As the effort to collect, QC, organize and publish an open government dataset is usually funded by taxpayers, I have always imagined a government would prefer to only offer such data to its citizens for free and charge users from other countries. As is mentioned by @closetnoc on this question on webmasters, the government does sell the data too, as packaged in physical storage formats.

Upon downloading foreign datasets and searching for these policies however, I have never encountered such restrictions; they seem rare if they exist at all. Still, I haven't been able to find any terms of usage or literature that talk about access outside the border. If indeed this practice is rare, I'm curious as to the rationale. Is it too unsavory to paywall "open data" for any reason? Would the profits be too slim perhaps, with most traffic coming from domestic machines anyways? I am also interested in exceptions to this free international access.

  • any data behind a paywall is not open
    – albert
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 17:20
  • i'm not aware of country limitations, but the state of virginia limits FOIA requests to in-state citizens. its bogus and a way for them to limit requests and typically all you need to do is find a surrogate in-state to make the request for you.
    – albert
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


Yes - see NASA's software for an example.

The release type determines who can have a NASA software code.

If you meet the access criteria for the code (as defined below), NASA can transfer the software to you.

Release types:

General Public Release: For codes with a broad release and no nondisclosure or export control restrictions

Open Source Release: For collaborative efforts in which programmers improve upon codes originally developed by NASA and share the changes

U.S. Release Only: For codes available to U.S. persons only

U.S. and Foreign Release: For codes that are available to U.S. persons and persons outside of the U.S. (who meet certain export control restrictions)

U.S. Government Purpose Release: For codes that are to be used on behalf of the U.S. government by a federal agency or business/university under a federal contract/grant/agreement.


  • It's worth noting that this is specific to NASA software. NASA is widely known internationally to release their data sets under fairly liberal terms of use / policies for researchers, organizations, and individuals Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 19:04
  • more noteworthy that its actually not open gov data if its restricted, furthermore software isn't data so this answer is actually wrong.
    – albert
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 11:51

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