Geographic Information Science: Mastering the Legal Issues

George Cho wrote the book on Geospatial Legal Issues.

My Background

I have dabbled professionally in GIS since the early 1990’s while working as a city planner. In 2011, I enrolled full time in law school at the University of Missouri. If you have worked for anytime at all before attending law school one of the first things you do is try to find the answers to all the obscure legal questions that came up during your earlier career. I graduated in 2014, passed the bar that summer and have practiced as both an attorney and professional geographer since.

This is the GIS Data Policy Rosetta Stone

The legal questions surrounding geographic information systems (GIS), data policies, people, and whatnot (GI as the author calls it) are numerous and important.  These issues are becoming more critical as they are increasingly part of a community’s economic development policy. It is my belief that many communities destroy their chances at improved economic development because they don’t practice transparency well.  An example is where they attempt to recoup the cost of their geographic information systems program by recovering some of its cost through data sales.  These policies are short sighted because they throw up an opaque shield around essential public information.  Economic developers and other scouting agents have thousands of communities viewing for their love and affection.  They are open, transparent, and proactive in providing community data – this includes GIS data sets – to these potential new community economic engines. Thus, when a community makes it either difficult, expensive, or impossible to review their geospatial information, they move on to reviewing other communities.  And they move on quickly.

From the Back Cover of the Book:

GI Science is a fast growing technology that is an instigator of change and, as such, confronted with emergent legal problems. Spatial information users and providers are increasingly concerned about the legal implications relating to the use and dissemination of geographic information.

Geographic Information Science: Mastering the Legal Issues is about geographic information policy and the legal implications of sharing public sector spatial information data.  It covers issues of contract, liability and negligence for erroneous and inaccurate data, ownership of tangible and intangible intellectual property rights, and the question of privacy….

…Part of the Mastering GIS: Technology, Applications and Management Series, this book is essential reading for professional users of GIS data in the public and private sector,who need an overview of the legal implications of using such data….

The Book is Not Solely Focused on US Law

I found the book to be incredibly helpful in framing the major questions, comprehensive in its scope, and well researched. The author is Australian.  Thus he is rightly focused on Australian legal issues in geographic information science. Professor Cho does a great job of incorporating Commonwealth, and US law, into his survey and analysis.  He doesn’t get bogged down in useless exercises in comparative law. The book is well suited to framing a graduate GIS issues class, or a specialized law school course.

The Right GIS Data Policy is Critical for Economic Development

My experience has been that a poor GIS data sharing policy can cripple a community’s economic development. and are only becoming more complex as time passes. So, when I picked my states’ GIS data law as the topic of an independent research project I found this book to be a great guide.  Thus, if your governmental organization is considering reviewing your GIS data policy please get a copy of this book. Professor Cho’s book will outline all of your options. Even though the case law in this book is 11 or more years out of date, Professor Cho offers a thorough discussion of the pros and cons of almost every possible GIS data policy. I cannot stress enough how the wrong GIS data distribution and sales policy can harm your community’s economic development and decrease transparency into and within your local government.


While I can only attest to the US portions, at the time of publishing the case and statutes list were current and comprehensive. My personal copy sits on my reference bookshelf and is tabbed, highlighted, and somewhat tattered. I commend Professor Cho for this work. If Professor Cho updates his 2005 work, he can count on my purchasing at least one copy.


Get the book on

Author George Cho
5.0 out of 5 stars

Note: This is a review based on a review I wrote for on February 22, 2015

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

• ISBN-13: 978-0470850107
• ISBN-10: 0470850108


Last edited 20181020

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