Different government agencies have different geographic data acquisition needs. These needs should be driven by the agency’s mandates, missions, goals, and operations. Mandates imposed on all agencies by state Open Records laws and the federal Freedom of Information Act and their affiliated regulations require the distribution of most government records.2 Many agencies find it within their mission to provide data to users upon request. Inevitably, license models fit some agency needs better than others. We begin by reviewing common agency missions that help determine which types of licenses are likely to be the most useful:

  • Broad Redistribution of Data. Agencies often collect data on behalf of society as a whole, or for the benefit of all within their jurisdictions.3 This mission usually requires making data publicly available at marginal cost of distribution. To the extent that they exist at all, restrictions imposed when licensing geographic data from the commercial sector must be consistent with this mission.

  • Limited Redistribution of Data. Many missions require agencies to distribute data to large groups of users. Typical numbers range from hundreds to tens of thousands of interested parties.4


See Chapter 5, Section 5.4.2.


For example, see the House Appropriations Committee Report 108-195 (available at <http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/creports/index.html>), which states “USGS archived data are critical to Federal, State, and local governments for protecting the homeland, natural disaster assessments, and understanding global climate change.”


The U.S. Census Bureau must provide redistricting data to states, local governments, school districts, courts, and individuals who wish to participate in the redistricting process (testimony of Robert LaMacchia); the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) delivers data to state and local resource managers, state agencies, scientists, and emergency response personnel (testimony of Anne Hale Miglarese); the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has “hundreds” of clients (testimony of Glenn Bethel); the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shares data with state, local, and federal agencies, and data must also be available for homeowner appeals process (testimony of Scott McAfee); Hennepin County, Minnesota, distributes data under a range of licensing arrangements to public agencies and educational institutions, and commercial companies (testimony of Randy Johnson).

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