Proprietary Information

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-18

Discusses the use of the contract negotiations and economic development records exemptions. FOIA allows a records custodian to disclose exempt records in his discretion. Also discuss the working papers exemption as it applies to Cabinet Secretaries.

ATI v. UVA

Supreme Court of Virginia rules unanimously that UVA can withhold records requested by the American Tradition Institute (ATI) under the exemption for academic research and "proprietary records." Court adopts interpretation of "proprietary" that encompasses records that are within the "ownership, title and possession" of the university. Though the ruling is limited to the research exemption (2.2-3705.4(4)), Justice Mims, in concurrence, notes the potential for expansion into FOIA's many other references to "proprietary" records.

The opinion also gives the green light to charging for the review of records to determine their responsivness to a request.

The case was clouded from the beginning by the topic and target of ATI's request: the emails of climate scientis Michael Mann. The issues became one's opinion on climate change and/or one's feelings on academic freedom instead of on whether FOIA's exemption did or did not apply.

FOI Advisory Opinion AO-01-13

Generally, records submitted by a private company to a state agency as required by regulation are public records subject to FOIA. Marking such records proprietary and confidential does not, by itself, make them exempt from mandatory disclosure; records are only exempt if there is a specific provision of law that allows them to be withheld.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-08

FOI Advisory Council discusses exemptions on vendor proprietary records, security system manuals, and school safety audits. Also discussed: duty of government to seek clarification if records request is confusing; failure to identify the volume of records requested that are subject to an exemption; and improperly denying records based on the sheer volume of the request.

Attorney General's Opinion 2007 #068

Virginia Retirement System can withhold information private equity firms provide the system on its structure, portfolio or strategy.

Attorney General's Opinion 1998 #005

A record's copyright status does not prevent it from being released under FOIA; lyric sheets and audio tapes are official records.

Attorney General's Opinion 1983-84 #439

Virginia Division of Tourism cannot withhold business data submitted by Virginia travel attractions. A private company that is supported wholly or principally by public funds is subject to FOIA.
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