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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Court Finds Copyrighted Data Exempt Under FOIA

An Illinois appellate court recently held that real property assessment data was exempt from disclosure under FOIA due to copyright protections. In Garlick v. Naperville Township, the requester sought an electronic copy of the Township’s real property database, in its native file format.  The Township did not provide the copy, but directed the requester to its website where he could search for the records by parcel. The requester sued, arguing that the website did not provide him reasonable access to the data. 

The trial court ruled in favor of the Township, and Garlick appealed. On appeal, the court also ruled in favor of the Township, ruling that the requested data was exempt under FOIA because the Trade Secrets Act and federal copyright laws prevented disclosure of the data in its native format because the software vendor did not consent to the disclosure. The court also noted that the Township had a contractual duty not to disclose this information under the license agreement.    

It is important for public entities to be aware of these situations where copyright or contractual obligations may prevent disclosure of records under FOIA.

Post Authored by Erin Pell, Ancel Glink


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