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.

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Companies: landis+gyr, toshiba

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Comments on “Smart Meter Company Landis+Gyr Now Using Copyright To Try To Hide Public Records”

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18 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Loopholes

Either way, given that Landis+Gyr has promised in its settlement with Mucrock not to take any actions at all against Muckrock for hosting these public records

The EFF should’ve got them to promise not to take action against anyone, because this is a huge loophole. Technically, the company isn’t even banned from taking action against Muckrock’s hosting provider(s).

DannyB (profile) says:

Dear Customer

Dear Customer,

Please pay your bill!

BTW, any reproduction of any information contained on your bill, including exact dollar amounts due, is an infringement on our valuable copyrights and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Do not complain. We’re the electric company. It could be worse. This letter could be from Comcast.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, it’s not a “false” takedown notice, it’s just an incomplete one. Such that it would not constitute an actual notice of claimed infringement that would subject the provider to liability.

Though you could be right, and it could be that the lawyer was well aware that the notice was deficient. However, since making it valid would only require a couple of extra sentences (and again, are something that I’d expect an “Intellectual Property Counsel” to have in a pre-formatted DMCA form letter), I don’t understand why those couple sentences are missing, except possibly for laziness and/or incompetence.

Bob N. Weave says:

Dear Landis+Gyr..

Please contact our records clerk, Ms. Barbara Streisand, who would be more than happy to furnish you with a complete record of those people accessing publicly available documents. Coincidentally, the list is exactly the same as the list of those people (the dead and fake included) who recently supported the destruction of Net Neutrality.

Atkray (profile) says:

Re: Abolish Copyright

While I would support your suggestion, I think a good compromise with the maximists should be:

1: You must register for your 7 year copyright within 30 days of creation. (charge nominal fee)

2: After 7 years you can renew for an additional 7 years.(charge 2X current US government published poverty level for a family of 4) That way only those making money with their copyright can afford to renew.

3: Copyright ends with death.

4: Copyright is not transferable. (owner is assigned at registration)

5: Software is not copyright-able under any circumstance.

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