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les Nouvelles - March 2010


Licensing And Commercialization Issues For Geographic Data

Edward A. Pisacreta

Holland & Knight, Partner, New York, NY, USA

Jonathan P. Mollod

Holland & Knight, Business Section Technology Specialist, New York, NY, USA

Most commercial entities that collect data and assemble it into databases would not readily disseminate such proprietary information, and if they did, they would most likely require the payment of a fee and the execution of a license agreement setting forth the scope of allowable use of the licensed database. Many state and local governments in the United States collect and manipulate data that is, in some way, tied to geographical features. Such data is often called “geodata.” The issue of a state agency treating its data, and particularly its geodata, as if they were the owners of such data for licensing purposes is complicated by several factors. This article will explore these factors, including whether a state agency can be the owner of a copyright in the geodata it creates, the effect of a state’s Freedom of Information Act or FOIA on the ability of a state to claim such copyright ownership or require the execution of a restrictive license agreement as a condition to access the geodata, and what the terms of such license should address and what the license fee can and should be.

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