Court Dumps Hastily-Granted Restraining Order, Says MuckRock Can Publish Smart Meter Documents

Court Dumps Hastily-Granted Restraining Order, Says MuckRock Can Publish Smart Meter Documents

by Tim Cushing

from the prior-restraint-much? dept

It took a little less than a week, but the EFF, with the invaluable assistance of Venkat Balasubramani of FOCAL PLLC, has persuaded a Washington state judge to strike down the temporary restraining order against MuckRock he hastily granted back on May 27th.

Landis+Gyr, a multinational corporation owned by Toshiba, recently secured a contract to upgrade Seattle’s “dumb” meters to smart meters. Privacy activist Phil Mocek requested information on the city’s smart meter plan through MuckRock and was handed two Landis+Gyr documents in unredacted form by the city.

These documents worth suing over spent a month uploaded to MuckRock before Landis+Gyr took notice. Once it had secured the city contract, L+G then demanded — via a request for a temporary restraining order — that MuckRock take the documents down, turn over info on site users who may have seen/downloaded them, and somehow help L+G shove its smart meter genie back into the bottle.

Fortunately, the judge has now struck down the restraining order he issued earlier in the week.

Agreeing with EFF, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing ruled that the previous order amounted to a prior restraint on speech that violated the First Amendment, and rescinded it along with denying plaintiffs’ request to extend it.

Not that Landis+Gyr didn’t try to keep its restraining order alive — despite openly acknowledging that one of the two documents contained nothing worth withholding. In its final attempt to salvage its request, L+G claimed that an internet full of evildoers now has access to sensitive information that could place citizens in danger.

Defendants knowingly posted Landis+Gyr’s protected information on its publicly-accessible website, where Landis+Gyr’s competitors, as well as hackers and saboteurs, had access to the information. In fact, internet traffic surrounding the disclosure reveals the danger caused by Defendants’ refusal to remove the information. See Second Supplemental Declaration of Eric Lee Christensen in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, ¶¶ 2, Exhs. A. (“I read all your secret information, you [expletives deleted]”), ¶ 4, Exh. C, p. 8 (“visit the link below to download disputed documents”).

Without access to the exhibits, I can only assume the deleted expletives were “censorious asshats” and that “visit the link below to download disputed documents” is internet code for “seize the means of production, starting with the power grid.”

Landis+Gyr’s fears of terrorism are overblown, if these are the best pull quotes it could find to illustrate its “hackers n’ saboteurs” theory. It may be that its trade secret claims are more based in reality, but that still doesn’t explain its attempt to silence a third-party FOIA clearinghouse for doing nothing more than publishing documents handed to it by a government body.

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