Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More on access to space data

Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, The Law Behind the NOAA Open Letter to Google Lunar X PRIZE Participants, Res Communis, July 28, 2008.

Res Communis received 10,000+ hits for its post, NOAA Open Letter to Google Lunar X PRIZE Participants. There is enormous interest in the fact that, as the letter says, “if your [X Prize] team is based wholly or partially in the USA, you may need to apply for a license from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).” Along with the hits, Res Communis received numerous comments about why this is the case. ...

The primary reasons behind the law are to advance the principle of open access to data by implementing the nondiscriminatory access policy ...

The nondiscriminatory access policy began in 1972 with the launch of the Earth Resources Technology Satellite, later renamed Landsat 1. The policy was formulated to ensure open access to sensed data and to assuage the concerns of the rest of the world that the satellite would be used against them in the form of economic or other espionage. Not all nations agreed that openness of information was a good idea and others feared the satellites being used against them. The nondiscriminatory access policy stated that access to imagery would be available to all, on a nondiscriminatory basis, and any nation could directly download the data, if they also implemented the nondiscriminatory access policy. Canada was the first to do so, followed by numerous nations since then.

Over the years, the policy evolved and has been adopted by all remote sensing nations and is, arguably, the most important part of the U.N. The Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space. The nondiscriminatory access policy still applies to the Landsat satellites and a modified version can apply to non-federal, civil satellites. ...

Comment. I'm unfamiliar with this area of policy, but the description here seems to contrast with the new repository of data from Indian space exploration, which will offer 18 months of discriminatory access limited to Indian researchers before opening to use by other nationals.