I received a couple of comments on the post about the $250,000 parcels data in Santa Clara County, and I wanted to follow up with a post of my own. One of the commenter's who works with parcel data in Florida pointed out that there was a law suit and court decision, as well as an attorney general opinion, regarding this very same issue in his state. (You can read this commenter's blog at http://www.gis-data.blogspot.com/.) In both cases the data was made available to the public, and in the first case the court found that the government agency could not impose licensing restrictions of any type on "public records".
Here is a link to to the court decision and attorney general opinion:
I would like to express my agreement with something the commenter wrote: "Hopefully this case set a precedent for Florida. It just takes time and enough people to raise a concern over the issue for most government entities (county, city, towns, etc.) to change their attitude as far as GIS data being considered public records."
I wonder if the OSGeo would be willing and in a position to champion this cause across the United States and other parts of the world. Private companies that work with public GIS data often decide to suffer under the licensing restrictions and fees imposed by a government agency rather than risk angering a potential client by pushing the "free access to public records" issue. A neutral third party like the OSGeo would provide an appropriate champion for this issue. Public data plays a critical role in GIS in the United States, and as a community we want to make sure free and unencumbered access to that data continues.
I also received some information about a United States Federal policy of creating free or low cost access to geospatial data created and maintained by the United States Federal Government. I'd like to talk about that some more in a future post.
The Sunburned Surveyor