A longstanding de-facto situation
When I worked at ESA (most of the '90s), there was a widespread attitude that image data should be free. But in an era when internet data trickled at a rate of byte by painful byte, a general-purpose website to dispense candy to everyone seemed inconceivable.
I first developed an ESA website for certain Earth Science data in '95 (complete with cool JAVA tool to select an area of interest from the map). It limited users to 10Mb, and we thought few users could hold a connection open for enough hours to download anything close to that much. Mostly you'd use the website to order a tape containing the data. And you had to register. But it wasn't vetoed: even back then, the principle of free data had been allowed by the powers-that-be.