In NYT story author got inspiration for story from the Straight Dope & book is now to be a movie!

Interesting story here

So mapmakers would invent towns so that if they saw the fake town on another mapmaker’s map, they’d have proof of copyright violation? Clever.

A Facebook acquaintance saw that article and posted on our hometown’s page, asking about a couple of towns that he’d seen on area maps but could never find. As it turns out, those towns did exist at one time but are totally gone now.

I wonder if the book is any good. Anyone read it?

Cool! I think I might have contributed in a modest way to that thread, about eight years ago, because there was a supposed “copyright trap” right on the street I grew up on (in the Hagstrom’s Street Atlas) – the street was shown as crossing a creek when in fact it did not. The trap idea was explained to me by a real mapmaker I befriended when I was ten years old.

My first career was as a mapmaker with both of the only two digital mapping companies at the time, before google got into the business. I was one of those who added some of these copyright traps to the maps. The electronic maps we were creating would have been easy to copy, so this was an important security step. Usually, the trap was a small street added somewhere, with no name or addresses, and may have been a one-way cul-de-sac, so no navigation would occur on it. The trap had to be captured and recorded somewhere so someone could later check other maps to ensure our maps were not being used by unauthorized users. I am not sure how/if they even do this today.

So did you ever catch any map thieves?

It could be populated with copyright infringement-bait from Who’s Who, or perhaps that noted recluse Lt Kije.

It’s been done.

They don’t do this any more. There was a thread about the original article and 10-15 years ago the courts said that maps were a depiction of something real, and real things can’t be copyrighted. The depiction can be, but not the information.

A lot of these towns are either really old, or really small, or both. A lot of times they are a house or two. Sometimes the are on really old maps and have since gone away but get caught up when the cartographers reference older maps.

Then sometimes there’s the cartographers that like to add a little something themselves. :smiley:

What has?

Thanks! I had forgotten what a thorough column that was, and how long ago it was. It helped for Cecil’s research that Rand McNally was a Chicago-based company at the time; alas, I believe they have since succumbed to the digital world of virtual globes and GPS-enabled smartphone maps.
Above, I mentioned that I grew up on a street wrongly depicted in a popular street atlas as crossing a certain creek – well, despite my cartographer friend’s assertion that it might have been a “copyright trap,” I think in this case it was probably just something else Cecil alluded to: a public right-of-way shown on an official village (or county, or city) plat map/planning map as a street, when in fact that street or street segment was never built.
Just as Cecil concluded, I’m sure copyright traps abounded, though, and probably still do in a few contexts, though these days it would be harder to sustain without someone “publicizing” that they knew a particular feature was incorrect.

Now I read Edward the Head’s post … So, after that court decision, I guess this isn’t done anymore at all. That would surprise me a little, but I trust that this is so.

As Edward pointed out, though, some bored or mischievous cartographers will sometimes include fake items just for fun. (I once inserted a fake island on a nautical chart on April Fool’s Day, and persuaded my uncle, our chartered boat’s skipper, to set sail for it. I spilled the beans before we’d pulled up anchor.)

A more recent follow-up.

To repeat myself, copyright traps were never as prevalent as the general public believes, and since 1991 (the Feist decision) they have been of no legal use whatever. Virtually all map mistakes are just that: mistakes. Commercial map publishing was a low-margin business, and there was, unfortunately, no real market value to greater accuracy.

Future movies based on Straight Dope columns, threads, and memes:

Taking Off from the Conveyor Belt
Stop or I’ll Shoot with My 1920’s-Style Death Ray
Flying Down to Rio with Duran Duran
Going the Whole Nine Yards

Thanks, Mr. Downtown. In my post #11, please replace “abounded” with “occasionally occurred.”

Wendell – ha! Remember that film about Mohammmed’s life which cleverly avoided the Muslim structure against depicting the Prophet by filming the whole thing from Mohammed’s perspective? A Dope film could pull the same trick with its Cecil Adams character. :slight_smile:

For shame, you missed the two romantic movies of:
Hi Opal!
Rocks in the Quarry.

I do know that at times too map makers will take the proposals for streets and throw them on maps and at times the roads never get finished.

What I’ve always loved is that the mappers take the USGS quads, take all the information off of them, then copyright the info. They didn’t go and do the research themselves! One has to wonder why all the county maps I’ve seen are usually 1:24,000. Or better yet the companies that take a nautical chart, cut it up and take off the NOAA badges and copyright it and then say not for navigation on it.


And, no.

Once, for 20 minutes.

I would pay cash money to see “DH18"IJBD - The Movie”

:smiley: Yep, done that myself. Though it’s getting harder to do with some of the automated checks now.

Otisburg? Otisburg?!