I am working on a technical book teaching users how to analyse data using geographic information systems. I would like to use data from an open source data portal such as open source fire department data

My project would include redistributing the data with the book, analyzing the data in exercises for each book chapter and creating graphics and maps of the data.

Do I need to seek approval / permission to use this data in a book from the municipality? Is this open data fair to use? I am new to this topic so please feel free to offer suggestions on how to approach this issue.

  • Instead of distributing their data, perhaps provide information on how the GIS user can download it themselves. One skill within GIS is "finding the data" and another is "analyzing the data". They of course would need to learn how to agree (or not) with the Terms of the sites they download from. – user12711 May 30 at 23:02

Unfortunately, your link to resource refuses to resolve for me, so I cannot directly comment on the terms they've listed - I can tell you that most openly available GIS data will have a terms or disclaimer statement which explicitly defines the terms of use - most are actually quite permissive: some will even use copyleft, or creative commons licensing models.

This content below was copied from the Los Angeles county GIS portal's Terms of Use (the last GIS dataset I used in an architectural design context):

Terms of Use

Thank you for visiting the Los Angeles County GIS Data Portal (“Website”). This Website is operated by the County of Los Angeles (“LACO”, “County”, “we”, “us”, or “our”). The County makes a variety of datasets (“Data”) available for use and/or download on this Website. We ask that you carefully review these Terms of Use and all documents referenced in or linked from these Terms of Use (collectively, “Terms of Use”) before using our Website.

Subject to these Terms of Use, you are granted a license to copy, publish, distribute and/or transmit the Data, to adapt the Data and to exploit the Data for commercial and/or personal use (collectively, “License”). No ownership interest in the Data is bestowed on you pursuant to these Terms of Use or the License. The License will be automatically voided and terminated without notice to you if you violate these Terms of Use. The License does not grant you any right to use the Data in any way that suggests County’s endorsement of your use.

No Warranties.
We provide the Website and Data to you on an “as is” basis without any warranties of any kind, whether express or implied. To the extent permissible under applicable law, we hereby disclaim all warranties, express or implied, including but not limited to, warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. Without limiting the foregoing, we do not make any representations or warranties that (a) the information, including but not limited to, the Data or other materials available on our Website will be error-free, (b) defects in our Data will be corrected, (c) our Website or its servers are free of viruses or other harmful components and/or (d) our Website will be secure, accessible continuously and without interruption. Further, we do not make any representations or warranties regarding the use, accuracy, reliability, and/or completeness of the information, including but not limited to the Data, or other materials available on our Website.

Limitation of Liability.
To the fullest extent permitted by law, we do not accept any liability for any conduct, acts or omissions occurring at this Website. Under no circumstances will we be liable to you for any direct, consequential, incidental or special damages, including any lost profits or loss of data, even if you claim to have notified us about such damages, or for any claims by any third parties. In no event will County be liable for any claim, including claims by third parties, for loss or damages arising from erroneous Data and/or errors contained on the Website. County’s total liability arising out of these Terms of Use is limited to $100. Indemnity. You agree to indemnify, defend and hold us harmless, at your own expense, from and against any liability, fees (including attorney’s fees) and/or costs arising out of or relating to your breach or violation of these Terms of Use.*

This is a pretty typical ToU for GIS data from what I have seen being in the field for quite some time, but I add this caveat: I've seen that these terms differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction enough to strongly recommend that you carefully review the ToU for your specific data source.

  • 1
    I second that. Every resource has its own terms of use, and that should be the starting point. – Alexander Sep 19 '18 at 17:21

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