Access to Data

Local Government GIS Coordinator Forum


Access to Data Questions

Jim Sparks, Indiana Geographic Information Officer (GIO)







Question 1: If we must provide our GIS data to the public, is view-only sufficient? If they want to download do we have to allow?

A: I think that our Access To Public Records Act ensure that a citizen can request and receive a copy of a public record, including GIS data. However this is a legal question and is best answered by a legal expert.

Question 2: How much can we charge for data according to the law and Public Access Councilor, and how do you determine the charge?

A: APRA (Access to Public Records Act) addresses this question as follows:

“(j) Except as provided in subsection (k), a public agency may charge a fee, uniform to all purchasers, for providing an electronic map that is based upon a reasonable percentage of the agency’s direct cost of maintaining, upgrading, and enhancing the electronic map and for the direct cost of supplying the electronic map in the form requested by the purchaser. If the public agency is within a political subdivision having a fiscal body, the fee is subject to the approval of the fiscal body of the political subdivision. (k) The fee charged by a public agency under subsection (j) to cover costs for maintaining, upgrading, and enhancing an electronic map may be waived by the public agency if the electronic map for which the fee is charged will be used for a noncommercial purpose, including the following:

  1. Public agency program support.
  2. Nonprofit activities.
  3. Journalism.
  4. Academic research.

Question 3: For those who sell their GIS parcel data: How much do they charge? How often do they sell their data?

A:We know of no compilation of this information, although it would certainly be interesting reading.

Question 4: How does the PAC opinion about not limiting down stream use jibe with IC5-14-3 which says we can limit commercial use?

A: I believe that you are referring to IC 15-14-3(d) and (e), which say:

(d) Except as provided in subsection (e), a public agency that maintains or contracts for the maintenance of public records in an electronic data storage system shall make reasonable efforts to provide to a person making a request a copy of all disclosable data contained in the records on paper, disk, tape, drum, or any other method of electronic retrieval if the medium requested is compatible with the agency’s data storage system. This subsection does not apply to an electronic map. (e) A state agency may adopt a rule under IC 4-22-2, and a political subdivision may enact an ordinance, prescribing the conditions under which a person who receives information on disk or tape under subsection (d) may or may not use the information for commercial purposes, including to sell, advertise, or solicit the purchase of merchandise, goods, or services, or sell, loan, give away, or otherwise deliver the information obtained by the request to any other person for these purposes. Use of information received under subsection (d) in connection with the preparation or publication of news, for nonprofit activities, or for academic research is not prohibited. A person who uses information in a manner contrary to a rule or ordinance adopted under this subsection may be prohibited by the state agency or political subdivision from obtaining a copy or any further data under subsection (d).

The opinion from the Public Access Counselor addresses this specifically. The short answer is that section (c) does not apply to GIS data. Here is the long answer:

You inquire whether a county ordinance prohibiting the sale of information for commercial purposes would apply where the State will be using it in the State Map, which does not restrict commercial use. You ask whether subsection 3(e) even applies to an electronic map since the information which is the subject of (e) is information on disk or tape under subsection (d), which does not include an electronic map. In my opinion, this is a straightforward issue: if the data you receive is an electronic map, subsection 3(e) would not apply. As you indicate, subsection 3(e) specifically addresses information received under subsection 3(d). Electronic maps are specifically excluded from subsection 3(e), and I find no analogous provision related to electronic maps. As such, if the information the State receives is information from an electronic map, the political subdivision may not limit the State’s use or dissemination of the information.

Question 5: Will the State Legislature amend the two statues allowing local government to charge for data?

A: Only the state legislature can answer that question.