Trivia

Hard

Map Makers Include What Device To Identify Their Maps In Lawsuits?

Paper Towns
Micro Text in the Compass Rose
Watermarks
Ultraviolet Ink
Agloe, New York, a paper town located on an old map.
Kappa Publishing Group/Kappa Map Group

Answer: Paper Towns

Mapmakers have long sought to protect their intellectual property against infringement, but doing so is remarkably difficult since maps chart what is really there. How then do you prove that another mapmaker stole your map when they can turn around and say “Well, of course New York City is on the map, I didn’t steal the Big Apple from you!”

A trick, long employed by mapmakers, is to place something that doesn’t exist in the real world on the map. Typically, this something takes the form of a small town that exists only on a map made by a particular mapmaker: a literal paper town. Then, if a company suspects someone of lifting their work, they can point to the fake town as evidence that the work was copied.

The most famous paper town around is Agloe, New York. The fake town is famous for two reasons. First, for a period of time, it was upgraded in status from a paper town to a real town after a general store found at its purported location named itself the Agloe General Store (the fact that there was nothing else in the town was of little concern to nearby officials, who simply believed that the general store must be what was left of the town they found on their maps). Later, novelist John Green immortalized Agloe, New York by bringing it to life in his appropriately titled novel Paper Towns.

In addition to paper towns, mapmakers also employ other fictitious entries like phantom streets, lakes, and geographic features that are remote or otherwise not easily observed (other than referencing the map with the fictitious entry and trusting that the obscure side road or stream actually exists).

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