Free Law Project Takes A Stand Against Attempt To Use GDPR To Disappear A Public Court Docket

from the good-for-them dept

We recently wrote about how a guy in France, Michael Francois Bujaldon, was using the GDPR to try to delete a public court docket involving a case in which he is a defendant, and has been sued for real estate and securities fraud. As we noted, at least two websites that host public court dockets have felt compelled to either delete or change that particular docket.

Last week, the Free Law Project, who operates the CourtListener website (and runs RECAP -- the very useful system that will help automatically free up costly PACER dockets and documents that other RECAP users visit) noted that it, too, had recently received a GDPR demand about a docket (they do not say if it was the same one) and then go into a detailed description of why they are not taking action. The post notes that the general policy of the site has always been that they won't remove a docket without a court order (though it may remove links from search engines).

More importantly, however, the Free Law Project notes that it is not subject to the GDPR:

As a California public benefit corporation with 501(c)(3) non-profit status in the United States, we categorically reject the notion that we are subject to laws or regulations promulgated by the European Union or its member states.

We collect United States legal materials for a U.S. audience. Our principal place of business, our Executive Director, our board members, our servers, our ISP, and all of our regular activities are located within California. We place no advertisements in European jurisdictions, and have never purposefully directed any of our activities at any European state or its citizens.

This certainly sounds good, though folks in the EU may disagree. The GDPR was written to strike fear into non-EU businesses that they, too, are covered by the law, which raises all sorts of jurisdictional fights. I've suggested in the past, and I stand by the idea that sooner or later a GDPR claim is going to come up against the SPEECH Act, which says that foreign judgments that would be found unconstitutional under the First Amendment cannot be enforced in the US. I would imagine trying to delete public dockets might fit that bill, though who knows if anyone's going to sue the Free Law Project (for the record: I certainly hope no one does).

The Free Law Project then goes even further, noting that even if it was subject to the GDPR (which it is not), it wouldn't need to remove the content as requested:

First, the GDPR recognizes a right of freedom of expression, and Free Law Project firmly believes that its freedom to speak includes the right to make available these U.S. primary legal materials.

Second, the GDPR also recognizes an exception for archiving purposes in the public interest, for scientific or historical research purposes, or statistical purposes. This is precisely the activity of Free Law Project, which aims to create an archive of U.S. legal materials for the public interest and for scientific, statistical, and historical research purposes.

This also makes sense (and the blog post goes into even more detail). But, again, we've already seen at least two other sites feel they were required to act and remove or alter the dockets. So while it's great that the Free Law Project/CourtListener feels okay in pushing back against this claim, it doesn't change the fact that these efforts have already been successful. It also doesn't change the fact that the Free Law Project has to spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out how it needs to deal with a law in a totally different continent.

We're going to see many more examples of this sort of thing. I know lots of people cheered on the GDPR, arguing that any law that says it's to help you protect your data and privacy must be good, but the consequences of this law are incredibly far reaching, and it will be years, if not decades, before people understand just how much damage it has created as well.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2018 @ 12:04pm

    GDPR is a dictators dream come to life

    The fact that the EU is ignoring all of the problems with this law brings up means that it was intended to be used this way the whole time. When corrupt people have tons of money and power, giving them the ability to edit the public record on them is not in our best interests.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2018 @ 3:54pm

      Re: GDPR is a dictators dream come to life

      A U.S. only company/organization should create a website solely intended to track pages that have been removed under the right to be forgotten laws in Europe. The foreign government can't go after Google if a U.S. only company lists these pages and their attempts to go after the company in the U.S. would violate our free speech laws and won't have any jurisdiction in the U.S. Good luck enforcing your dumb laws against one of the most power superpowers in the world.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2018 @ 3:58pm

        Re: Re: GDPR is a dictators dream come to life

        Not only that but then the EU would see the streisand effect in action. Attempts to silence speech would only create websites completely out of their jurisdiction solely dedicated towards promulgating that speech and this would give people interested in searching for speech that wants to be forgotten a central location to find such speech.

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

  • identicon
    Name, 5 Oct 2018 @ 1:22pm

    GDPR

    Uh huh. Alex Jones was right! It's the New World Order! That's why they banned him from the interweb!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2018 @ 4:20pm

    Why else you think the EU is forming a "grand army of the republic" if not to basically start another world war and try to enforce its will on the rest of the planet?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2018 @ 8:01am

      Re:

      I thought the GOP was trying to start a war, are they trying to blame it on Europe? LOL, that sounds par for the course.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Milly Yun, 5 Oct 2018 @ 6:23pm

    A total of ONE incident so far, though acting like is a million.

    You haven't exampled the systemic abuse that you predict, only this ONE by person already suspect. You might as well headline "Murderer does 30 in a 25 zone!", cause it's to be expected.

    So, yet again, ONE data point and Little Chicken Masnick is shrieking, "the sky is falling!"

    Oh, and your vaunted editorial judgment flopped as usual on whether of interest.

    You got one mentioning corrupt rich people, two supporting Alex Jones, and another saying the EU is trying to start a war, so in I think a first, I agree with ALL comments so far! Could be whatcha call a harbinger, Masnick.

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 6 Oct 2018 @ 8:41pm

      Re: A total of ONE incident so far, though acting like is a million.

      By that same logic, the US should not have retaliated for 9/11, since it was just one data point.

      Every avalanche starts with a single pebble sliding.

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

  • identicon
    Ian Waring, 6 Oct 2018 @ 4:06am

    Maybe I'm confused...

    ... but I thought that court filings were part of the public record, and therefore not subject to either GDPR nor "right to be forgotten" requests anywhere within the EU.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 6 Oct 2018 @ 11:30pm

      Re: Maybe I'm confused...

      You'd think so, especially considering they are current court records regarding on ongoing case rather than one from years past, but apparently the one in court would rather they not be.

      Can't imagine why...

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

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 9 Oct 2018 @ 11:45am

    Puzzling...

    Why do these American companies with no physical presence in Europe think they have to pay attention to any of this shit in the first place?

    I don't lose my 1st Amendment right to free speech because the frakking EU says so.

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


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