efficient and accountable government, the broader public interest, and the probable impact on private markets.


Like most contracts, the structure of a license is a matter of negotiation between license holders and licensees.

Recommendation: Before entering into data acquisition negotiations, agencies should confirm the extent of data redistribution required by their mandates and missions, government information policies, needs across government, and the public interest.

In this section, we suggest rules of thumb that agencies can use to refine geographic data acquisition decisions in support of their mandates and missions. We begin by describing how government could decide which data to acquire and conclude by asking when acquired data should be redistributed.

8.3.1 The Procurement Mission: When Should Agencies Choose Licensing?

Traditionally, the federal government’s preferred procurement method has been to acquire geographic data unencumbered by restrictions on use or reuse.2 However, depending on the circumstances, the advantages of licensing may outweigh the social and economic drawbacks of acquiring restricted geographic data. Because beneficial downstream uses and the public’s interest in the free flow of information cannot be fully anticipated, agencies should exercise caution in construing their mandates and missions to permit licenses that restrict such uses.


Because federal agencies do not have a proprietary interest (i.e., copyright) in government data and records, there has been little past need within government to bear the economic burden to support operations protecting proprietary interests. Additionally, licensing restrictions were not prevalent in the private sector until the early 1990s.

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