Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Brent, Freedom of Information, Copyright and What Do They Know

A must read (PDF Decision notice against the House of Commons) for those wanting Brent Council to respond to their FOI requests via the What Do They Know website.

Summary of the decision notice

The complainant made a request for information to the House of Commons via his account on the www.whatdotheyknow.com website. He requested a copy of a document, to be provided in electronic form. The public authority expressed its willingness to provide the information to the complainant by way of an  alternative email address, however claimed that it would not be reasonably practicable for it to provide the information to the email address generated by the website, as to do so would raise copyright implications as the information provided to that address would be automatically published on the website. The Commissioner has investigated and considers that the public authority should provide the requested information to the complainant to the Whatdotheyknow.com email address that was used to make the request.

My request was to ascertain how many Local Government Act Part III Section 32(3) notices had Brent council served on a Local Government Ombudsman and how many times has the Ombudsman concerned found the council guilty of maladministration for misusing a Section 32(3) notice. As in the recent decision notice Brent replied by stating

'Your request has been validated and will be responded to. However, whilst we may send the formal notification of the decision to the email address you have provided we will not send the information requested to that address. This is because we are aware that doing so will automatically result in the information being published on the whatdotheyknow website. Publication of information in this way may constitute an unauthorised re-use (under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005) and may infringe copyright. I would therefore be grateful if you will provide me with an alternative disclosure address. This can be a postal address, fax number or an email address, as long as it does not result in automatic publication and re-use.'

Later confirming

'Further to our earlier correspondence I am writing to advise that the Council is in a position to provide information in response to your request on being provided with the alternative address for correspondence requested.'

So the latest ruling against the House of Commons makes Brent's position, as far as their refusal to respond via the What Do They Know website, untenable.

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