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Thursday, April 05, 2007

OA to Canadian mapping data

Canada's New Government Provides Free Online Access to Digital Mapping Data, a press release from the Canadian government, April 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

Experts and other users of digital topographic data will no longer have to pay to use digital versions of government maps and data. The Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, today announced that as of April 1, 2007, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) began making its electronic topographic mapping data available to all users free of charge over the Internet.

"Our Government recognizes the importance of providing Canadians with access to the latest digital mapping information at no cost," said Minister Lunn. "Not only will Canadians now have free access to digital maps, but Canada will be known as an important source for digital mapping data around the world." ...

The new no-fee access policy applies to data that is solely owned by NRCan. This policy builds on an earlier initiative [GeoBase], which in 2003 provided free access to various co-owned federal, provincial and territorial topographic data. As well as waiving access fees, NRCan is lifting all cost and licence restrictions on the redistribution of the data. This will help ensure that accurate and consistent information is available for users.

NRCan has provided the private sector with access to digital topographic data since the early 1990s. With the ongoing rapid growth of the Internet and the resulting drop in distribution costs, it is appropriate to make public information in digital form available without any restrictions on its use or redistribution. The data collections will be made available through the GeoGratis Web portal.  Users will need to have a geographic information system or image analysis system and the graphics applications of editing software to view the data....

Update. The folks at the UK Free Our Data campaign have confirmed that the Canadian mapping data are free for commercial as well as noncommercial use:

...Iíve spoken to Ann Martin, who is director of the digital dissemination division at NRCan, and she confirms: yes, the data can be sold on without any royalties being due. Thatís a change from the situation that used to prevail, where NRCan would license the data to users and resellers; there was also a royalty structure which meant resellers had to pay some of their earnings back to NRCan....Ms Martin told me that the previous licensing system was complex: "it almost cost more to administer than it brought in," she said.

Update. Here's another from the same folks:

Since writing [the above] however Iíve also been contacted by Tracey Lauriault, of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She points out...[that] Canadaís federal maps might be free, but the really useful data lie closer to the local level - and those are still charged for, quite substantially in some cases....