We Ask The Supreme Court To Clarify If It's Legal For Virginia To Bar Techdirt From Filing Freedom Of Information Requests

from the restrictions-on-the-press dept

Like many media properties, we've filed Freedom of Information Act requests to seek out information at both the federal and state levels. The various federal and state freedom of information regulations are important tools for the public, and also for those doing journalism to seek out and report on important information that should be public. Unfortunately, some states like to limit these laws, and Virginia in particular has made its law such that it limits filings to only Virginia residents... or to a very small number of media companies that meet its "exemption" rules. Basically, it will allow freedom of information requests from "traditional newspapers, print magazines or FCC-licensed broadcast media." So if you're an online-only media property and not a Virginia resident, you're out of luck.

A small number of other states also have "citizens only" clauses in their FOI laws, though Delaware's was recently struck down as unconstitutional. However, Virginia is the only state that allows a partial exemption for some media players, but not for others. Even so, a court recently upheld Virginia's law as constitutional. This has created both a circuit split (with different courts in different circuits finding very differently on the general issue of "citizens only" clauses), and an unfair burden on anyone doing online-only reporting and thus not qualifying for the specific exemption in Virginia's law.

As the Supreme Court has been asked to hear an appeal of that case, we've signed onto an amicus brief along with the American Society of News Editors, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Ars Technica, Daily Kos, Grist, Matthew Lee, Muckrock, Automattic and Tumblr, arguing that this is an issue where existing rulings and the arbitrariness of the exemptions in the law have created massive uncertainty for anyone doing investigative reporting. So our filing is asking the Supreme Court to take the case and clarify whether or not Virginia's restrictive law is constitutional. Hopefully, the Court recognizes the problems of the law and makes clear that, in this age when anyone can do reporting, limiting such rules to only citizens or an arbitrary definition of professional media is too restrictive.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:04pm

    Mike Mansick, with all due respect, I think at this point it would not be wise to bash the US Supreme court for a while until this is cleared...not that you have or would when it isn't called for, but TechDirt has signed a document heading to it. :-) No worries I'm still on your side :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Tunnen (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:08pm

    Filing a FOI request for a journalist "on the internet"? You sir, have violated my patent... I'll see you in court! =P

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:13pm

    Funny how state governments want to limit exposure to possible wrong doings isn't it? Makes you wonder what their hiding.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:29pm

    Re:

    I think at this point it would not be wise to bash the US Supreme court for a while

    Yes. Because the current set of Supreme Court Justices are notoriously thin-skinned and prickly—and quite likely to decide a case based on spite, pettiness and personal pique.

    ... Or not.

     

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Jeremy, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:31pm

    Seems like you could...

    simply ask for any Techdirt readers from Virginia to help you. I've seen other blogs/media websites do this with success.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    MahaliaShere (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:45pm

    Online only and not a resident.

    Sounds like passive-aggressive "get off my lawn" to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:46pm

    Exempt

    However, Virginia's is the only state that allows a partial exemption for some media players, but not for others.

    The exemption is for media players who do NOT file Freedom of Information Act requests.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    gorehound (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:58pm

    Hope it all works out for you !

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 4:58pm

    We Ask The Supreme Court To Clarify If It's Legal For Virginia To Bar Techdirt From Filing Freedom Of Information Requests

    What's this we shit? What did you contribute, other than a signature?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Zos (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 5:01pm

    Re: Re:

    i can't tell if this is sarcasm or not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 5:04pm

    Re:

    You don't honestly think someone called him up and said 'hey, sign this' and he said 'yeah sure' and that's all that happened do you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Franklin G Ryzzo (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 5:09pm

    Re:

    Obvious troll is obvious... and underwhelming... let's try harder...


    What's this we shit, Pirate Mike! What did your chubby fingers contribute, other than a signature. By "we" you must be referring to your army of hitlers and their rabid piracy apologist dogs. Perhaps your request would get more attention if you could have convinced your Google paymasters to sign on as well, but I guess all of the slam pieces you've been writing on them lately have made them reevaluate their relationship with their once favorite shill. Could your weasel words be any more... um... weasely?

    P.S. broadbrush, sycophant, disingenuous, think of the children, Masnic!!!1!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Atkray (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 5:21pm

    Re: Re:

    Dude

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It is and it isn't. I sometimes over-worry about things I care about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Re:

    11/10, since you spelled his last name wrong. If you would have called out Tim as the author of the article, I'd give you a 12.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    DCL, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Exempt

    Media players? So does the mean the IPOD is OK and the Zune not?

    Or is it more of WinAmp is ok but Windows Media Player is not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:06pm

    It's like when local legislative bodies go into executive session to get around sunshine laws.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:08pm

    Re:

    The Mike Mansick's "fan" drinking game:
    1. Mike's "fan" first shows up within the top 10 flattened spaces; 1 shot of bourbon.

    2. Mike's "fan" first shows up beyond 10 but before 20 flattened spaces:
    1 shot of bourbon and 1 shot of whiskey.

    3. Mike's "fan" first shows up beyond 20 posts in flattened; combine drinks 1 and 2 and mix it with three shots of tequila.

    4. Take one shot of Bloody Marry per every time Mike's name is used in a comment.

    5. Take two shots spiced rum if the term "Pirate Mike" is used in a comment.

    6. Chug a pint (half liter) beer for every time Mike is called a shill in a comment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:17pm

    Re: Re:

    So, is the point of this 'game' to get people so smashed that the stalkers/trolls start to actually make sense?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:38pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "So, is the point of this 'game' to get people so smashed that the stalkers/trolls start to actually make sense?"

    That's when you loose the game :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Divide by Zero (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:52pm

    Re: Re:

    That needs more than just a funny button

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:05pm

    Re: Exempt

    I always let my friends know that I'm willing to offer my assistance as long as they never accept it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     

    king of all trolls

    BITCH I DONT GIVE A SHIT YOU CANT STOP ME I AM KING OF ALL TROLLS-KING OF ALL TROLLS

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:29pm

    Umm, Mike, haven't you claimed over and over again on this blog that you are NOT a journalist? Why the sudden change?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    AJ (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:34pm

    I hate sites like docstoc

    <rant>
    Mike, why can't you publish PDF files like this directly on the TD website? By all means use other services as well so people can view such files directly in their browsers if that's what they want to do, but my laptop has a much nicer PDF file viewer than any of the browser-based services, and I refuse to give out my email address just to read a document (they almost all require a sign-up nowadays before they'll let you download the original file).
    </rant>

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    DH's Love Child (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 9:53pm

    Let's all sign up to be 'reporters'

    I volunteer to be your Oregon reporter should this state implement such a law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 10:26pm

    Constitutionality

    Nobody's even commented on whether they actually think it's constitutional or not? (That's not the same as whether the law is a good idea.)

    The argument that the residents-only law is unconstitutional is based on the Privledges and Immunities clause, which reads:

    "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States."

    I'm not sure that this clause can be used to declare a FOIA law unconstitutional. If you live in one state and want to apply for a fishing license in another state, it costs more. Same with college tuition. As the Supreme Court has said:

    "Only with respect to those 'privileges' and 'immunities' bearing upon the vitality of the Nation as a single entity must the State treat all citizens, resident and nonresident, equally."

    Does this fall into that category? Maybe, and maybe not. The Supreme Court at one point explicitly avoided deciding what is covered: "We do not decide the full range of activities that are sufficiently basic to the livelihood of the Nation that the States may not interfere with a nonresident's participation therein without similarly interfering with a resident's participation." http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/436/371/case.html

    And from a really old case, we have this:

    "The inquiry is what are the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states? We feel no hesitation in confining these expressions to those privileges and immunities which are, in their nature, fundamental; which belong, of right, to the citizens of all free governments; and which have, at all times, been enjoyed by the citizens of the several states which compose this Union, from the time of their becoming free, independent, and sovereign. What these fundamental principles are it would perhaps be more tedious than difficult to enumerate. They may, however, be all comprehended under the following general heads: protection by the government; the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right to acquire and possess property of every kind, and to pursue and obtain happiness and safety; subject nevertheless to such restraints as the government may justly prescribe for the general good of the whole."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 10:40pm

    Re:

    Umm, Mike, haven't you claimed over and over again on this blog that you are NOT a journalist? Why the sudden change?

    As I've said, I'm not a journalist, but sometimes I *do* journalism. And I think that's true of lots of people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 10:54pm

    Re: Re:

    "As I've said, I'm not a journalist, but sometimes I *do* journalism. And I think that's true of lots of people."

    Sounds more like a dodge to escape when trapped, saying "I'm not a journalist, just a blogger" when you get caught telling less than all the truth or not bothering to check any sources.

    Classic!

    So how about a new t-shirt with your face on it, with the message under:

    "Only a Journalist When Convenient".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    JMT (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ironic considering "Anonymous Coward" = "escape when trapped"

    So do you literally do nothing expect what's explicitly covered by your job title? What is your job title?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Danny, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:19pm

    Re: Re: Exempt

    Windows media player is never OK.
    VLC might be allowed....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:36pm

    Stupid laws in Virginia.....

    "There is a state law prohibiting corrupt practices of bribery by any person other than candidates"

    That is pretty scarry...good luck :-)


    http://www.dumblaws.com/laws/united-states/virginia

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 2:58am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Sounds more like a dodge to escape when trapped,

    Don't get weird. It's just the sound of you jackass trying (and failing) to turn his words on the head.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    relghuar, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 3:33am

    "...allows a partial exemption for some media players..."

    And so, in an unusual stroke of political genius, Virginia legislatives managed to solve the "unconstitutional" problem once and for all - by removing ANY type of exceptions for non-residents!

    ;-)
    (Just a guess on some future headlines...)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 3:56am

    Re: Re:

    wow! That has a 10/10 with an added bonus for the misspelling!

    Bravo!

    Now, TD trolls have seen better days, when our regular commenters start trolling better than the trolls it seems to me that it's time for the trolls to re-evaluate their strategies =/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 4:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You seem to have the biggest dodge to reason and logic on a continual basis...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     

    hay stupid wally fuck you

    I AM KING OF ALL TROLLS YOU CANT STOP ME

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 5:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I only loose THE KRAKEN!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    Dirkmaster (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 7:10am

    Re: king of all trolls

    Are these lyrics to a rap song? Kinda sounds like it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 7:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    My Job title? It has nothing to do with Techdirt in the least (or the RIAA, or the MPAA, or any of the European, Asian, African, Australian, or 'Stans based movie or music industry people)

    However, if it helps you out any, call it "small business owner" or "president of the company". Perhaps that might let you dial in.

    I am assuming your job title is "student", right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 8:16am

    Re: Seems like you could...

    when the system won't work,
    work the system...

    that is one way, but the better way would be to fix the broken system...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    BeaverJuicer (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re:

    Can I please get a T-Shirt that says:

    I'm not a journalist, I just play one on the interwebs

    PLEASE?!?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re:

    Very insightful my friend.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    I AM KING OF ALL TROLLS YOU CANT BAN ME HAHA I AM SO EVIL

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 2:59pm

    Re:

    Ummmm wow.....ok how to respond to this....yeah...I don't think you understand that nobody gets banned here.....they just get marked as inappropriate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re:

    Two shots of spiced rum please :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 3:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ""So, is the point of this 'game' to get people so smashed that the stalkers/trolls start to actually make sense?"

    That's when you loose the game :-)"

    **"So, is the point of this 'game' to get people so smashed that the stalkers/trolls start to actually make sense?"

    That's when you lose the game :-)


    Thanks :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  

    hay i dont give a shit

    YOU CANT STOP ME I AM UNSTOPABLE AND AS FOR YOU WALLY YOU ARE A STUPID ASS FUCKING ASSHOLE

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    another mike, Aug 31st, 2012 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The only winning move is not to play.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Sep 8th, 2012 @ 4:23am

    Re: Re:

    Okay, here goes: "Hi, Mike, how does it feel to be a shill of the Open Source Community? No wonder people call you 'Pirate Mike'." x 10.
    Oh, that spiced rum is nice! *Collapses from alcohol poisoning.*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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