Des Plaines, Ill. - At its Feb. 24, 2012 meeting, the URISA board of directors again considered the draft Sierra Club vs. Orange County, California amicus brief. A board motion to sign an earlier version of the brief on Feb. 2 failed to pass a vote.
The board’s deliberation followed a joint URISA Board and Policy Committee
conference call to discuss the board’s Feb. 2 decision, in light of the
Policy’s Committee’s recommendation to sign the brief. Glenn O’Grady, policy
committee chair, was invited to again discuss the matter with the board during
the Feb. 24 meeting.
the California First Amendment Coalition won its public records act lawsuit
against Santa Clara County in April 2009, the Sierra Club filed a similar
suit against Orange
County. The Sierra
Club wanted Orange County's parcel basemap in GIS-compatible database
formats for its wildlands conservation campaign but couldn't afford to pay Orange County
what it was asking for the basemap. The Superior Court ruled in favor of Orange
County. Sierra Club appealed the case, but the 4th District Court of Appeal
affirmed the decision in support of Orange County. In response, members of the
GIS community, led by Bruce Joffe, founder of the Open Data Consortium project,
developed an amicus curiae brief outlining their position that
GIS-formatted data is not software, and that computer mapping system software
does not include GIS data.
Before considering the question of signing the SC v. OC amicus brief, the URISA
board drafted and approved the following data sharing policy that reflects
URISA’s role as an international organization, and the need for the
organization to be aware of data policies and situations in many countries:
It is URISA's policy that all units of government should freely
provide the means for their citizens to fully participate in their own
governance by publishing and otherwise supplying geospatial data to all
interested parties. URISA believes that governmental geospatial programs must
be appropriately funded and that there are multiple acceptable mechanisms for
such funding. Credible studies have shown that the value of geospatial
data to the governmental agencies and the people they serve increases with the
breadth of data sharing.
The board then discussed reconsideration of signing the draft amicus brief;
however, no motion to sign the brief reached the floor for a vote by the board.
The board did agree to continue advocating for the principles outlined in the
data sharing policy. Specific actions will include continued pursuit of
URISA’s 2011-2012 Advocacy Agenda item 2 (Nationwide Development of High
Quality, Publicly Accessible Geospatial Data), participation in COGO’s
URISA/NSGIC – Data Sharing Legal & Policy Framework initiative, and
advocating for the newly approved URISA data sharing policy with state
governors and legislatures.
“Individual URISA members are free to make their own choice to sign or not to
sign the SC v. OC amicus brief,” said Greg Babinski, MA, GISP, URISA president,
in a statement issued by the organization. “The value of a professional
organization is not to tell its members what to think in a case like this. It
is to create an environment where each individual can be exposed to the range
of arguments about the issue so that they can make their own decision.
This would be the case no matter how the board voted.”
The amicus brief was submitted to the California Supreme Court on March 2 and
included the signatures of 212 GIS professionals and 23 GIS
organizations in support of Sierra Club.
URISA Board Declines to Sign Amicus Brief
March 2, 2012