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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Are Trap Streets?

Does the Google Maps API always show you the truth and nothing but? Not necessarily, because they’re using data by Tele Atlas, who allegedly employs so-called “trap streets” every now and then. Wikipedia explains:

A trap street is a fictitious street included on a map, often outside the area the map covers, for the purpose of “trapping” potential copyright violators of the map, who will be unable to justify the inclusion of the “trap street” on their map.

Sometimes, rather than actually depicting a street where none exists, a map will misrepresent the nature of a street in a fashion that can still be used to detect copyright violators but is less likely to interfere with navigation. For instance, a map might add nonexistent bends to a street, or depict a major street as a narrow lane, without changing its location or its connections to other streets.

Trap streets are routinely denied and rarely acknowledged by publishers.

Fictitious entries are not restricted to online maps, but also appear in encyclopedias, cookbooks, and more. The following fake entry appeared in New Oxford American Dictionary aimed to reveal copyright infringers (the word briefly made it into, with source cited, though it has now been removed):

esquivalience—n. the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities . . . late 19th cent.: perhaps from French esquiver, “dodge, slink away.”

[Hat tip to Google XXL & TomHTML!]


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