- 1 About out-of-copyright maps
- 2 Maps which we can use
- 3 How to use old maps
About out-of-copyright maps
What is an out-of-copyright map?
Simply, an old map where the copyright has expired. The copyright expiry date varies for different countries and map producers:
- Maps published by the Ordnance Survey are Crown Copyright as stipulated in the terms of The Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1998 (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1988/Ukpga_19880048_en_1.htm). Therein, Chapter X. Section 163, states:
- "(3) Crown copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work continues to subsist—
- (a) until the end of the period of 125 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made, or
- (b) if the work is published commercially before the end of the period of 75 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was made, until the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was first so published."
- Since most Ordnance Survey maps have been published and and are classed as literary or artistic works produced by a government organisation, not one indentifiable person, Crown Copyright on them expires 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which a mapsheet was first published (so a reprint does not in itself create a new copyright).
- Most sheets published before 1959 have no copyright notice but state when the mapsheet was published in the lower margin and, if the mapsheet was revised or corrected since initial publication, when this occurred. Consider this actual example for OS 2.5" inch map NZ25 (edition code B/): "Made and published by the Director General of the Ordnance Survey, Chessington, 1954. Reprinted with corrections 1959". Assuming that the corrections were substantial enough to merit copyright, for this sheet, Crown Copyright will have expired at 24.00UTC December 31st 2009.
- The majority of sheets published after 1959 have a copyright notice and year.
- "6. All copyright works made by officers or servants of the Crown in the course of their duties qualify for Crown copyright protection under section 163 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA88). These copyrights are owned by Her Majesty the Queen. There is no departmental copyright. It is incorrect, therefore, to refer to works produced by government as being the copyright of a specific department. Accordingly, most of the material issued by departments should include the following statement:
- (C) Crown copyright [followed by year in which the work was first published]." 
- The year of first publication is what determines when a sheet passes out of copyright:
- (3) Crown copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work continues to subsist—
- (a) until the end of the period of 125 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made, or
- (b) if the work is published commercially before the end of the period of 75 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was made, until the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was first so published." 
- This implies copyright will lapse 50 years after the year of first publication in the copyright notice. This interpretation appears to be shared by ordnance survey in a freedom of information request. See also . The risk of OS reversing this attitude must be taken into consideration before using OS maps based on this interpretation. Any discussion to legal-talk.
- In the UK, for a map which was produced by one person alone, copyright expires 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the cartographer died.
- In the UK, for any other map, copyright expires 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the last (major) contributor died.
- It's up to you (not up to the current copyright holder!) to figure out who the main contributors were, and when they died.
- As it's so hard to find out when a non government produced UK map comes out of copyright, it may be best to just contact the company and ask them if they mind licensing the old map to us under suitable terms
- In the US, maps which are produced by the federal government are automatically public domain
- In the US, maps which were published prior to 1923 are in the public domain
- In the US, maps which were not published prior to 2003 have copyright expire 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author died
- In the US the copyright term for maps published between 1923 and 1964 is complicated: whether or not they are in the public domain depends on whether the copyright was renewed
- In the US, maps published between 1965 and 1978 have a copyright term of 95 years
- In the US, maps published after 1978 which were produced as work-for-hire (most commerical mapping), copyright expires 95 years after then end of the calendar year in which the map was produced
- In the US, maps published after 1978 which were not works for hire, copyright expires 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the last living author dies
- In Australia crown copyright subsists in government published map for 50 years from the end of the year of publication.
- In Australia copyright subsists in an otherwise published work for 50 years from the death of the author of the work if the copyright expired before 2005, and 70 years otherwise (This is due legislative changes to the Copyright Act passed in 2005 when the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was made).
Best to look for government published maps, published over 50 years ago.
Most government websites in Australia that hold copies scanned of old maps place restrictions on copying and use. Best to seek permission from the site owner if the conditions of use are not clearly compatible with how you will use them.
In Sweden there is nothing like the crown copyright, so standard copyright rules apply to government (primarily Lantmäteriet) produced maps. The cartographic part of maps have the same copyright protection as any other work, 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author(s) died. Or in the case that the author(s) can not be determined, 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the map was first published.
But the geographical information (facts), do not fall under copyright protection, the geographical information in a map is covered by our implementation of EU database protection (katalogskyddet), that protects the collection of facts for 15 years after its first publication.
So the information in maps older then 15 years is free (as in speech) to use, but the map image it self is still protected, and limit the duplication (scanning) and republication of the map.
Swedish maps older than 1930 have been digitized by the Stockholm University library, http://kartavdelningen.sub.su.se/kartrummet/kartskapet.htm
Maps published in Norway more than 70 years ago are according to http://lists.nuug.no/pipermail/kart/2010-June/001741.html without "opphavsrett"/copyright and can be used in OSM as long the source tag is used
For other countries, you need to:
- Figure out what special terms exist for government produced works
- Figure out if there's a work-for-hire fixed term for commercial maps
- Figure out what the term is for maps produced by one person (or many, if there's no work-for-hire provision)
How to date old maps
Old maps are often not dated.
Geographers Map Company maps have a three or four letter code in one corner, that can be turned into the cartographic date. There are also clues from the company name and address. See their wikipedia article for details on the encoding scheme and key company dates.
OS maps have been extensively and authoritatively bibliographised, including edition dates. See, for example, Leslie Watson's site, the books of Richard Oliver, and the collected wisdom of the Charles Close Society.
Otherwise, you're on your own! Try looking for new roads and railways. Look for changing road numbers, too. Pick up clues from the typography (for example, is a 'modern' typeface like Gill Sans used?).
Buying and scanning old maps
eBay and abebooks are your friends. Secondhand bookshops are also your friends and are more likely to turn up bargains. When you need to complete a collection, look at professional dealers such as (for OS maps) David Archer and Forbes Robertson... but bear in mind they're likely to be more expensive than secondhand bookshop finds.
What are you looking for? Well, unless your interest is purely historical (and maybe we could start tagging segments with 'start-date' and 'end-date'... ;) ), you want something with a regular projection, so it can be scanned and then orthorectified.
Paper maps are easier to scan than cloth maps. Flat paper maps are better still. (Ex-military maps are a good way of collecting the latter.) Preview Services (based near Heathrow, UK) are very reasonable for large quantities of scanning. Also Blackadder has an A0 size Contex scanner if you can get your maps (flat maps only) to Birmingham, UK.
Maps which we can use
Old maps which OSM people have
|Ordnance Survey Six Inches to 1 Mile||(1:10,560), ???? sheets||19C onwards in different epochs||England & Wales||blackadder||Collection of flat sheets, mostly Midlands focus, from Universities of Coventry (thanks to Stuart Gill) and Middlesex (Steve Chilton).||More details and index of current holding at: Six Inches to 1 Mile.|
|Ordnance Survey Provisional/First Edition||2.5in to the mile (1:25:000), 2027 sheets||1945 through - 1980's||Scotland (part), England & Wales||blackadder||Almost total coverage held, though not all out of copyright (50 yrs) yet. Scanning and tiling commenced Oct 2009. Sheets are OSGB projection (National Grid). Positional accuracy once scanned is around 10m or better. Collection was slow initially and mostly limited to folded sheets but a large donations from the University of Glasgow (thanks to Mike Shand) and later the University of Coventry (thanks to Stuart Gill) has resulted in coverage being mostly complete though we are always looking for more flat (not folded) sheets to fill gaps and complement the range of print editions for each sheet.||More details and index of current holding at: Provisional/First Edition.|
|Ordnance Survey Second Series/Pathfinder||2.5in to the mile (1:25:000),???? sheets||1965 through - 1980's||Scotland, England & Wales||blackadder||Almost total coverage held, though not out of copyright (50 yrs) yet. Collection is dominated by donations of flat sheets from the University of Glasgow (thanks to Mike Shand) and later the University of Coventry (thanks to Stuart Gill)||More details and index of current holding at: Second Series/Pathfinder.|
|Ordnance Survey 7th Series||1in to the mile (1:63,360), 190 sheets||Late 50s/early 60s||Scotland, England & Wales||steve8||Full set of flat sheets - partially scanned. OSGB projection (National Grid). All will gradually come out-of-copyright in next couple of years||Detail and Index at 7th Series. website|
|Ordnance Survey New Popular Edition||1in to the mile (1:63,360), 114 sheets||1940s/early 50s||England & Wales||Richard||Fully scanned and orthorectified. OSGB projection (National Grid). Mike Calder also has a full set of these, but not scanned.||npemap.org.uk|
|Ordnance Survey Scottish Popular Edition||1in to the mile (1:63,360), 91 sheets||late 1940s based on 1920s surveys, corrected||Scotland||Mike Calder||Fully scanned. OSGB projection (National Grid).||npemap.org.uk Scotland DVD by request to Mike Calder|
|Ordnance Survey Second War Revision 1940||1in to the mile (1:63,360), 146 sheets||1940 based on 1920s surveys, corrected||England and Wales||Mike Calder||Not Scanned. National Grid overprint.|
|Ordnance Survey Quarter-Inch Series||1/4in to the mile (1:253,440), 18 sheets||1940s||Great Britain||Richard||Fully scanned, to be orthorectified. OSGB projection (National Grid).|
|Ordnance Survey Atlas of England and Wales||1/4in to the mile (1:253,440), 24 large folios||1922||England & Wales||Richard|| Not yet scanned. Pre-National Grid. Mercator projection?
(Andrew Rowbottom comments: given the date, the projection used is probably the same as for the Popular Edition 1" maps, which is a Cassini projection centered on Delamere Forest)
|Ordnance Survey Atlas of England and Wales||1/4in to the mile (1:253,440), 24 large folios||1922||England & Wales||Mike Calder||Scanned, copy on the web|
|Ordnance Survey Quarter-Inch Series||1/4in to the mile (1:253,440), 18 sheets||1940s||Great Britain||Richard||Fully scanned, to be orthorectified. OSGB projection (National Grid). Ritchie333 has put tiles up here.|
|Ordnance Survey Ten Mile road map||10in / mile, 2 sheets||1932||Great Britain||Ritchie333||Scanned, rough orthorectification done though still contains plenty of innacuracies||Link|
|Geological Survey "Ten Mile" map||10 inches to the mile, two sheets||1948||England, Wales, and Scotland||Mike Calder||Scanned.|
|Hydrographer of the Navy - Atlas of Tides and Tidal Streams British Isles and Adjacent Waters||16 charts, 20 inches by 24, plus notes and diagrams||1946||British Isles and Adjacent Waters||Mike Calder||Not yet scanned.|
|Ordnance Survey "Ministry Of Transport" Half-Inch Series||1/2in to the mile (1:126,720), 40 sheets (England & Wales), 32 sheets (Scotland)||1923 - c.1932||Great Britain||Ritchie333||All of England and Wales and about half of Scotland scanned and orthorectified. Predates National Grid.||Link|
|1/4in to the mile (1:253,440) except Highlands/Ireland, 96 near-A4 sheets||1920s||UK & Ireland||Richard||Not yet scanned. Bartholomew mapping. Unknown projection.|
|16 A4 sheets||1920s/30s||GB||Richard||Not yet scanned. Unknown projection.|
|31 near-A4 sheets||1933/34||London||Richard||Fully scanned.|
|1:14000||1933||Stuttgart, Germany||Fabian Fingerle||Not yet scanned.|
|Ordnance Survey - British Antarctic Territories||Mostly 1:25,000 and 1:200,000 scale||Mostly 1950's and 60's (||Antarctic Peninsular||blackadder||Contact blackadder for more info||Detail and Index at|
|Bartholomew Quarter Inch Maps Of Ireland||6 sheets||1940||Ireland||Scanned and georeferenced||Link|
(I've got quite a few more, smaller ones which I'll eventually summarise here, too - Richard)
I've got quite a collection of o-o-c mapping at 6-inch to the mile (mainly Somerset and Gloucestershire - includes all of Bristol I think) as well as more at 1", and 5miles to the inch for the whole UK. I will be cataloguing in the near future. Blackadder 06:53, 26 Apr 2006 (UTC)
Old maps found elsewhere on the web
- Hipkiss' Scanned Old Maps
- Scans of the OS Popular Edition (~1930s E&W) displayed using the Google maps API. Only partial coverage and not as up to date as the New Popular Edition, but may be of interest.
- National Library of Scotland
- SABRE Maps (Seventh Series, Quarter Inch, Ten Mile, MOT Half Inch)
- Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection of The University of Texas at Austin and their Historical Maps . Wiki page for Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
- Military Mapping Surveys of Austria-Hungary (until 1918):
- London Underground Maps the ones from 1937 might be crown copyright (which would've expired), or might be copyright "Geographia Ltd" - needs further investigation
- United States Geographic Survey maps from the early 1900s
- The World of Maps - maps.ethz.ch
- The Libre Map project - Contains 24k scale USGS topographic maps for all 50 states, SVG border files for all US states, and US Census TIGER data.
- Old German Topographische Meßtischblätter (1:25000 topographic ordinance survey maps, until 1945)
- Greif - GeoGREIF - Historische Kartenwerke hosted at "Institut für Geographie und Geologie der Universität Greifswald". The youngest maps are from 1942 and might still be covered by copyright. 6210 historic maps in scale 1:25.000 of central Europe (Germany in pre-1945 borders, today also Poland, Russia, Lithuania)
- Mapster - Polish Server with old German maps covering the area East of Oder-Neisse-border
- Australia NSW Parish and Municipality Maps - Most are from from before 1960, but be careful as a couple aren't. An accessible index of avaliable files can be found at Municipality Parish Pastor
See also the wiki page for Old_Australia_maps
Operators of these sites often claim a new copyright for their scans. Whether this is valid, or whether arguments similar to those in Bridgeman v Corel would apply, is arguable and may well vary by jurisdiction.
Old maps found in recent books
(please insert lots of lovely comments here)
Note especially Bridgeman v Corel, a US ruling that says no copyright can exist in 'facsimile' reproductions of out-of-copyright documents. The judge also ruled that, in his opinion, this would also be the case under UK law. However, specialist lawyers in the UK appear to be of the opinion that Bridgeman vs Corel does not work under UK law and that such copyright does exist (source: some legal book I found in Blackwell's which I must get round to buying some day). -- Richard).
It appears that Britain's National Gallery, at least, believes there is a copyright subsisting in facsimile reproductions of out-of-copyright works; see their Quarrel with the Wikimedia Foundation. -- Ed Avis <email@example.com> 14:31, 5 October 2009 (UTC)
How to use old maps
Alternatively, once you have a scanned image of a map you can open it in a program such as GPS Utility. You need to calibrate the map with a couple of known coordinates - use either GPS waypoints or grid intersections - see the Help in GPSU on 'Learning Calibration of Bitmaps' for more detail. You can then trace the image of the feature (road, railway line, river etc) you want to record. This track can then be exported as a GPX file ready for import into OSM.