Cartography and map-based mashups are often based on Google Maps/ Google Earth (all rights reserved) or Open StreetMap (ODbL/CC BY-SA), neither of which are compatible with publishing the results under CC BY (default license for open-access journals) or CC0.

Which resources exist that allow to create maps/ map tiles/ geoshapes/ mashups under CC0 or at least CC BY?

The main use cases I have in mind are mapping
* disease outbreaks, floods or other disasters
* biodiversity
* scientific expeditions.

Since these may occur anywhere, it would be beneficial to be able to build an infrastructure using specific tools and services that can be applied to any location around the globe (perhaps also across historic times and geological ages), or even for other celestial objects.


1 Answer 1


In the US, there are several Public Domain licensed sources for historical and current cartography, to list a few:

  1. The New York Public Library Digital Collections (historical): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/search/index?filters%5BphysicalLocation_mtxt_s%5D%5B%5D=Map+Division&filters%5Brights%5D=pd&keywords=#

  2. The National Map Viewer (current): http://viewer.nationalmap.gov/viewer/

Several more sources are listed at Public Domain Sherpa (http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/public-domain-maps-resources.html), to list a few here:

  1. The CIA World Factbook (current): https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

  2. National Map (current): http://nationalmap.gov/small_scale/

  3. Library of Congress (historical): http://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/gmpage.html

That covers a lot of basic uses for US cartography. It's much harder to obtain Public Domain street level maps, but you have to start somewhere. There may be other countries with lots of public domain maps, and it would be great to compile a list of these sources here, Wiki-style. For my country, I can tell you that maps produced by the government in Slovenia are licensed for non-commercial use only.

  • I'm mainly after tools and services that can handle any part of the globe (just edited my question to make that clearer), but if we can't find these, then your suggestions would certainly be useful in US contexts. Aug 4, 2015 at 21:48
  • I understand, and agree that ideally the CC0 or Public Domain sources would include global cartographic data, but I don't know of a comprehensive source like that. On the other hand, the CIA World Factbook is global, as are some of the other sources. They're US-centric, but not exclusively.
    – Jure Triglav
    Aug 4, 2015 at 21:53
  • The main use cases I have in mind is mapping disease outbreaks, floods or other disasters, which may occur anywhere, as could discoveries of new species. In both cases, it would be beneficial to be able to build an infrastructure using specific tools and services that can be applied to any location. Will add that to the question as well. Aug 4, 2015 at 21:56

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