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Are USGS topographic maps copyrighted?

All topographic maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are in the public domain and are not copyrighted except for the following three cases that apply only to US Topo maps (produced 2009-present):

  • Most maps in the period 2010-2016 contain commercially licensed road data (see note below).
  • Orthoimages in Alaska are commercially licensed. 
  • Orthoimages in Hawaii were commercially licensed until 2016. Hawaii US Topo maps produced in 2017 use public domain NAIP imagery. The source of imagery for Hawaii maps to be produced after 2017 is under discussion. 

The commercial providers for those three sources retain copyright as noted in the map credit legend (in the lower left corner of the map collar) and in the metadata file that’s attached to GeoPDF and GeoTIFF format maps. 

All other data used in USGS topographic maps are in the public domain. US Topo and OnDemand Topo maps--even those that include commercial data--can be reproduced freely and used for any purpose, provided copyright notices for the three cases listed above are retained and indicated. Images derived from the maps can be used in reports and publications if these three sources are appropriately credited; normal fair-use principles apply. We do ask that you acknowledge the USGS as the source of the map. 

Roads on US Topo maps: From 2010 through 2015, all US Topo maps in the 48 conterminous states, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico used commercially licensed road data, except in National Forests, where public domain data from the U.S. Forest Service was used in all cases. In November 2016, we stopped using commercial data and now use public domain data from the U.S. Census Bureau. A small number of the earliest Alaska US Topo maps used commercial road data, but Alaska US Topos produced beginning 2014 use public domain data from Alaska DOT, supplemented in some areas with public domain data from other government agencies. Check the credit legend in the lower-left corner of the map collar to determine if a particular map includes copyrighted data, or see the attached XML metadata file by opening the GeoPDF file in Acrobat Reader and clicking on the paperclip icon. As noted above, maps with copyrighted data can be freely used and distributed provided the copyright notice is retained.

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