individuals cannot effectively participate in matters in which government affects their daily lives.

The Freedom of Information Act creates a balance between the rights of citizens to be informed about government activities and the need to maintain confidentiality of some government records. In many cases, political transparency may require distributing geographic data to anyone who wants it. Citizens need access to geographic data to become educated in the detailed functioning of government; to petition government agencies, lobby legislators, analyze regulatory decisions; or to challenge illegal actions and government abuses in court. Government uses geographic data to make myriad decisions, and citizens often cannot know whether inappropriate manipulation of data has occurred without access to the entire record. An important principle of democracy is that access to government information is a matter of equal protection—that is, all citizens should have the same rights to public information to understand and be able to challenge government actions.


Taxpayers have an interest in seeing that government maximizes the difference between benefits and costs when it performs its missions. Licensing may sometimes be the best way to achieve this goal, depending on costs and government’s need to redistribute the data. Government’s redistribution needs range from internal use to broad redistribution.

Costs are not limited to the license fees that government must pay. The concept of cost also extends beyond dollar royalties. In the case of licenses, it includes the costs of negotiating transactions, administering intellectual property rights management obligations, and enforcement in the event of disputes. Agencies must also acquire data of sufficient quality and quantity to perform their missions. To some extent, this requirement can be defined in such technical terms as geographic coverage, timeliness, frequency of updates, spatial resolution, and accuracy of annotations. Agencies also need sufficient use and redistribution rights to meet known needs and unexpected needs that might not evolve until much later. A cost-benefit analysis must consider both time frames.

A further consideration for agencies is that society may not obtain full value for its investment unless existing geographic data are used again and again. The benefits of data reuse have long been recognized and are

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