BKC Cyberlaw Clinic instructional fellows Kendra Albert and Mason Kortz filed an amicus brief this week to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that advocates for a new approach to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to databases in order to support data journalists, professors of journalism, and five media-related organizations in their ongoing work.
The Cyberlaw Clinic’s amicus brief focused on whether searching, filtering, sorting, and other forms of database manipulation constitute the creation of a new record. By focusing on real-world uses of databases, amici show that there is no practical difference between accessing full records from a database and compiling a list of entries. Amici then point out that the content-index distinction has led to murky jurisprudence in the past and continuing to apply this distinction to databases would require arbitrary line-drawing and lead to absurd results. In the database context, almost any presentation of the data is a record that already exists, and agencies should be required to produce records accordingly.