California court ruled government agencies can charge for GIS data

The California Court of Appeal (4th Dist.) in Santa Ana, US,  ruled that state agencies can charge licensing fees to the public for access to GIS data. The Sierra Club submitted a public records request for Orange County’s “parcel geographic data in a GIS file format.” Orange County asked for a licensing fee that the Sierra Club refused to pay.

The court found an exemption in California’s Public Records Act allowing governments to sell, lease, or license “computer mapping systems” to the public in addition to the GIS program itself. According to report published on, the decision could create confusion in California. Before, it was held by the Court of Appeal (6th Dist.), in County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court in 2009, that GIS-formatted electronic mapping records must be released to the public under the public records act.


Sachiye Day, VERTICES intern.


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