Copyrighted Material not an Open Record in Missouri
The Missouri Court of Appeals this week held that a government body is not required to release documents in its possession if they are copyrighted by another. In National Council of Teachers Quality, Inc. v. Curators of the University of Missouri, the Court found the University of Missouri was not required to provide course syllabi in response to an open records request because the syllabi were copyrighted by individual faculty members.
Although Missouri law contains a presumption that documents in the possession of a government body are open records, the "otherwise protected from disclosure by law" exemption means copyrighted material may be withheld from the public. Although not necessarily a surprising result, this decision has broader implications. For example, vendor bid responses which include copyrighted material may have an argument that the documents are protected. In addition, some regulations incorporate by reference materials which may be copyrighted, such as industry standards. Although the regulated community may be required to comply with such standards, the government body may be exempted from having to provide them.