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Trap Streets

  • By: Jonathan Leib
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Trap streets is a term used to refer to the cartographic convention whereby mapmakers deliberately insert fake places (such as streets and street names) into their maps so as to later be able to demonstrate plagiarism by other cartographers.

For well over a century, the U.S. court system has dealt with copyright infringement lawsuits brought when a cartographer or publishing company believes that their maps have been directly copied by a competitor. Because maps are widely assumed to be depictions of reality, it is difficult to determine whether mapmakers have compiled original research or copied directly from another cartographer in creating their maps (what the cartographer Mark Monmonier has referred to as “editing the competition”). Hence, map companies will at times add streets, street names, towns, ...

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