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Geographical information systems (GIS)

This guide contains resources for researchers about Geographical Information system resources


Are Geographical Information Systems protected by copyright?

Copyright is the legal protection given to a person’s original expression that has fixed form. Geographical Information Systems will be protected by copyright – not necessarily in the individual components of data, but more commonly in the particular way the data is arranged.

This means that the normal rules of copyright will apply in relation to using a Geographical Information System.


Can I use data-mining techniques when working with Geographical Information Systems?

Each of the Geographical Information Systems will have specific licence terms. When using these databases you must comply with their terms. While many of the GIS datasets will be licensed quite openly – e.g. under a Creative Commons licence - others will be much more restrictive. You will need to look to the ‘click through’ terms of agreement or metadata when accessing the data to confirm what terms you will need to follow.  Many data providers license their data to be mined for research purposes only and either prohibit or require special negotiation for data mining with potential commercial applications.

Unlike some other jurisdictions, Australia does not have a special copyright exception for data-mining. This being the case, researchers may copy limited amounts of a database for research or study purposes, or for critique and review, in accordance with their copyright fair dealing rights, but may not copy, reformat or digitize a complete database without permission from the copyright owner.

If you have any questions about licensing conditions or negotiating permission for potential commercial applications of data mining with data providers please contact your Librarian.

Citing and referencing spatial data

Spatial data used in assignments, projects and research needs to be cited like any other type of information. The source and format of data will dictate which elements to use in your citation. These elements include, but are not limited to, the map title, author, publisher, place of publication, scale, URL (address of website), and date of publication, retrieval or creation. 

The following resources are recommended as examples of how to cite spatial data correctly. It is important to keep in mind that the key to citing correctly is consistency. Always check with your lecturer if you have any questions.