I worked in the Geospatial industry for 12 years+ with 4 companies and am currently in an academic field. One of the companies was forest plantations and no longer exists.

I have a lot of geospatial data (satellite imageries, radar, UAV aerial photos, field records etc.) which I think is a waste if not used for good. This especially when coupled with latest data—for example, to investigate temporal analysis of land use/cover, forest and plantation—would result in impressive outputs.

Please give your opinions. Thank you.

  • 1
    I think this question cannot be answered without reading your previous employment contract, so I voted to close. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 8:32
  • There are various ways for a company to "close". There might be a successor company that can open the data for your use. The data might also have been passed to another company as an asset. And, I wonder if there are specific laws in your jurisdiction that apply to "abandoned assets". Lots of things to look for. But a lawyer might help. If your university has an office devoted to IP they can probably answer a lot of your questions.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 14:23

3 Answers 3


In your current academic organization, there should be an Ethical Approval Committee and they can help with legal obligations on using any data. In my opinion, the first step will be talking to the committee.

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    In the US, at least, such committees are only involved in research with human subjects: the IRB. But there should be an Intellectual Property office that knows the law on such things.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 14:50

If you have legal and proper title to that data to publish it then you can use it, if not then no.

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    "use for research" and "publish" are quite different. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 8:31
  • @AnonymousPhysicist define « impressive output » as used by OP...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 10:47
  • I thought this was obvious. You can use data for research, and publish the results of the research; or you can publish the data directly. These are different. Only one requires the right to publish the data. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 11:41
  • You may not even have the right to have that data on your hard drive, let alone "do research" with it. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 1:38

"Ethical" is not the right question. The question to ask is who owns the data and images and whether you are allowed to use them for (i) research, and (ii) publications. A general rule of thumb is that, unless you know better, the answer to both questions is "No": It is the intellectual property of the companies you worked for, and unless they have specifically given you permission to use the data, it continues to be there regardless of whether you were the one who processed the data while you were working for the company.

The question is more interesting in the case of a company that no longer exists. I suspect that companies that went bankrupt still exist as some kind of zombie shell that continues to own the intellectual property, rather than that IP becoming public domain. You will need to consult a lawyer to find out what happened to the IP in that case. For companies that no longer exist because they merged with or were bought by some other company, the IP continues to exist with the successor company.

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