data,4 improvements in remote-sensing technologies, the advent of inexpensive Global Positioning System receivers, the decreasing costs of personal computing and digital storage, the increasing reach of the Internet, and the increasing pervasiveness of wireless, location-aware telecommunications services. These developments have been accompanied by increased use of licensing as an alternative to the outright sale of the data and data products. Licensing has become commonplace because of

  • the realization that many geographic data, as opposed to geographic creative works, are difficult to protect through copyright alone;

  • 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 of data gathering and processing. Initiatives such as the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS’s) The National Map, the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Geospatial One-Stop, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s MAF/TIGER5 modernization program seek to leverage local investments in geographic data and avoid unnecessary duplication. Because states, tribes, regional groups, counties, and cities have a wide range of data-sharing policies, the federal government is increasingly forced to address licensing issues for the data it acquires. Confusion and uncertainty have arisen as a result of

  • a proliferation of nonstandard licensing arrangements;6

  • 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;


See Appendix C for a description of the scope of geographic data.


Master Address File/Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system.


See Appendix D for examples of the variety of licensing models.

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