• a shift away from supplying distinct datasets to providing access to databases;

  • the rise of business models that stress multiple subscribers despite the reality of digital networks and media that allow others to distribute perfect and inexpensive copies;

  • increased concern over potential liability and a desire to limit liability through explicit license language; and

  • the rise of shared cost and data maintenance partnerships.

Expanded mapping activities have increased the potential for duplication. Initiatives such as the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Map, the Office of Management and Budget’s Geospatial One-Stop, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s MAF/TIGER program modernization2 seek to leverage local government investments in geographic data and avoid unnecessary duplication. Because states, tribes, regional groups, counties, and cities have a wide range of data-sharing policies that includes sharing under license, the federal government is increasingly forced to address licensing issues. Confusion and uncertainty have arisen as a result of

  • a proliferation of nonstandard licensing arrangements;

  • difficulty in designing licenses that track the legal, economic, and public interest concerns of different levels of government;

  • difficulty in designing licenses that accommodate all sectors of the geographic data community;

  • an imperfect appreciation for the licensing perspectives of different sectors of the geographic data community; and

  • lack of effective license tracking and enforcement mechanisms.

Even within a single sector, there can be multiple perspectives on licensing. Commercial firms that wish to supply data to the government typically want high prices and significant restrictions on reuse. On the other hand, commercial firms that wish to acquire data from the government usually want low prices and few if any restrictions on reuse. These competing interests within the commercial sector add to the confusion and uncertainty surrounding licensing.

Licensing is one among several social tools for pursuing economic and policy objectives. Commercial data providers typically use licenses


For The National Map, see < http://nationalmap.usgs.gov/>; for Geospatial One-Stop, see < http://www.geo-one-stop.gov/>; for MAF/TIGER (Master Address File/Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system) modernization, see <http://www.census.gov/geo/mod/overview.pdf>.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement