UK Liberty

Parliament, copyright and the FOIA

Posted in freedom of information by ukliberty on August 26, 2008

Martin Rosenbaum:

It’s not only Rother Council which has been quarrelling with whatdotheyknow.com. The House of Commons authorities are also involved in a continuing tussle over the site’s policy of automatically publishing responses to freedom of information requests.

This dispute has attracted the attention of Cabinet Office IT minister Tom Watson (himself an FOI requester when a backbench MP), who comments ‘Oh good grief’. Is it safe to assume that it is the stance of the Commons which is the cause of his exasperation?

In short, the House of Commons FOIA people are rejecting a request by asserting copyright.  But they don’t have to assert copyright – they can waive it.

(They of course unhelpfully neglected to provide the reason for not waiving copyright.)

The silly thing here is that FOIA is applicant blind, and the House of Commons seems willing to provide the requester this information – it seems willing to provide other requesters with the information.   So what is the practical difference between sending a hundred requesters the same information and allowing the information to be published on a website?

When will our employees could give up prevaricating and procrastinating and give us our information?

Update

A number of people have ended up here after visiting Tom Watson’s site.  Presumably they were prompted to go there by this recent Register article.  It is worth reading the comments.

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