Information. 2 Progress on all items could be seen in the near term, although some aspects of items 5 and 6 would require more time and resources.

BACKGROUND

The shift from sale of physical books, maps, and other intellectual works to the licensing of digital data, information, and affiliated services represents a significant change in the communication of knowledge. This shift is altering the balance between public and private interests in geographic works and data, a balance that has heretofore provided a level of creativity and innovation unequaled elsewhere in the world.

The balance that prevailed until recently was that the federal agencies generally paid for full rights in geographic data, including the right to publish it freely, permitting the data to enter the public domain and become readily accessible for follow-on uses. The prevalence of digital media as the platform for large databases, however, has made it feasible3 for data providers to contemplate multiple licenses of geographic databases, even when the data are made available online to large numbers of potential users. Thus, vendors in some instances would prefer to license data to government agencies, with restrictions on redistribution and reuse of the data. In this environment, such data may not enter the public domain, and the cost of access may preclude otherwise beneficial uses, including the development of new products and services and informing public discourse. The fundamental issue addressed by this report, therefore, is under what circumstances and to what extent should agencies accept limitations on the further distribution or use of geographic data they acquire from private and other governmental vendors.

The number of uses of geographic data has expanded rapidly with the evolution of geographic information systems that manage geographic

2  

Geographic information commons means a system for making geographic data and works openly and freely accessible to the public over the Internet. A geographic information commons may include both public domain (i.e., free from any use restrictions) and open access content (i.e., content generally available for others to access, use, and copy, and often to make derivative works, although some limited restrictions may apply). Geographic information marketplace means a system for making geographic data and works available for sale over the Internet.

3  

Feasibility here refers to technological feasibility to limit access and in some instances to monitor or impede downstream uses, and to legal feasibility. The economic feasibility of this model will vary with the circumstances.



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