Geographic Data and Legal Liability Issues

George Cho

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In the 21st century, one could say that the digital map has fully taken over from its paper predecessor. Marine charts, for example, have been replaced by digital maps displayed on computer monitors. If digital technology is to become the universal means of using geographic data, then this chapter suggests that mapping services provided over the Internet may become a source of new legal liabilities and risks. As the use of geographic data becomes more widespread and as the technology supporting the geographic information systems (GIS) industry matures, it is opportune to reconsider some of the rights, responsibilities and liabilities of both the suppliers and users of such data. All too often one reads about geographic data being blamed for serious accidents or disasters, raising questions about who is responsible for these accidents or disasters. This chapter highlights several legal liability issues that have come to light in the application of GIS and evaluates where the responsibilities may lie for possible damage or harm caused by the use or misuse of geographic data. In addition, it discusses the eff ect of new dilemmas emerging from the evolving nature of the geographic industry by examining two examples: global positioning systems (GPS) and the use of Web 2.0 technologies. The chapter begins with a brief survey of emerging issues arising from the use of geographic data and the myriad ways in which legal liabilities may be incurred in the age of the Internet. The survey purports to demonstrate that traditional legal analyses underlying legal liability may have become less appropriate for dealing with geographic data. To appreciate this proposition, early conceptions of the legal framework applicable to geographic data need to be discussed fi rst, and liability risks in the production, use and deployment of geographic data and associated technology need to be assessed. Next, developments in the use of geographic data such as GPS and maps that are stored on remote servers in the distributed cloud environment (so-called cloud sourced), are scrutinized as pointers to future liability risks. The concluding section provides a summary of the recent developments in the use of geographic data and legal liability issues.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeographic Data and the Law: Defining New Challenges
EditorsKatleen Janssen, Joep Crompvoets
Place of PublicationBelgium
PublisherLeuven University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9789058679246
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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