Copyright and Cartography

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About the project

Throughout history, maps have been made and used in different ways and for different purposes. They can be seen as cultural artefacts, artworks, sacred objects and tools for wayfinding. Often their purposes are legal – they can be used to administer property regimes, resolve proprietary disputes or make territorial claims. But what about the laws that regulate the maps themselves, that decide who can own them or who can distribute them? This website explores these questions, juxtaposing images of maps with the legal documents intimately involved in their creation and circulation.

The website forms part of a project investigating the history of cartography and the history of copyright law. The project seeks to evaluate the relationship between the legal regime of copyright and the production, dissemination and use of maps, charts and plans in the 18th and 19th centuries in the United Kingdom and Australia. This website makes available a selection of archival, manuscript and cartographic sources located and analysed as part of this project. By making available the key materials located for this project, the website hopes to open up space for new explorations and perspectives on the history of both copyright and cartography.

The project is funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project Scheme. Research on the Australian materials was carried out under the NSLA Honorary Fellowship Scheme at the State Library of NSW.


Isabella Alexander

Chief Investigator

Isabella is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney. She researches and teaches in the area of intellectual property law, specialising in the law of copyright. Her research lies mainly in the fields of legal history and copyright law. Her research interests include: copyright law, legal history, and intellectual property law.

Kosta Hountalas

Research Assistant

Kosta is a self-confessed copyright nerd, often heard preaching the virtues of paying for episodes of Game of Thrones to disgruntled pay-TV consumers. He plies his trade as a lawyer at MinterEllison whilst moonlighting as a (fairly average) musician. Don't ask him what he thinks about music, coffee or online piracy unless you have nothing to do for about an hour.

Divya Murthy

Research Assistant

Divya has always been very passionate about the media and entertainment industries. At university, Divya studied a combined degree of law and arts. In her arts degree, she majored in Italian studies. In her law degree, she took all the media law and intellectual property law electives. For a short period, she also co-hosted a program for the university radio station.


I am enormously grateful to staff at the following institutions for assistance in locating material: State Library of New South Wales; Bodleian Library, Oxford; National Archives UK; National Archives of Australia. I extend particular thanks to Maggie Patton, State Library of NSW, and to Morgan Richards (The Design Embassy) and Douglas Duhaime who made this website happen.

Copyright and Cartography

Exploring the history of cartography and copyright law

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