There is a database of precise GPS traces. A trace from this database can be used in an Advanced driver-assistance system to help keep the vehicle in its lane. The vehicle in question is driven by a human driver. Another precise GPS trace of vehicle's trajectory is recorded while using the original trace for ADAS - is the newly created GPS trace a derivative work of the original database or not?

The ADAS system is constantly monitoring vehicle's current position against the original GPS trace and may only issue a warning in case the vehicle should leave the path of the original GPS trace. The ADAS system by itself however is not able to intervene via vehicle steering and thus change the vehicle's path.

I am specifically interested in two cases - whether the above use case is a:

  1. derivative work according to the US copyright law

  2. derivative work in terms of the ODC Open Database License (ODbL)

1 Answer 1


A GPS trace of a car's path, on its own, is unlikely to be covered by copyright in the first place. It is primarily made up of facts (the locations of roads and lanes), and there is no creativity involved in its creation.

A database of facts may be protected by copyright as a compilation if there is some amount of creativity in how it is assembled, but this does not extend any protection to the individual contents of the database (cf. Feist v. Rural).

  • Well OpenStreetMap uses ODbL and it seems to work well.
    – Kozuch
    Mar 19, 2018 at 20:54
  • @Kozuch That license protects OSM's compilation as a whole, not the individual facts it's made up of.
    – user2994
    Mar 19, 2018 at 20:56
  • Ok. If there were more types of properties/features in my database like traffic signs and lights, crossings etc. do you think the protection would work better? Would any type of license (like my custom one) work better then since the collection of various types of facts would rather make a "work"?
    – Kozuch
    Mar 19, 2018 at 21:03
  • Unlikely. To quote O'Connor's findings in Feist v. Rural, "100 uncopyrightable facts do not magically change their status when gathered together in one place".
    – user2994
    Mar 19, 2018 at 21:09
  • Does that mean I can protect my whole db (meant with that multiple feature types) the same way OSM does but protecting single feature derivatives (question's topic) won't work?
    – Kozuch
    Mar 19, 2018 at 21:20

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