FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: A federal judge is skeptical of the US charging a journalist $174,000 for government data

FOIA News (2017)Kevin SchmidtComment

A federal judge is skeptical of the US charging a journalist $174,000 for government data

By David Yanofky, Quartz, May 17, 2017

One big issue is whether and how much the government can charge me for this data. They say $174,000. I say $0.

Unlike the time limits in the FOIA, the law’s stipulations on fees are much more strictly followed. As a journalist, the law entitles me to have fees waived under FOIA so that I am responsible only for the direct cost of duplication—in this case, the cost of a CD or hard drive. But the US Commerce Department is of the opinion that the data I seek is exempt from FOIA because it is authorized to charge for it, and thus it is allowed to force me to pay full price.

Scott Sroka, an assistant US attorney, disputed that I was ever asked to pay the $174,000, arguing instead that I was only presented with an order form. “We don’t know” what the fees would be, he said.

But had I filled out the order form for the data I requested, it would have come to a total of about $174,000, according to the prices published on the International Trade Administration’s website.

Read more here.