A mathematician who pioneered a fractal-based urban-mapping technique is embroiled in a copyright battle that raises legal questions about whether a company can claim ownership of the definition of neighborhoods: their specific locations and boundaries. The dispute highlights a growing movement to quantify the amorphous tendrils connecting communities...
Vermont-based mapping company Maponics is now suing [Bernt] Wahl to keep him from creating any more neighborhood maps "derived from or containing parts of" the original maps he produced four years ago, which defined 7,000 neighborhoods in 100 cities. Wahl did that work as a contractor for a real estate web portal, which then sold the copyright to Maponics. Because American's biggest metropolitan areas were included in the original batch of maps, the lawsuit could effectively bar Wahl from the mapmaking business for good.
Not only that, but nonprofits and startup businesses could be forced to buy expensive software from Maponics if they want to use Wahl's work in setting up social networks, databases, etc. Would Maponics "own" the definitive boundaries for unofficial neighborhoods such as the French Quarter in New Orleans? What about Boston's SoWa?
UPDATE: Read the comments section of the Wired piece for a response from Maponics.