Freedom of Information: Battleship metadata - Page 2

Legislation on mapping software would create an expensive new category of public records

"Our motto is 'Go have it, and help us make it better.'<0x2009>"

But while San Francisco treats this data as a public record and copies it for the price of a blank DVD, Santa Clara and Orange counties have treated it as a revenue generator.

"They charge an arm and a leg, and another arm and leg, and whatever other appendages they can think of," said Scheer, noting that Santa Clara County charges $100,000 for a full base map of its real estate parcels — data that can be used to determine whether properties are assessed correctly, and whether pothole repairs are carried out equitably.

"Likely clients willing to purchase this data would be utilities, phone companies, and developers, who can't do without it," Scheer said. "But public health and safety departments need access to it, too."

Joffe agrees, and it's something he has plenty of experience with. He helps cities and counties create geographic information systems that allow ambulances to take the most efficient routes, the Department of Public Works to carry out better capital improvements, and the police to conduct better crime analysis.

"Every department uses it, and because it's in the government system, therefore it is a public record, and the public has the right to access those records at no more cost than it takes to duplicate them," Joffe said. He added, "If AB 1978 passes, we'll lose considerable access."