section discusses how the commons and marketplace might evolve to benefit all stakeholders.

In contrast with the preceding chapter, the implementation of most of the ideas in this chapter will take time. Building new mechanisms and institutions to make licensing more productive will require sustained initiatives by federal, state, and local agencies, and, in many cases, the private sector.2


9.2.1 Standard Licenses and Form Agreements

Geographic data contracts come in a diverse range of styles and levels of complexity. Contracts for large transactions often are negotiated “from scratch.” Contracts for small transactions often use idiosyncratic “form contracts” that differ from vendor to vendor. Greater standardization could lead to reduced uncertainty in procurement, lower negotiation costs, and probably increased numbers of licenses. At a minimum, it may be feasible to standardize straightforward provisions covering liability, indemnity, attribution, jurisdiction, and choice of law.

Some standardization will emerge naturally as parties gain experience in contracting.3 Agencies, trade associations, and public interest groups can accelerate this process by creating recommended contracts and compiling online or printed form books. Some steps already have been taken in this direction4 and further progress is likely.

Standard language and (eventually) standard form licenses are key to many of the recommendations contained in this report. Relative to the amount of time and effort that industry expends each year in negotiating


Some actions, including the development of model licensing agreements, could evolve more rapidly.


This is not quite as easy as it sounds. Some vendors keep contracts secret in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage. Nonetheless, disclosure normally should be a matter of enlightened self-interest, and the potential benefits to the industry far outweigh competitive advantage in most cases.


For example, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has recently circulated a proposed Model Contract for “Purchase of Satellite Data.” Public Technologies, Inc., also promotes standard contracts through its “best practices” program for local governments, and the Open Data Consortium has released a model data distribution policy (see <>).

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