Statement support publicgeodata

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This page is provisional, and the following declarations are not approved by the OSGeo board.

OSGeo foundation statement on supporting

Comparing the geospatial developments in the U.S. and Europe, there are strong indications that undue restrictions in the availability of georeferenced data slow down the development and limit the information available to the public and organizations about their environment. In this spirit, the OSGeo Foundation promotes and supports

  • interoperability of data and software, enabling the public to access and process spatial data with no barriers;
  • availability of at least base cartography to the citizens with well defined free licenses (in the sense of freedom).

Interoperability is more than agreeing upon file formats. It comprises basically two dimensions, the longitudinal interoperability (i.e., time) and the transversal interoperability (sharing data across users communities). Data readability over long time is of particular interest for data maintained by public administration and long-term projects. Data readability also covers sharing across different user communities, independent from software or operating system used (addressing the freedom of software choice).

In short, data access, in particular in Web Services, is tripartite:

  • right to access (or possibly "view"),
  • right to reuse (download), and
  • right to redistribute freely.

Without open access to data, neither OpenSDI type efforts or open standards efforts can achieve what they need to. With no data, there is simply nothing to express or to share.

Data released to the public by governmental institutions, being generated as research results or by private companies, need to be protected to keep the freedom of their usage. Protection does not imply the unavailability of a data set but the appropriate licensing to grant the data availability to the public and organizations. Free access (in the sense of freedom) to base cartography can be seen in the following context:

  • reasonable data licensing, free access granted without political or technical barriers;
  • open formats: patent-free, well documented formats;
  • availability of free software to enabling the citizen to manage such data.

Distribution of spatial data is cheap in the Internet age. Indeed maintaining and managing them costs more than the transaction itself. The governments of the Unites States, Canada and other states show that granting free access to base cartography is feasible and induces growing markets.

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 Public. While a lot of datasets are available in Northern America under a public domain licence, little geographic data is available under open access terms in Europe. It is instead made available at monopoly prices by national mapping agencies. Restricted 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 "" aims at rejecting the directive proposal by the European Parliament. If not, 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.

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 and see