As a Professional Land Surveyor, I get this question a lot! Real Estate agents, Banks, and Lawyers need to understand that you can’t just find an old survey map and copy or insert for use in closing without getting permissions.

Are Land Survey Maps Protected by Copyright? Understanding the Legalities of Survey Maps

Land survey maps are an essential tool for property owners, developers, and contractors. These maps provide detailed information about the location, size, and boundaries of a piece of land. They play a crucial role in the buying, selling, and development of properties, making them some of the most valuable documents in real estate. As a result, it’s essential to understand the legal protections that are in place for these maps. One question that often arises is whether land survey maps are protected by copyright.

The short answer is yes, land survey maps can be protected by copyright. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, maps and other types of technical drawings can be protected under copyright law. This means that the creators of these maps have the exclusive right to control their use, reproduction, and distribution. However, there are some important limitations to these protections that are important to understand.

One of the most significant limitations is that copyright protection does not extend to the facts depicted on the map. For example, the shape, size, and location of a piece of land cannot be protected by copyright. The information that is protected is the original expression of that information, such as the way the map was created, the layout, and the design elements (ex. surveyors seal & signature, title block, surveyors notes, symbols, annotations).

Another important factor to consider is that copyright protection is automatic. As soon as a map is created, it is protected by copyright. There is no need to register the map with the U.S. Copyright Office, although doing so can provide some additional benefits. For example, registering the copyright can make it easier to prove ownership in the event of a dispute, and it may also provide a higher level of protection in certain legal proceedings.

So, what does all of this mean for land surveyors and property owners who use survey maps? First, it’s important to understand that the copyright in these maps belongs to the person or company that created the map, not to the person or company who paid for the map to be created. This means that if you are a property owner and you want to use a survey map that was created by a surveyor, you should obtain permission from the surveyor or the surveyor’s company before using the map.

Second, it’s important to be aware that copyright law provides significant penalties for infringement. If you use a survey map without permission, you could be liable for damages, including any profits that you may have made as a result of the use of the map. This is why it’s essential to get the necessary permissions and licenses before using a survey map.

In conclusion, land survey maps are protected by copyright and can provide valuable protection for the creators of these maps. As a property owner, it’s important to understand the limitations of these protections and to obtain the necessary permissions and licenses before using a survey map. By doing so, you can avoid legal disputes and ensure that you are using the map in a manner that is compliant with the law.

Tucker Engineering is a civil engineering and land surveying company with more than 25 years of experience in Alabama. We have a team of highly experienced and skilled surveyors and engineers that will assess you and give you a personalized quote for your property. Ready to get started? Contact us today!