City of London Police reject FOIA request for their dealings with copyright lobbyists

They say they have so much correspondence with the industry, and are apparently so incompetent at searching their own records, that they can't fulfil the request without being unduly burdened, and thus they are not required to comply with the Freedom of Information request.

The City of London, London's financial district, is an autonomous city within Metro London, governed by a Lord Mayor and council who are elected by the banks in the City, with the biggest banks getting the most votes. The City of London Police have taken on the role of publicly-funded copyright enforcers for the entertainment industry, engaging in questionable tactics like demanding that registrars terminate domains without any kind of court order; sending secret blacklists of "pirate" sites to ad brokers and demanding (without any court order) that the ad networks boycott them, and more.

Torrentfreak sent the City of London Police an FOI request for records of its correspondence with entertainment lobby groups about the Pirate Bay. The City Police turned them down, saying that searching its computers for these files would take more than 18 hours, so it didn't have to do anything. I've participated in discovery against the email records of a major oil company, and I have an appreciation for what's at stake here, and this is just silly. Their Exchange server or similar could recover and save all messages containing the phrase "piratebay" "pirate bay" or "tpb," that are sent to or from domains associated with the entertainment industry lobby groups, and dump them into a single file with just a few keystrokes.

The City of London Police may believe that this undoubtably voluminous correspondence contains lots of embarrassing material that they'd like to redact, and undoubtedly doing this would take a long time, but the FOI's exemption for unduly burdensome requests does not exist to help officials avoid embarrassment.

My suggestion to Torrentfreak is to break your FOI into subparts:

* Domains associated with the entertainment industry in the City's email records

* Oldest correspondence to or from those domains containing either "pirate bay" "piratebay" or "tpb"

* All emails from one year after that date from those domains, containing those strings

* Lather, rinse repeat

We'd happily help out by filing some of these FOI requests. I've just filed one for "Entertainment industry domains used to correspond with the City of London Police."

“In order to establish the existence of any correspondence of this kind it would be necessary to examine all mail systems, all call logs and all files/documents held by the force,” the reply read.

“The cost of completing this work would exceed the limit prescribed by the Secretary of State in accordance with powers contained in Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act. The limit is currently set at £450 and the hourly rate is set at £25.”

City Of London Police Turn Down Torrentfreak's FOIA Request Because It Would Take Too Long To Fulfill [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]

Notable Replies

  1. Why do the CITY OF LONDON Police have any powers beyond their tiny little corporatocracy? Who do they think they are the FBI.

  2. Judicial review of the City of London police powers, I think. The police need to be held to a high standard and they cannot usurp parliament. Charge the head of the police with using a public office for profit, and use discovery to get their emsils? The way to proceed via FOIA is to ask for a better defined piece of information, eg who wrote the press release, who instigated the policy of investigating copyright claims.

  3. Their fraud squad is effectively national. I served on a jury in a trial related to a fraud where one defendant lived in Greater London and one in Manchester and the victim was in Birmingham- the investigating officer was from the City Police.

    As for "elected by the banks with the biggest banks getting the biggest votes", that's a half-truth. As the people who work in the City (several hundred thousand) vastly outnumber those who live in it (fewer than ten thousand), the City is the only part of the UK which still retains the business vote which was abolished elsewhere in the 60s, so that the large numbers of workers can be represented.

    However, it's by no means limited to banks- any business or other organisation with premises in the City can appoint voters. And while larger organisations get more voters, it's non-linear- larger companies have a smaller percentage of their workforce able to vote. So while a bank with 2,000 employees in the city can appoint 49 voters, the sole proprietor of a Tube-station newsstand also gets a business vote. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the City's business vote by sector...

  4. You know, somebody should really invent a way to collect a big pile of documents and use a computer to find just the right one, based on a word or phrase. Maybe they could call it "searching." If only we had the technology, think of the possibilities!

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