Smart Meter Company Landis+Gyr Now Using Copyright To Try To Hide Public Records
from the what-they-don't-want-you-to-see dept
Back in 2016 we wrote about how Landis+Gyr, a large multinational company owned by Toshiba, completely freaked out when it discovered that documents about its smart energy meters, which the city of Seattle had contracted to use, were subject to a FOIA request. As we noted, Landis+Gyr went legal and did so in perhaps the nuttiest way possible. First it demanded the documents be taken down from Muckrock — the platform that makes it easy for journalists and others to file FOIA requests. Then it demanded that Muckrock reveal the details of anyone who might have seen the documents in question. It then sued Muckrock and somehow got a court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Muckrock for posting these public records.
Eventually, with help from EFF, Landis+Gyr agreed to a settlement that stated that these documents were (a) public records and (b) the company would no longer attempt to take down the copies that Muckrock had obtained. From the settlement agreement posted on the public docket in the case:
Plaintiffs agree that they will take no further action against Defendants Mocek, Muckrock.com, and Morisy with respect to two public records previously released by the City to Muckrock.com on behalf of Mocek and automatically published on MuckRock.com.
This all ended in the summer of 2016. And, indeed, you can still find the documents hosted on Muckrock’s website today. Here is the Managed Services Report 2015 and the Security Overview. Even though Landis+Gyr went to court over this and then agreed via its settlement that (1) these were public records that (2) could be left online, the company apparently doesn’t want you reading them.
Last week, we received a notice from DocumentCloud — which we use to host various documents as part of our reporting efforts — that it had received a DMCA notice from lawyer Heather McNay of Landis+Gyr, demanding that it take down the copies of those very same public records that we had uploaded as part of our reporting on this story. It seems fairly clear to us that our posting of these public records as part of our reporting and commentary on a dispute created by Landis+Gyr itself was quintessential fair use for news reporting. And, of course, there a number of court rulings in various locations noting that copyright law cannot be used to prohibit the copying of public records (notably, that case involves a very similar situation involving a public records request in Washington State).
Either way, given that Landis+Gyr has promised in its settlement with Muckrock not to take any actions at all against Muckrock for hosting these public records, we’ll note the incredible futility of the company then sending DMCA notices targeting those same public records, and scratch our collective heads over what the company is thinking when all it’s doing is reminding everyone that (1) these documents exist online and (2) apparently the company would prefer you not look at these public records about its own systems.