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OSGeo foundation statement on supporting publicgeodata.org

In the domain of cartography and geospatial analysis, the term "Open Source" has an important meaning not simply for software, but for data, as well. In the absence of detailed and comprehensive data to work with, the utility of geospatial software becomes drastically reduced.

Distribution of spatial data is cheap in the Internet age. Indeed, maintaining and managing spatial data costs more than the transaction itself. The governments of the United States, Canada and other nations show that granting free access to basic geographic data is technically and economically feasible, and helps to spur innovation and the growth of commercial markets. The contrast in public access to geographic data between, for example, the United States and Europe, suggests that undue restrictions on the availability of geodata slows down economic and technological development, and limits the information available to the public and organizations about important civic issues, such as health and the environment.

On 23 January 2006, the Council of European Union has formally adopted a common position on the INSPIRE Directive, which stipulates that geographic data collected by national mapping agencies all over Europe should be owned by such agencies, and not by the tax-paying public. While a lot of datasets are available in North America in the public domain, very little geographic data is available under open access terms in Europe. Instead, most state-collected geographic data is only made available by national mapping agencies under monopoly pricing schemes. Restrictions on access to geographic data for the public and businesses - due to high costs and narrow licenses - means fewer services and fewer jobs in Europe.

The current petition at http://petition.publicgeodata.org/ aims at rejecting the directive proposal by the European Parliament. If it is not rejected, INSPIRE will entrench a policy of charging citizens for information they have already paid to collect, enforced by state copyright over geographic information. The INSPIRE Directive risks holding back the economic and social potential in maps and location-based technology in Europe by many years.

In light of this growing evidence, the OSGeo Foundation promotes and supports:

  • the public availability of a basic minimum of useful state-sponsored geographic data, under well-defined licenses that guarantee the right to use, reuse, and redistribute that information, without limitation
  • the use of interoperability standards in both data and software, to guarantee that the public can access and make use of state-sponsored spatial data over the long-term, without technical barriers, such as patent encumbrances or undocumented data formats.

Naturally, the OSGeo Foundation seeks, as part of its mission, to provide software to make use of public geographic data, whenever and wherever that data is available.

About the Open Source Geospatial Foundation

The Open Source Geospatial Foundation(OSGEO), is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote the collaborative development of open geospatial technologies and data. The foundation was formed to provide financial, organizational and legal support to the broader open source geospatial community. It will also serve as an independent legal entity to which community members can contribute code, funding and other resources, secure in the knowledge that their contributions will be maintained for public benefit.

For more information, write to info@osgeo.org and see http://www.osgeo.org/