high and the organizations did not sell any data sets. For example, there is a data set which records all the geographic heights in the Netherlands. You may laugh because our highest mountain is only 100 meters, but it is actually quite important for the lower-lying areas to see how much below sea level they are, or for use in the three-dimensional imaging of buildings. The price used to be €1 million for a set covering the entire country. I think they sold one. Now the price has been reduced to €200,000, and about 20 have been sold. This shows that lowering prices actually can increase revenue.

The problem now is that if you are giving free data away to the public sector, this may be deemed to be economic activity. The positive side is we get the stimulation of the knowledge economy and more value-added products, which also means more taxes flowing back to the government, because if we are going to get more companies producing value-added products there is going to be more revenue flowing back to the government in the form of sales taxes, value added taxes, company taxes, and income taxes from the new employees. Ultimately, the government will get a better return on investment, but it is a long-term strategy and most governments only look ahead as far as the next election and don't look beyond that point.

Another positive effect of this activity is the encouragement of citizen involvement. Citizens now have better access to information and are better informed. This gets us back to the issue of how much it is worth: How much does it cost if you do not have the information? There is no such thing as a free lunch. If you do not expend the resources, the ability to sustain the quality of data is threatened. The Dutch Cadastre is an example. It used to be funded out of general revenue, but during the 1990s the budget was cut many times. It almost ceased to exist because it was not getting enough money to maintain a Cadastre register.

As part of the Cohen report the Dutch Cadastre was reviewed, reorganized, and turned into what the English would call a Trading Fund. It is doing very well now, and it does not want to go back to the former situation in which it was depending on an annual budget and hoping that it would have enough money to survive.

Another downside of making the PSI available at low cost or no cost is the threat to the private sector companies that may have already set up similar data sets. If the public sector is going to make these data sets available free of charge, then it will be seen as an unfair trading practice, and the private sector will have unrecoverable costs.

I have to make some mention of the Creative Commons.5 Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization founded in the United States using a “some-rights-reserved” approach, in contrast to the “all-rights-reserved” approach of the copyright law. Creative Commons has developed a number of standard licenses and simplified mechanisms for using them. If you want to select a license, you do it online and answer a few questions.

The information to which a Creative Commons license can be applied can be any copyrighted work, as long as it is in digital format. It can be a document, a photograph, a map, or any other copyrighted work. There are six Creative Commons licenses: Attribution, Attribution Share Alike, Attribution No Derivatives, Attribution Non-Commercial, Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike, and Attribution Non-

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement