December 22, 2004 20:33 | Culture / Political / Technology

Canadian public geo-data copyrighted and sold by the government

Some cool folks, working on a cool project, are looking for some reliable geo-data for Canada. Place names and GPS coordinates, mostly. So I turn to Natural Resources Canada of course, the governmental body that has this stuff.

The first shocker is that they want $100 for the text file "product" we could use. Ok, I figure, theoretically my taxes cover their activities in this field but hey, $100 is not so bad for the level of apparent quality of the data.

But oh my... the terms of sale are outrageous:

1. The End-User acknowledges that the Data is protected under the Copyright Act of Canada.
Why? This should really be public domain. We paid for it already, and it is meant to serve us.
2. The Data is licensed, not sold, to the End-User for use subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement. The End-User owns the disk(s) or tape(s) on which the Data is recorded, but Canada retains all ownership interests in the Data.
Same as above. Why is it "theirs"? Isn't the Canadian government, essentially, "us"?
3. The End-User shall use the Data only on a single computer. The End-User must obtain a supplementary licence from Canada before using the Data in connection with systems, multiple central processing units, computer networks, or emulations on a mainframe or minicomputer.
Uh, hello 1973? The age of the standalone computer is looong gone.
4. The End-User may make one (1) copy of the Data for the purpose of backup only, which copy may not be used except in the event that the primary copy is damaged, destroyed or lost. The End-User shall reproduce on the backup copy the copyright notice appearing on the disk(s) or tape(s) on which the Data is recorded.
Gee, thanks for caring.
5. Except as provided in Article 4 above, the End-User shall not duplicate or reproduce the Data, in whole or in part, in any form or format whatsoever without the prior written consent of Canada.
Yeah right. Copy, paste. Try to stop us.
6. The End-User shall not sell, loan, lease, distribute, transfer or sublicense the Data or otherwise assign any rights under this Agreement to any third party without the prior written consent of Canada.
The fact that they are charging for this stuff makes this understandable... but that self same fact is itself not. In other words, I don't see why, or how, they can charge for this data AND hold us to these terms. Is National Resources Canada a business? If it is, why is it a governmental agency? What am I missing here?
7. If the End-User wishes to make any other copies of the Data for internal use, written authorization for such copies must be obtained from Canada prior to any copies being made and a royalty fee will be charged for each additional copy of the Data made by the End-User.
Yes big brother...
8. The Data is provided on an "as is" basis and Canada makes no guarantees, representations or warranties respecting the Data, either expressed or implied, arising by law or otherwise, including but not limited to, effectiveness, completeness, accuracy or fitness for a particular purpose.
Hah. After all that, and a hundred bucks, you don't take any responsibility for the quality of the data. C'mon get serious.

I dunno. Smacks me as wrong.


A few things: first, you say "We paid for it already, and it is meant to serve us." That would be fine if there were some kind of geographic constraints involved in downloading and buying the files, but as you know, there are not. They are unlikely to create two copyright scenarios (one for Canadians and one for "others") so they basically default to giving the shaft to everyone.

Second, as this is a government agency thingy, there is a requirement for them to run it through the lawyering mill eight or nine times because (a) they need to make sure they cover every possible scenario, and (b) politicians and bureaucrats are mostly all lawyers and they like to keep their lawyering friends busy (and wealthy).

Finally, under the circumstances, this deal is eligible to fall under the little-known "as if" clause of Copyright Act of Canada. The act states that under (circumstances like this) you simply roll your eyes, say "as if!" and do whatever you want with the data.

Blork! Thanks for the clarifications! :)
Hadn't thought of the first, and personally it wouldn't bother me but eh, that's just me... the second sounds like it makes sense... and the third is so very canadian. I love it. :)