Space images are stolen on the ground

The article named “Space images are stolen on the ground. Digital mapping information has poor legal protection” is published in the “Rossiyskaya Business-Gazeta” №871 (42). The material author is the copyright expert, ScanEx’s lawyer Ekaterina Gyrdo.

“Satellite images and maps have long ceased to be a rare and unique product. Nowadays, mass use of Earth observation images not only accelerates and streamlines and what is more important – makes decision-making more unbiased in different economic areas, but also gives birth to satellite data illegal use. It sometimes happens on a commercial scale via the Internet.

Foreign and Russian web-mapping resources (Google Earth, Yandex.Maps, Kosmosnimki.Ru, etc.), by opening free access to large volumes of cartographic data and satellite images, often become victims of those, who download satellite data underlayers and then use them in their activities and sometimes even resell them via Internet-shops. At first sight there is nothing special in free downloading and using satellite images, however de-facto, it is illegal.

Mapping products are regarded as intellectual property and are subject to copyrighting according to international and Russian legislation. Mapping products are geographical maps, atlases, Earth remote sensing data, including satellite images (in 2D and 3D-formats, printed and digital/software version).

Geographic data, represented in digital format, are digital information, results of a creative work, including satellite images data processing efforts. This digital information is the digital database, recognized, according to Section IV of the Civil Code of RF, as subject to copyrighting. According to Section VII of the Civil Code of RF it is protected by the law.

Digital information is applied by the users within those rights and using those methods that are mentioned in license agreement signed between the copyright holder and the user. Primary ways of using digital maps are the preparation of copies on electronic media, processing and creation of derivatives and new products based on initial digital map, recording on the server of derivatives and new digital maps for further use and display on Internet.

Issues related to digital maps processing are currently poorly studied from the legal viewpoint. Possibilities of mathematic processing of electronic maps are practically unlimited. Can such processing be regarded as a creative work? Who gets the right to the new cartographic product? These questions need additional studying.

Creation of the new digital cartographic products is a creative work. Digital maps can be generated using automatic technologies by direct changes on-site, changes based on stereo photogrammetric models (creation of initial maps), digitization of the content of the already created maps (generation of derived maps). As a result of such processing a new cartographic product is created – an electronic map, however it is illegal to use it without prior consent of the initial map right holder. Unlike information and software support, applied only as a tool for map creation and having no impact on its legal status, the use of the initial map is impossible without prior consent of the copyright holder.

To advice about the rules of using cartographic and satellite data, the developers of web-mapping services publish end-user licenses. Adherence to license terms (meaning the copyright as well) is mandatory for operations with data on a legal basis.

The acting legislation has the following types of liability for the copyright infringement: civil (Atricles 1250, 1252, 1253, 1299, 1300, 1311 of RF Civil Code), administrative (Article 7.12 of RF Administrative Code), criminal (Article 146, 272, 273 RF Criminal Code).

Posting information on the Internet is always connected with the problem of detection, control and prevention of infringements. Compared to the infringement procedure itself, remedial and compensation actions are too costly. Despite the fact that Internet piracy level decreases in Russia every year, it is still quite high. This is not due to the volume of liability or legislation imperfection, but due to low legal culture and legal sense of our society instead.

The well-known economic truth says: demand breeds supply. If there is no demand for counterfeit digital products, the supply will sharply reduce. Understanding that copyright violation is equivalent to theft helps reduce the number of illegal downloads and illegal use of cartographic products. Disapproval of digital maps illegal use and illegal behavior in sphere of intellectual property by the society may considerably reduce the demand on counterfeit products and illegal application of digital cartographic information.

In parallel with the increase in legal sense of the user it is required to improve technical aspects as well, enabling to control downloading and use of digital cartographic information. Economic factors, impacting the legitimacy of using the digital cartographic products posted in the Internet, should be taken into consideration as well. For example, it is required to know that the fact that by paying for a legal product, the user increases the competitiveness of this product, which allows the copyright holder to reduce its cost”.

Source: Rossiyskaya Business-Gazeta
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