In some cases, potential user groups are sufficiently small for direct consultation. For example, university libraries routinely decide whether to accept particular licensing restrictions by talking to the faculty and students who are likely to use the resource. Some professors may not care if a particular license lets them reprint satellite images from an electronic journal. For others, the data may be useless without these rights. Ideally, library staff do not make such judgments; instead, they consult the affected parties directly.
Determining “reasonable” restrictions becomes harder as the number of potential users grows or is not known in advance. Researchers frequently use government data and databases to advance science. Many commercial firms use government data as a source of raw material for creating value-added industries. Citizens, educators, and scholars may derive substantial educational benefits or use government’s data to check on potential abuses by government agents. These numerous other beneficiaries of government datasets will not be directly represented in licensing negotiations. Therefore, when an agency’s mandates and missions specify consideration of such uses, an agency will need to consider the needs of such constituencies before licensing data subject to reuse restrictions. The needs of parties external to an agency’s mandates and missions may be accommodated through government’s broad information policies as specified by its laws.
As the number of potential users grows, agencies must increasingly rely on sampling to discover whether proposed restrictions are acceptable. Here, the challenge is to create an open and transparent approach that accurately conveys the user community’s wishes. Many uses and users of government information are unexpected and are not likely to be identified in advance. Such needs are unlikely to be accommodated by government agents that acquire licensed data for a specific government purpose. Nonetheless, if a government agent can identify at least some government users and survey their needs, negotiations can become more informed.
Large and diverse user groups add further complications. This is because data with multiple uses typically have sharply different value for different users. Absent effective price discrimination, imposition of licensing restrictions by private firms normally will exclude at least some customers from the market. Furthermore, the number of remaining customers may not be enough to sustain the activity. Government provision may be appropriate in these circumstances.
Finally, the appropriateness of restrictions may be influenced by the nature of the content disseminated. If government users only require