. Supp. 561 117 USPQ 332 31 C. O. Bull. 500
For many years, the plaintiff had produced brochures with maps for the Luray Caverns Corporation. William Gill, a retired military engineer, compiled the maps and used some distortion was to include Roanoke and Williamsburg. When Luray Caverns used another printer in 1954, the plaintiff claimed the new map infringed its copyright. After examining the maps and the compilaltion methods, the court ruled the maps were not original enough to be protected.
Geo-Physical Maps, Inc., Plaintiff v. Toycraft Corp., Harry Cohn and Sigmund Koch, Defendants
U.S. District Court, S. D. New York May 16, 1958
162 F. Supp. 141 117 USPQ 316 31 C. O. Bull. 219
After examining how the plaintiff's raised relief globe was made and examing the defendant's globes, the globes were declared to be copies. The arguments, rather sleazy and spurious in my opinion, of the defense and a doctored defense exhibit were dismissed. The case then became one of jurisdiction. It was held that the court had jurisdiction and the court subsequently decided for the plaintiff.
C. H. Trowler d/b/a Standard Maps, Appellant v. M. Penn Phillips …; Western Woods of Hesperia …; … Harwick, Kagan & Brant; and … Industrial Lithographers, Appellees
U. S. Court of Appeals, Ninth CircuitSeptember 29, 1958
260 F. 2d 924 119 USPQ 16431 C. O. Bull. 606
Trowler made maps of developing areas in San Bernardino and Kern Counties in California. The defendants made maps of the same places. While Trowler explained how he compiled his maps, it was argued they were not sufficiently original to be protected. The case dealt with neither the copyrightability of Trowler's maps nor with any infringement, but, instead, on the validity of a summary judgment by a district court.
Walter E. Hayden, …, Plaintiff v. Chalfant Press, Inc. …, et al., Defendants
U. S. District Court, S.D. California, Central Div. September 30, 1959 177 F. Supp. 303 123 USPQ 475 32 C. O. Bull. 190
Walter E. Hayden, …, Appellant v. Chalfant Press, Inc., …, Appellees
U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit August 19, 1960
281 F. 2d 543 126 USPQ 483 32 C. O. Bull. 202
Hayden produced outdoor recreation maps starting in the 1930's. Chalfant began issuing similar maps in the 1950's. There is a lengthy discussion of originality in maps and on access. The courts concluded that though some maps were “Hayden type,” the copying had actually been done from maps published by the Automobile Club of Southern California from which Chalfant had received permission to copy.
Herman Axelbank, Appellant v. George Rony, [et al.], Appellees
U. S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit April 25, 1960
277 F. 2d 314 125 USPQ 262 32 C. O. Bull. 32
This case concerns two rival documentaries on the Russian Revolution and what followed. In one of them, a map was used to aid in presenting the facts. This case does not really concern maps, but it was noted in passing that maps in films are copyrightable if the test of originality is met.
Milton H. Carter, Plaintiff v. Hawaii Transportation Co., d/b/a Gray Lines-Hilo, and Third-Party Plaintiff, and John Doe, Defendant v. A. D. Starr, Inc., Third-Party Defendant and Fourth-Party Plaintiff v. James Porter, individually and d/b/a The Porter Press, Fourth-Party Defendant
U. S. District Court, D. Hawaii December 29, 1961
201 F. Supp. 301 133 USPQ 65 33 C. O. Bull. 99
A complicated case, this. Gray Lines, in 1959, hired Starr, a public relations firm, to produce a brochure showing Gray Lines' sight-seeing routes and major attractions on Hawaii. Starr used Porter as the printer. To tie in with a mainland convention, Porter sent copies directly to the mainland. Porter did not use the map provided, but copied a map previously done by Carter with only minor differences. When discovered, the brochures were recalled by Gray Lines and Starr. For reasons undisclosed, Porter was outside the jurisdiction of the court. The court stated that if Carter's copyright were valid, both Gray Lines and Starr would have been liable, and the defense that Porter did the evil deed without their knowledge did not absolve them from responsibility to check. The court then went on to find Carter's map not copyrightable, using, among other decisions, the ever-popular Amsterdam v. Triangle Publications (28 C. O. Bull. 16). Also, a defective copyright notice in a brochure containing a similar map caused the map to become public domain.
County of Ventura, Appellant v. O. V. Blackburn, Appellee
U. S. Court of Appeals, Ninth CircuitJune 13, 1966
362 F. 2d 515 150 USPQ 515 35 C. O. Bull. 890
Working from a variety of sources, Blackburn compiled a Ventura County, California, map, publishing it in 1954. In 1956, Blackburn allowed the County to make tracings of his map and granted the County the right to make from these tracings copies for its own use and for sale to the public. The County did so, but did not note Blackburn's copyright on the copies it made. In this appeals case, the court ruled that the map was sufficiently original to be copyrightable and the updates made by the County did not have a bearing on the case.
State's Attorney for Prince George's County et al. v. Sekular
Maryland Court of Appeals April 9, 1968
158 USPQ 231 36 C. O. Bull. 634
The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation was, by statute in 1957, given a monopoly on tax maps. Anyone else selling copies—or, it appears, such maps originally compiled—was guilty of a misdemeanor. Stanley Sekular sold copies of the State's official maps. He contended that the statute was unconstitutional. The court agreed using patent cases as a base. Sekular sold exact copies which included the State cartouche and made no claim they were his own work. As at the time there was no copyright on these maps —and the question was raised, but not answered, as to whether they could be copyrighted—they were not protected by the Maryland Code.
Champion Map Corporation, Plaintiff v. Twin Printing Company et al., Defendants
U.S. District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Fayetteville Div. October 15, 1971
350 F. Supp. 1332 175 USPQ 185 38 C. O. Bull. 104
The defendant published a map of Cumberland County, North Carolina, which was essentially the same as the Champion map of Cumberland County. The defense claimed it was copied from a folded map which was not protected, and that only the wall map of 1966 was protected. The court held for Champion.
M. Dale Newton, Plaintiff v. Robert Voris, Defendant
U. S. District Court, D. Oregon July 2, 1973
364 F. Supp. 562 180 USPQ 26239 C. O. Bull. 594
The court found that the maps of Ashland, Oregon, by Voris were “substantially similar” to those made by Newton in 1968 and 1969. The dating on a map state done for a realty firm was meant to be a printing date and not an attempt to extend copyright. A brief description of Newton's compilation methods is given and the court indicated that sufficient originality was demonstrated to make the maps copyrightable.
Alaska Map Service, Inc., Plaintiff v. Marjorie Roberts … and Alaskan Arctic Publications, Defendants
U.S. District Court, D. Alaska December 21, 1973
368 F. Supp. 578 181 USPQ 296 39 C. O. Bull. 1
After examining the maps in question, the court ruled that copying had occurred, but, citing Amsterdam v. Triangle Publications (28 C. O. Bull. 16), not sufficient originality was demonstrated to validly copyright the plaintiff''s maps.
Hughey v. Palographics Co., et al.
U.S. District Court, D. Colorado Decided January 20, 1976
189 USPQ 527 40 C. O. Bull. 645
Hughey, a commercial artist, prepared poster-maps for Palographics. Her Texas map was accepted, but one for the Bicentennial was rejected after the layout was submitted. Hughey sent no bill for her work on the Bicentennial map when Palographics asked for one. She registered her drawing with the the Copyright Office. Palographics had other artists produce a Bicentennial poster-map. The court ruled Hughey's copyright was valid and, based in part on similar geographic errors, was copied by Palographics. While it may have started as a work for hire, it did not stay one.
Robert H. Moore and Timothy M. Reed, d/b/a “Savannah's Sight and Sounds,” Plaintiffs, v. Lighthouse Publishing Company, Inc., Defendant
Civ. A. No. CV476-266
U.S. District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Div. April 5, 1977
429 F. Supp. 1304 41 C. O. Bull. 622
In 1975, the plaintiffs published a guide to Savannah which included a map based on an earlier pictorial illustration. In 1976, the defendants published a similar guide with a similar map. Sixteen separate points were considered, but the ultimate decision was that there was no copyright for the plaintiffs' map as it was itself derivative. Reproductions of the three maps are appended to the decision.
United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Edward Sylvester Hamilton, Defendant-Appellee No. 77-1230
U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth CircuitOctober 5, 1978
583 F. 2d 448200 USPQ 14 42 C. O. Bull. 800
In both 1970 and 1973, KDB Enterprises published maps of Ada County, Idaho. The defendant copied and sold the 1973 map, claiming that since it was derived from public sources, it was not copyrightable. Considering the decision in Amsterdam v. Triangle Publications (28 C. O. Bull. 16) to be “theoretically unsound,” this court ruled that absolute originality was not to be the sole criterion used, but that selection and presentation could be considered original as well.
Key Maps, Inc., Plaintiff v. J. J. Pruitt, individually and in his capacity as Fire Marshall of Harris County, and Harris County, Defendants
Civ. A. No. 76-H-2086
U.S. District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Div. November 14, 1978
470 F. Supp. 33 203 USPQ 28242 C. O. Bull. 359
The plaintiff, when asked to produce a map for the County which would show fire district boundaries, suggested using an existing map it had produced and having the County Engineer's Office provide the fire district boundary overlay which the plaintiff would then print. After an unseemly delay, the County took the map elsewhere for printing. As these were for internal use, no violation occurred in the opinion of the court. That the maps proved unusable may also have been a factor.
Darrell Taylor, d/b/a Darrell Taylor Topographic Charts, Plaintiff-Appelle, v. Joseph B. Meirick, d/b/a Lakes Illustrated, Defendant-Appellant
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit Argued May 9, 1983; Decided July 7, 1983
Rehearing Denied August 9, 1983
712 F. 2d 1112 219 USPQ 420 47 C. O. Bull. 1038
The plaintiff copyrighted maps of three Illinois Lakes in 1974. The defendant copied them in 1976 and 1977. Taylor discovered the infringement in 1979 and sued in 1980. The three year limitation on bringing action was ruled not to apply since Meirick made no reasonable effort to get the maps back from dealers or have the dealers to whom he supplied his maps stop selling them until the court case had been resolved, thus making infringement ongoing.
Rand McNally & Company, Plaintiff, v. Fleet Management Systems, Inc., d/b/a Logistics Systems, Defendant
No. 80 C 4499
U.S. District Court, N.D. Illinois, E. Div. December 31, 1983
591 F. Supp. 726 221 USPQ 827 48 C. O. Bull. 798
Rand McNally & Company, Plaintiff, v. Fleet Management Systems, Inc., … Defendant
No. 80 C 449
U. S. District Court, N. D. Illinois, E. Div. July 25, 1984
600 F. Supp. 933 223 USPQ 1200 48 C. O. Bull. 817
Rand McNally & Company v. Fleet Management Systems, Inc.
No. 80 C4499
U.S. District Court, N.D. Illinois Decided October 1, 1984
224 USPQ 24648 C. O. Bull. 833
The defendant used the plaintiff's data in a computerized data base which it sold. When brought to trial, Fleet claimed data in the Mileage Guide was not copyrightable as it was a compilation of existing data, it was used by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) as an approved mileage information source thereby giving it the force of law and making it a government document, and that recasting the data into Fleet's own data base did not constitute copying anyway. The courts ultimately ruled for Rand McNally noting that compilations may be protected, that the Mileage Guide is one source approved by the ICC and is not specified by statute, and that entering copyrighted information into a data base can be construed as copying. That a large number of copies had been provided to Household Goods Carriers' Bureau did not make this a work for hire.
As an aside, I was explaining this case to someone in the trucking business and he deplored the final decision because he felt the competing product was superior (for his needs anyway) to Rand McNally's.
Rockford Map Publishers, Inc. v. Directory Service Company of Colorado et al.
U.S. District Court, C. D. Illinois Decided June 14, 1984 As Amended July 20, 1984
24 USPQ 851 48 C. O. Bull. 850
Rockford Map Publishers, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Directory Service Company of Colorado, Inc., and Frances A. Anderson, Defendants-Appellants
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit Argued May 20, 1985; Decided July 15, 1985
768 F. 2d 145226 USPQ 1025 49 C. O. Bull. 992
Both the plaintiff and defendant made county directories showing land ownership. Rockford inserted fictitious middle initials in the names of some land owners which would spell “ROCKFORD MAP INC” when read sequentially. The compilation procedures of both companies are described. If the Rockford maps were used only for comparison, no violation would have occurred, but the presence of the “trap” initials indicates copying. On appeal, the court ruled that Rockford held a valid copyright even though the maps were derived from public information because its compilation was original. The case concerned only the Ford County, Illinois, directories, it being agreed that a decision on these would apply to other county directories in dispute. At the end of the decision in the Copyright Office Bulletin, some of the plats are reproduced.
Del Madera Properties, a Joint Venture; et al., Plaintiffs, v. Rhodes and Gardner, Inc., … , et al., Defendants
No. C-84-6172 WHO
U.S. District Court, N.D. California September 9, 1985
637 F. Supp. 262 227 USPQ 486 49 C. O. Bull. 306
Del Madera Properties, a developer, had a master plan drawn up for a subdivision in Tiburon. Edgar Ross drew the plan, Ross being a partner in the architectural firm hired by Leonard Cahn of Del Madera. Del Madera defaulted on loans and another company developed the tract according to the plan. Ross obtained copyright on the plan which he transfered to the plaintiff, the original developer. It was ruled the plan was copyrightable, that the accepting of it by Tiburon did not make it a public document, but that no copyright infringement had occurred by developing the tract.
Real Estate Data, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellee v. The Sidwell Co., and Sidwell Studio, Inc., Defendant-Appellants
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit Dated January 8, 1987
1987 C.L.D. 26,051 (p.20,846)
The Sidwell Company v. Real Estate Data, Inc.
U. S. District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Div.Order dated October 22, 1987
1988 C.L.D. 26,241 (p.21,707)
Real Estate Data Incorporated, Plaintiff-Appellee v. Sidwell Company and Sidwell Studio, Incorporated, Defendants-Appellants
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit Dated July 25, 1990
1990 C.L.D. 26,608 (p.23,609)
This appears to be two separate cases, possibly folded into one or one depending on the outcome of the other. In the first decision cited, Sidwell had been making tax maps for Cook County, Illinois, since 1957 and, while nothing in the contract specified anything about copyright, had been affixing a copyright notice to the maps and registering them. In 1978, Real Estate Data, Inc. (REDI) brought suit, with one of the issues being the validity of the copyright. Verbal agreements, the concept of work for hire, and “acquiescence” in continuing a situation are among the issues examined.
In the second decision cited, Sidwell, in 1964, had contracted to produce tax maps for Will County, Illinois. In 1966, it was agreed that Sidwell would hold the copyright, but would grant Will County the right to reproduce and sell the maps. Will County in turn, assuming it had the copyright, granted REDI the right to reproduce and sell the maps. Sidwell sued. This decision does not concern the case itself which seems to vanish, but is about the granting of an injunction to stop REDI from selling the maps. It was ruled that any damages could be computed if the case were decided at trial in favor of Sidwell so the injunction was denied.
In the appeal to the first decision, Sidwell lost, the court ruling that the Cook County tax maps were works for hire.
Kern River Gas Transmission Co., Plaintiff-Appellant v. The Coastal Corporation et al., Defendants-Appellees
U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit Dated May 8, 1990
1990 C.L.D. 26,570 (p.23,375)
In the larger war for control of markets, copyright sometimes is impressed as a foot soldier. Kern River did not get the right to provide Wyoming natural gas to southern California. It had surveyed a route and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) existed for it. One of the competing firms submitted its own route but was told to stay within the EIS approved route. Its subsequent maps then showed a route the same as Kern River's. The court ruled that even original surveys could not protect a map if it showed the only logical route so the maps were not entitled to copyright protection.
Hodge E. Mason and Hodge E. Mason Engineers, Inc. v. Montgomery Data, Inc. et al.
U.S. District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Div. Opinion dated May 25, 1990
1990 C.L.D. 26,635 (p.23,788)
Hodge E. Mason and Hodge E. Mason Engineers, Inc. v. Montgomery Data, Inc., et al.
U.S. District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Div. March 20, 1991; Amended June 3, 1991
1991 C.L.D. 26,781 (p.24,587)
Hodge E. Mason and Hodge Mason Maps, Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellants v. Montgomery Data, Inc., et al., Defendants-Appellees
U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit July 28, 1992
1992 C.L.D. 26959 (p.25,613)
In 1967, Mason started to make land ownership maps of Montgomery County, Texas. While claiming copyright, only one of the 118 sheets was registered in 1968. Revisions of some sheets were made through 1987. When the various defendants started to cut up and revise the maps for distribution, Mason hastily registered the other sheets and brought suit. The original court ruled that statutory damages were awardable only for the sheet originally registered, but actual damages might also be possible for the other sheets.
A subsequent ruling in this case was that if an idea and its expression are inseparable, the expression may not be protected by copyright as it would give a mapmaker a monopoly on facts. Additionally, if another map were created independently from public data, it would be so similar that it would appear to be an infringement.
In the last round, the decision was reversed and it was held, upon examination of the maps, that other expressions of the idea were possible and that Mason had been selective in choosing the data to illustrate. There is a somewhat detailed description of how the various maps were made. Be that as it may, Mason was not to be awarded damages because of the time delay in registering the copyright.
James J. Andrien … Appellant v. Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, Manahawkin Newspapers, Inc., William Sherry t.a. Surf Printing, Appellees
U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit March 1, 1991
1991 C.L.D. 26,696 (p.24,061)
Andrien found the existing maps of Long Beach Island, New Jersey, to be inadequate and compiled his own data of street names from existing information and original field surveys, hiring the A& H Company to print the maps. Carolyn Haines of A& H was the draftsperson. Andrien's map was registered in the Copyright Office in 1980. When Andrien's supply ran out, the defendants published an unauthorized reprint. Andrien sued, but a lower court declared he was not the author as he did not do the actual layout and could not claim copyright. As he was not an employee of A& H, the work could not be copyrighted as a work for hire. The Court of Appeals reversed this decision saying that Andrien did more than just provide the idea. Though a case might be made that Haines was a joint author if it turned out she was more than a draftsperson and made a significant contribution, this would in no way result in dismissal of the case as individual co-owners of a copyright may sue.
Nester's Map & Guide Corp. v. Hagstrom Map Company
U.S. District Court, E.D. New York June 30, 1992
1992 C.L.D. 26,953 (p.25,538)
Nester began publishing its guide, Official New York Taxi Driver's Guide, in 1978. In 1988, Hagstrom started publishing New York City Taxi and Limousine Drivers Guide. Claims and counter-claims were hurled back and forth in this case, but in the end Nester had to drop the word “Official” from its title. It was deemed that there could be no confusion between the two works, that there were differences enough to conclude independent compilation, and that the similarities - except in one case - were matters of public information. The exception was the selection of cross streets indicating an approximate address on each major avenue. This was held to be copyrightable and it was evident that Hagstrom copied some of the listings. One does not have to copy all of a copyrighted work to be liable.
Robert Steven Meade v. The United States
U.S. Court of Federal Claims December 23, 1992
1993 C.L.D. 27,034 (p.26,073)
In 1983, Meade obtained a copyright on the design of a heart-shaped earth (with only five continents, it should be noted) and “MOTHERLOVERS” or “MOM” beneath. In 1991, the U. S. Postal Service issued its “Love Stamp” (designed by Harry Zelenko). The court held that the similarity - the world in a heart-shaped projection - was not in itself a copyrightable feature. The C.L.D. summary had no mention of the historic use of such a projection, use which goes back hundreds of years.
Lynn Lawrence (Larry) Schmidt v. Holy Cross Cemetery, Inc., Norbert C. Hay, and Joseph Schmidt
U.S. District Court, D. Kansas December 29, 1993
1994 C.L.D. 27,235 (p.27,263) 840 F. Supp. 829
In 1989, a for profit cemetery was planned near Hays, Kansas. A rough plat was made at the time. In 1991, Larry Schmidt registered a copyright on the finished plat. A copy was filed with the Ellis County Register of Deeds as a prerequisite for opening for business. When informed of the copyright, Robert Hay drew his own plat of the cemetery, but used the Schmidt plat as his source. No fee was paid to Schmidt. The court ruled that the Schmidt plat was not a work for hire, and that both the filing of the original and the making of a derivative map were violations.
Librarians take heed: the court noted that 17 U.S.C. 106(5) makes the unauthorized displaying of a copyrighted work an infringement as well. I'd think “fair use” would apply to library exhibits of maps, but I'm not a lawyer.
Pebble Beach Company of Pinehurst, Inc., and Sea Pines Company, Inc., Plaintiffs v. Tour 18I, Defendant
U.S. District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Div. November 6, 1996
1997 C.L.D. 27,640 (p.29,794)
Tour 18 operates golf courses which have holes attempting to duplicate selected holes of famous golf courses. To make these, they purchased topographic maps of these holes made by someone named “Connor” who was in independent contractor to several golf courses. After selling Tour 18 copies of the maps, Connor assigned the copyright to the plaintiffs for their courses. The plaintiffs didn't want the exclusivity of their courses sullied by Tour 18 and sued. It was held that such maps were sufficiently original to be copyrightable, but because Tour 18 obtained them prior to the plaintiffs having copyright assigned, there was no infringement.
Alexandria Drafting Co. v. Amsterdam
U.S. District Court, E.D. PennsylvaniaDecided June 4, 1997
Nos. 95-1987, 95-6036 43 USPQ2d 1247
The decision that no infringement took place seems an uneasy decision by the court which noted that map copyright appears to be a thin protection. The description of the case in 43 USPQ2d is very detailed and it goes into previous legal precedents and the compilation methods of the maps in question. Much of the allegation rested on the presence of Alexandria Drafting Company's (ADC) “trap” streets on Franklin Maps products. It was ruled “trap” streets, being fictitious, are “false facts” and not protected. It gets a bit stranger as the draftsperson at Franklin in charge of the project later went to work for ADC and was a witness for ADC. Though Andrew Amsterdam, the proprietor of Franklin Maps, had maps by other map makers as reference, he insisted no street should be included from a competitor's product unless independently verified. Kenneth Easterday, the draftsperson, interpreted this to mean it was alright to use such streets. The court felt Amsterdam was, at worst, guilty of poor instruction and oversight. Subsequent editions of Franklin productions had the “trap” streets removed. The case is also briefly noted at http://www.geoplace.com/gw/1998/0998/998law.asp.
Having been trapped twice by “trap” streets on ADC atlases, I would like to comment that giving a long driveway a “trap” name is one thing, but to connect two sections of non-connecting streets with the same name is quite another.
While I hope I have found the major cases, there is always the suspicion that some cases have been indexed under strange headings—or not listed at all—in the various indexes checked. Time and many hands working on this will tell in the future. But this admittedly preliminary survey can still be of use if no more than to send researchers to summaries of cases which may coincide with their research needs. We can also see some trends operating in court decisions even if at times the various courts do not agree. Symbols alone are not copyrightable. Originality is an issue which vexes the courts and has various interpretations. Copyright itself seems to be broadly interpreted once the issue of the validity of any given copyright is established. While the boundaries of “fair use” are not exact and “substantial” is vague, to copy a portion of a protected work is seen to violate copyright protection. Copying unprotected portions (parts in the public domain) of a work is acceptable. Similarities, within limits, can be taken as evidence of copying. Works for hire are certainly protected, but the determining of such a nature is still not an exact science.
Map copyright is only part of the larger picture of copyright in the United States. The decision on telephone directories and the originality of compilations of any sort certainly impacts on court cases involving maps. Computer graphics and on-line material copyright is a major area of challenge which can relate to maps. Patent law has been cited in some map cases: indeed, map patents is an area with much work to be done.
The foregoing, as has been said, is preliminary only and not authoritative. Others are encouraged to expand it. And whether the foregoing is a “mere compilation” or rates as an original work, I leave to lawyers to decide.