Standards group approves geospatial-rights model

Open Geospatial Consortium's DRM reference model should help solve liability issues

The Open Geospatial Consortium Inc. has approved a specification for modeling digital-rights agreements for geospatial data.

The Geospatial Digital Rights Management Reference Model 'defines the framework for Web service mechanisms and rights languages to articulate, manage and protect the rights of all participants in the geographic information marketplace, including the owners of intellectual property and the users who wish to use it,' according to OGC's press release.

What the GeoDRM RM represents, said Carl Reed, OGC's chief technology officer, is an important step toward giving geospatial-data providers the kinds of legal protections they need if they're going to open up their databases to end users.
The establishing of clearly agreed-upon and understood digital rights agreements, Reed told GCN, is important to remove 'the fear of litigation.'

Whose responsibility is it if a map program steers a driver down the wrong road and they end up driving off an incomplete high overpass? And whose responsibility is it if an ambulance doesn't reach an injured person because the destination address was misrepresented on a map?

'This whole issue of liability is lurking in the background,' said Reed. And a related ' and very tricky ' issue is that of defining the 'quality' of data. 'When you get a map on the screen, what is it useful for?' asked Reed. 'And how do you warn an end user not to use it for certain things and make decisions that may end up being wrong and result in injury?' Reed says OGC has a new working group looking into the issue.

With the approval of the GeoDRM RM, said Reed, the next step is to actually create specific language for agreements. Once vendors and other data providers have the protection of such agreements, he said, they are likely to be more open about offering the data in ways that it can be put to use.

OGC is a Massachusetts-based consortium of more than 335 companies, government agencies, research organizations and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available geospatial specifications.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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