of users and all the potential uses of a proposed dataset. Historically, government has done a poor job of determining what markets need (e.g., the Landsat program).

The foregoing considerations and caveats are offered as an aid in assessing whether to acquire data so that they may be made available to the public at or below the marginal cost of distribution. No one factor is intended to be dispositive. When multiple factors collide to generate “warning flags,” alternative procurement options for acquiring geographic data should be carefully evaluated before going forward. Figure 8-1 suggests a broader framework and policy considerations for conducting this evaluation.

Recommendation: When geographic data are to be used to design or administer regulatory schemes or formulate policy, affect the rights and obligations of citizens, or have likely value for the broader society as indicated by a legislative or regulatory mandate, the agency should evaluate whether the data should be acquired under terms that permit unlimited public access or whether more limited access may suffice to support the agency’s mandates and missions and the agency’s actions in judicial or other review. Limited Redistribution: The Middle Ground

When should agencies accept “reasonable” limitations on their ability to use and redistribute geographic data licensed from the private sector? Compared to other procurement methods, the costs and benefits of licensing tend to be complex. The importance of particular terms usually depends on context. Thus, there is no “golden rule” for determining which license restrictions are appropriate. That said, agencies usually need to weigh such terms as price, dissemination restrictions, available uplift rights,15 and liability.

Recommendation: Agencies should agree to license restrictions only when doing so is consistent with their mandates, missions, and the user groups they serve.


Uplift rights in a license allow future purchases by specified parties under specified terms and conditions without the need to negotiate a new license.

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