Tag Archive | Freedom of Information

Ohio Court: Geodata Intertwined with Proprietary Software Falls Outside Open Records Law

Supreme Court Rules County Engineer’s Response Met Requirements of Public Records Act

by Dennis Whalen, CNO, March 7, 2013

The Supreme Court of Ohio today denied a writ of mandamus sought by Portsmouth real estate appraiser Robert Gambill to compel the production of certain public records by Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman.In a 6-1 per curiam opinion, the court held that Opperman met the requirements of the Ohio Public Records Act by offering to provide Gambill with a copy of the county’s electronic database containing deed information and aerial photos of all property in the county if Gambill paid the estimated $2,000 cost of separating that data from proprietary mapmaking software protected by U.S. patent laws that is “inextricably intertwined” with the data on the engineer’s computer.

For full text of the article, visit Supreme Court Rules County Engineer’s Response Met Requirements of Public Records Act.

Related Articles:

See also High Court Rules in Favor of County (Portsmouth Daily Times), Ohio Court: Geodata Intertwined with Copyright-protected Software Falls Outside Open Records Law (Directions Magazine).

Similar Cases:

Sierra Club loses on appeal in case for access to Orange County database (Directions Magazine 2011)

The WireData Case and Implications for Geospatial Data (WI State Cartographer’s Office 2008)

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New York newspaper defends identifying and mapping gun owners

By Katie Glueck, Politico, December 26, 2012

A suburban New York newspaper on Wednesday defended a decision to publish online maps that reveal names and addresses of people with gun licenses in several counties near New York City. … Over the weekend, the White Plains-based Journal News offered interactive maps of Westchester and Rockland counties which gave names and locations of people with pistol permits that the paper had obtained through the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The piece sparked uproar on the right and among some readers this week.

For full text of the article, please visit: New York newspaper defends identifying gun owners – Katie Glueck – POLITICO.com. Click here to see the interactive Map of the gun permits in Westchester county, NY.

Related Articles:

From Public Records to Open Government: Access to Massachusetts Municipal Geographic Data

by Robert Goodspeed, URISA Journal 2011, Volume 23, No 2

Abstract: Increasingly, citizens are demanding access to raw data from governments to hold public officials accountable, look up facts, conduct analysis, or create innovative applications and services. Cities and towns create data using geographic information systems such as layers describing parcels, zoning, and infrastructure that are useful for a wide range of purposes. Through a public records request to all 351 Massachusetts municipalities, this paper investigates whether these data are accessible to citizens in practice. Some response was received by 78.6 percent of the municipalities. Two municipalities refused access to all electronic records. Many others charged fees ranging up to $453 or placed legal restrictions on the data through licensing that could chill or prohibit creative reuses of the information through emerging technologies. Other practical barriers limited public access to data, such as limited resources, government officials’ limited technical knowledge, and outsourcing to private vendors. A followup survey among municipalities that did not respond to the request was conducted to determine if they had GIS systems or data policies, and this information was collected for 80.3 percent of the municipalities. Finally, the paper discusses the legal, policy, and technical steps that can be taken by governments to move from a “public records” to an “open government” paradigm for transparency of government data. The policy recommendations for municipalities include publishing GIS data for free online and with minimal legal restrictions.

For full text of the article, click here.

Practical guidelines for open data licensing have been published in the United Kingdom

Thanks to Kevin Pomfret for passing along the following link:

by Katleen Janssen, EPSI Platform, 27 May 2011

Naomi Korn and Charles Oppenheim have prepared a Practical Guide for Licensing Open Data, targeting organisations that want to use open data and want to understand under which terms they can use data licensed by third parties. The Guide relies on work done by the Strategic Content Alliance and JISC projects related to digital content, including Web2Rights. The Guide provides short information on some of the most important legal domains that need to be taken into account when licensing open data (intellectual property rights, contract law, data protection, freedom of information, and breach of confidence). It explains the commonly known open licence models…

For full text of the article, click Licensing Open Data: A Practical Guide at EPSI Platform.

From Public Access to Open Government: Access to GIS Data

 

From Public Records to Open Government: Access to Massachusetts Municipal Geographic Data

Robert Goodspeed, PhD Student, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Submitted for publication to URISA Journal, January 2011

ABSTRACT

Increasingly citizens are demanding access of raw data from governments to look up facts, hold them accountable, conduct analysis, or create innovative applications and services. Cities and towns create information for geographic information systems such as parcels, zoning, and infrastructure that are useful for a wide range of purposes. Through a public records request to all 351 Massachusetts municipalities, this paper investigates whether this data is accessible to citizens in practice. In an apparent violation of the law, two municipalities refused access to electronic records. Many others charged fees ranging up to $453 or placed burdensome legal restrictions on the data that could chill or prohibit creative reuses of the data through emerging technologies. Other practical barriers, such as limited technical knowledge or resources and outsourcing to private vendors, restricted public access to data. Most troubling, 23.2% of municipalities did not respond with 29 days, nearly three times the legally mandated 10-day response time. Finally, the paper discusses legal, policy, and technical steps that can be taken by governments to move from a “public records” to an “open government” paradigm for transparency of government data. The policy recommendations for municipalities include publishing GIS data for free online, and with minimal legal restrictions.

For full text of the article, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, click here.

 

Farm Bill Restricts Access to CLU GIS Data – Part 3

 

 

In order to assess land cover in agricultural areas across the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the Common Land Unit (CLU) as a standardized GIS data layer (see also ArcUser Online, ESRI, April – June 2002).

Due to language in this year’s Farm Bill (Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008), however, CLU GIS data are no longer releasable to the general public or to most other government agencies (CLU Info Sheet, June 2008). See my prior  blog posts for information on the court battle and subsequent language in the Farm Bill:

On a related note, the National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) posted the following FOIA guidelines for NRCS programs, as per the statutory language of the Farm Bill:

Section 1244 of the Farm Bill includes specific statutory language pertaining to the release of technical and financial assistance information. Technical and financial information includes all information given by cooperators to USDA for the purpose of providing technical or financial assistance to an owner, operator, or producer with respect to any natural resources conservation program administered by the NRCS or FSA. It also includes information that is proprietary to the agricultural operation or land that is part of an agricultural operation of the owner, operator, or producer. It does not include payment information, including payment amounts and the names of payment recipients. .. In general, NRCS technical and financial information is not releasable to the public, and It cannot be released to any person, Federal agency, local agency, or Indian tribe outside of USDA.

Recently, I came across a position paper by AgriData, Inc. (August 28, 2008) that summarizes the impact of the CLU GIS data restriction to farmers and service providers:
Roger Johnson, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, submitted this position paper for consideration during the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting in September 2008.  In the internal NASDA action item form, titled “Farm Bill 1619 – Public Access to CLU Data,” Johnson asked that NASDA support an amendment to Section 1619 of the 2008 Farm Bill. This amendment, if passed, would allow the CLU data to be placed back into the public domain,  with the following attributes: Field Boundary, Acres, Tract Number, Farm Number, Field Number, Primary Classification of Land Unit Type, Administrating County, State Office.

 The CLU GIS data restirction is also a hot issue for the North Dakota Association of Counties’ GIS in Agland Valuation Forum.  On October 2, 2008, someone on the forum posted a letter by the Tax Commissioner for the State of North Dakota addressed to county tax directors. The letter states:

“House Bill (HB) 1303, passed by the 2007 North Dakota Legislative Assembly, amended North Dakota Century Code § 57-02-27.2(8). This law now requires local assessors to consider soil type and soil classification data from detailed or general soil surveys, the schedule of modifiers to be used within the county, and actual use of the property for cropland or noncropland purposes, when forming the relative value of each assessment parcel under their responsibility.

In March of this year, to assist you and your local assessors in carrying out the duties specified in HB 1303, I asked our office to send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request to the United States Department of Agriculture – Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA). The FOIA request sought releasable information County FSA offices may have in their possession pertaining to field delineations and use of agricultural lands in North Dakota.

Specifically, the request sought common land unit (CLU) data collected and maintained by USDA-FSA. The objective was to enable the CLU information, if made available, to be shared with your office for use by you and your assessors when making land valuation determinations required by HB 1303.

Our FOIA request was denied. The 2008 Farm Bill specifically barred new or updated CLU data from release to the public. Thus, any appeal of the denial would likely fail.”

  

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