Same Place, Different Maps?

April 7, 2008

As it should be a well-known fact by now, service from popular online site has been interrupted following its parent company, Virtual Map’s loss to a government agency (specifically the Singapore Land Authority) in a court battle, in which the latter accused the firm for copyright infringement in its maps.

What greatly puzzles me is the amount of “room” for copyright infrigement there is in maps. The whole irony of it all lies in the fact that if the maps look different, then one of them is certainly inaccurate – aren’t maps supposed to be an accurate representation of the landscape and the landmarks of a particular place? How different are the maps expected to be. Green grass in SLA’s but blue in Virtual Map’s? Buildings to be shaded in a different colour? Different font size to be used? Different scale?

I am sorry that I sound bitter, but on behalf of fellow Singaporeans, I believe that, while not exactly 100% accurate, has proven its mettle in providing mostly reliable information on road directions, as well as an MRT & bus guide, all in a single site.

That, is precisely what is lacking in SLA’s StreetMap , which only provides a fundamental topographic view of a particular location and its surroundings, but not road directions on how to get there. Which inevitably means more hassle for the users at the end of the day as they’d still have to figure out how to get there.

In the interim, however, the website states that “ services will be interrupted for the next few days while we update our new maps and add more awesome online services.” so I shall hope that services will resume as per normal soon enough, and that the company will not decide to “quit the business here and focus (their) efforts elsewhere”, a possibility discussed on Friday’s mypaper.

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