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BC gov’t stops warning FOIs are copyrighted

VANCOUVER - What good is a Freedom of Information request if what you pry loose from the government comes with a warning that it’s protected by copyright and can’t be reproduced or shared?

That’s just what the BC government was telling FOI filers (as The Tyee’s Tom Barrett reported in February) until this week. Now it has backed down after an investigation by Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis.

Loukidelis pursued the issue after freelance journalist Stanley Tromp filed a complaint about the copyright notice sent in a packet of FOIed materials from B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

On June 1, Tromp got this letter from Loukedilis:

Dear Stanley Tromp . . . I am writing about your complaint that the Ministry included a copyright advisory notice with its disclosure of records in response to your access request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”).

As part of our investigation of your complaint, I had discussions with the ministry responsible for intellectual property within government, the Ministry of Labour and Citizens’ Services. Government has decided to cease including copyright notices in access to information disclosures and has confirmed that, effective immediately and government-wide, copyright notices will no longer be issued in conjunction with disclosure of records in response to access requests under FIPPA.

The Province has advised us, for clarity, that the fact that it will no longer include copyright notices in FIPPA disclosure packages does not change the fact that it “reserves the right to assert and/or enforce copyright in its materials in appropriate cases, including situations where such material is subject to an existing legal obligation of the Province (i.e., a licence) or someone makes copies of something purporting to be the official version of Provincial material, but which is out of date, and distribute those copies to others, thus creating the potential for inconvenience, or worse, to third party recipients of that material.”

I appreciate the government’s willingness to revisit this issue and applaud its decision to change its policy on the matter.

In view of this development, we will be closing our file relating to your complaint. I appreciate your having brought this matter to my attention and thank you for your contributions to its successful resolution.

Yours sincerely,

David Loukidelis, Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia

David Beers is editor of The Tyee

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