Not quite getting this "openness" thing (Part I)
Over at open.gov.nl.ca, there's an interesting proactively-disclosed Access to Information request.
In it, the requester asked the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture for:
Copy of the review prepared for the provincial government by Burke Consulting Inc. on a review of the minimum processing requirements - as noted in a press release from DFA dated Sept. 13, 2006.Given the apparently weighty nature of the document requested and released, it's a bit surprising to find that the PDF of the release is only 313KB and four pages long.
That would be because, as yet another example in a broader pattern, the release package bears the following annotation:
Well, sure, you could do that.
Potential copyright material
If you wish to obtain a copy please contact the ATIPP Office at (709) 729-7072 or email@example.com.
Or you could just go over and download the report — or at least a redacted version thereof — from the DFA's website.
The Ministry of Openness could use a refresher course in the governing party's long-standing committment to openness and transparency. In their 2003 platform, the Progressive Conservatives under what's-his-name promised:
A Progressive Conservative government will ... release to the public every government-commissioned report within 30 days of receiving it, indicate the action government will take on a report's recommendations within 60 days, and ensure prompt public access to all government reports in hard copy and on the Internet.
It would seem bizarre and illogical that the government is now relying on (rather dubious) copyright grounds to avoid releasing copies of reports it has commissioned, and, indeed, published elsewhere in its little web empire.
Perhaps it would assuage the nervous legal nellies in open.gov.nl.ca if government were to make it a standard requirement for all outside consulting contracts that copyright in the resulting work either be transferred to the government, or at very least that government obtain an unlimited license to the third-party reports it commissions and pays for.