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City Fights Blogger On Display of Public Information

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the security-through-obscurity-right dept.

Censorship 134

rokkaku writes "When the gadfly blogger Claremont Insider went searching for information about employee compensation on the city of Claremont web site, they never expected to find scans of pay stubs for all the employees. Nor did they expect the city attorney to demand that they remove copies of those pay stubs from their web site. They found it especially odd since, according to California law, the compensation of public employees is public information."

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134 comments

Pay stub != compensation (5, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610245)

Dear Rokkaku:

You are very confused. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Yes, a California judge has recently ruled that the compensation of public
employees is public information. But all of the pay stubs that I have
seen in, oh, the last 20 years have more information on them than that.

Many pay stubs have the employee's social security number on it. Is that
public information?
Are all of one's deductions for various benefits also public information?
What about the ones dealing with health care?
Or one's marital status?
Or amount of tax withholding?

In fact, an employee's pay stub probably has enough information on it
to steal that employee's identity. Yes, the public has a right to know
what a public employee earns. The public doesn't have a right to steal
a public employee's identity.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20610285)

I'm posting AC. Eek, this must be censorship!

Re:Pay stub != compensation (-1, Troll)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610349)

For a public employee, an emphatic YES to every question that you asked. None of that information is private.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (0, Flamebait)

javelinco (652113) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610893)

Ah, so it's "post a counter assertion without any effort to actually provide some backing" day at Slashdot. Or wait, is it just the advertising you are doing in your signature that you are posting about? Lame.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (3, Insightful)

jasonditz (597385) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611117)

When is it ever not "post a counter assertion without any effort to actually provide some backing" day at Slashdot.

If we didn't have 20-30 posts that make no sense and 5-10 replies each that amount to RTFA, these comment sections would be damned short.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20612211)

On behalf of the Slashdot Readership, I'm pleased to announce that you've won the Accuratest Post of the Week Award.

The prize is a laminated inkjet printout (Draft Quality) of this thread. Please reply with your mailing address and scan of your most recent pay stub. No PO boxes. Shipping in CONUS only.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

reddburn (1109121) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612881)

Is it signed by you, the retardededest Slashdot poster?

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613213)

Counter assertion? GP asked a handful of yes/no questions. I answered in the affirmative. That sort of exchange usually doesnt involve backing unless asked for.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612659)

Thank you for shedding dark on the fascinating issue of how the State of California asserts Sunshine law authority over the IRS and Federal Social Security Administration. I had no idea the state was in armed rebellion until now.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (2, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610541)

In fact, an employee's pay stub probably has enough information on it to steal that employee's identity. Yes, the public has a right to know what a public employee earns. The public doesn't have a right to steal a public employee's identity.

But it is illegal to steal someones identity! Surely no one would break the law! The point is moot!

Re:Pay stub != compensation (0, Offtopic)

Epistax (544591) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612981)

Does this (sarcastically implied) belief apply to gun ownership as well?
(But it is illegal to shoot someone until they are dead! Surely no one would break the law! This point is moot!

I know it's a MAJOR threadjack but I'm constantly thinking about my own view on gun ownership. The issues seem very different but we're talking about the same thing: improper use of resources. When do you say that someone can't have it because we fear (assume) something will go wrong?... bah my head hurts.


/if people would stop being assholes then we wouldn't have these problems

Re:Pay stub != compensation (0, Offtopic)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613813)

COMPILE ERROR 105344435435: Unbalanced paranthesis

Re:Pay stub != compensation (3, Informative)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610577)

Nice straw man, did you bother to actually look at what he scanned? There was no information about any of the things you mentioned(Except marital status, you could tell whether a girl was married by the Ms or Mrs.). All it had was a dollar amount of benefits given, Salary, and name.

See http://claremontca.blogspot.com/2007/09/labor-day_07.html [blogspot.com]

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610603)

The posting I read (before posting) said:

Until all this can be sorted out, we're posting the text of our Labor Day post minus the images in question. We maintain the city claims of confidentiality for the information posted on their website are baseless.

It does not mention if the text posted is the entirety of what was readable in the scans prior to their removal.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (3, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611841)

The posting I read (before posting) said:

Until all this can be sorted out, we're posting the text of our Labor Day post minus the images in question. We maintain the city claims of confidentiality for the information posted on their website are baseless.

It does not mention if the text posted is the entirety of what was readable in the scans prior to their removal.
Nice attempt at weaseling, but if you RTFA it mentions what information they contained:

"there were no Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no personal identifiers. The documents only contained name and pay information"

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612257)

"there were no Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no personal identifiers. The documents only contained name and pay information" Um, it might just be me, but isn't "name" a personal identifier?

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612377)

If a person is a public employee, then that's part of the public record.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612623)

Not really, multiple people can have the same name in a city(if you want to be a pedantic ass about it). Besides, it was not a massive database dump of all public officials. Read the article, the affected were well known city officials.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612961)

"there were no Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no personal identifiers. The documents only contained name and pay information" Um, it might just be me, but isn't "name" a personal identifier?

Yes, names can be personal identification however doesn't the taxpayer have the right to know who works for them, and how much they earn?

Falcon

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613143)

The government and the people working for the government don't work for the tax payer. They work for what they govern.

While this sounds a little pedantic because they govern the tax payer, they also work for those who don't pay taxes, for the area and environment in which they govern as well as anything else that they wish to effect by their governing. And more to your point, you have a right to know what the government spends but not necessarily how much everyone working for them makes.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

switcha (551514) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613499)

Wow. Where once there was one hair, there are now two.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (2, Interesting)

badasscat (563442) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612495)

Nice attempt at weaseling, but if you RTFA it mentions what information they contained:

"there were no Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no personal identifiers. The documents only contained name and pay information"


Two things.

1. AOL didn't think there were any personal identifiers in the search archives they released to the public either. Yet plenty of people ended up being tracked down from what was in that data. The point being, "no personal identifiers" is not a determination that you have the right to make about somebody else's data.

2. What pay stub have you ever seen that "only contained name and pay information"? I have never seen such a pay stub.

Not to mention, let's assume "salary" is public information. Does that mean elective deductions are also? What if I choose to have 10% of my pay put into a 401(k)? Is that public information? It's on my pay stub. I would highly doubt that deduction breakdowns are included in the law making "salary" public info. If someone got my pay stub and saw a large 401(k) deduction, and that pay stub also had my name on it and other personally identifiable info (which it does, whatever this guy thinks), then somebody now knows that at my rate of pay, and assuming a period of years of work, I might now have more than $100,000 in a 401(k) account... and if he has my pay stub, he really has all the info needed to access it. (A few phone calls is all it would take.)

You still don't see the problem here? Do you actually have a job? I mean, have you ever seen an actual pay stub?

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613555)

AOL didn't think there were any personal identifiers in the search archives they released to the public either. Yet plenty of people ended up being tracked down from what was in that data. The point being, "no personal identifiers" is not a determination that you have the right to make about somebody else's data.
AOL's database also contained highly variable information. It is reasonable to assume that something containing only a name and pay information will contain only those from document to document. Internet searches, on the other hand, can contain anything.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610877)

and marital status of course is public information in most states and in most cases since it typically becomes a matter of court records which are public.

Re:Pay stub != compensation (1)

jthill (303417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611369)

A ten-second scan of TFA reveals that *none* of that inappropriate information was made public.

Except... (5, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610249)

..."public information" != "information that must necessarily be accessible instantly, on-demand, via collection or aggregation by a third party" (regardless of how or from whom they were obtained, and it's also not clear whether images of the actual pay stubs themselves are completely "public information", even if they were accessible for a time)

(And love how the article is tagged "censorship"...)

Also, there is a lot of "public information" that isn't online and instantly searchable and accessible en masse. There are other issues here, which I'd hope someone who stops to think about it for a few moments can imagine.

And the bottom line is that anyone can still determine the compensation of a public employee if they wish to do so.

For example, the University of Wisconsin System [uwsa.edu] made its budget summaries, including compensation - known as the Redbook [uwsa.edu] available on the internet. However, now the personnel salaries are only accessible via computers with UW System IP addresses. Else,

Print copies of the Redbooks are located in the main library at all UW System institutions and the central public libraries in Madison and Milwaukee.

Salary information can be obtained by contacting the Human Resources department of any UW System institution. A CD of the Redbooks from fiscal years 2000-01 to 2006-07 can be purchased for $10.00. To file a written request for salary information or to purchase a CD, contact: [...]


Why? Because it was being abused. So now it's not universally available and publicly searchable on the internet. That doesn't mean the information still isn't "public". And before you say that the government's job should be to use technology to make access to such information easier, e.g., via putting on the internet, ask yourself if you'd want all information about you that is technically "public information" aggregated and made quickly and easily searchable by anyone on the internet on a whim, or if you'd rather that people have to actually have a legitimate need for specific pieces of information, and be willing to go through the processes to get it?

Would you want anyone to see images of your entire pay stubs, even if you work for a public agency and your compensation is "public"?

When things like the Redbook and Wisconsin Circuit Court Access [wicourts.gov] became more restrictive, most of the complaints I heard over time were from people who could no longer do the essential equivalent of casual stalking of individuals' salaries and civil, criminal, and traffic court records. Persons who still have a legitimate need for it can still easily get access to the information, and any member of the public can easily obtain any information they might need.

Further, this case seems a little odd...if all of the pay stubs were available on the city's web site, why did they have to aggregate them all? They were already publicly available, right? Obviously the city didn't intend for them to be displayed or obtained the way they were, and regardless of how much "their fault" it was, how incompetent they were at running their web site, or whether it was a data leak, even if it it is "public information" doesn't mean it needs to be, or should be, aggregated en masse on a third party internet site.

Also, while the individuals' compensation may be public, actual images of pay stubs may not be at all (and probably isn't). Again, even if the city had this out in the open through their error, that still doesn't mean it should be fair game for everyone until the end of time, regardless of whether some of the content of the image is "public information". A mistake is a mistake. The city isn't filing charges against someone for "hacking"; they're asking that images of pay stubs of city employees be removed from the internet. The public can still discover the compensation of the employees if they wish, and there is no mandate in letter or spirit of any law that they be available on demand on the internet.

As per usual, there is more to this story than the simplistic, "City Fights Blogger On Display of Public Information".

Re:Except... (3, Insightful)

torkus (1133985) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610693)

Public information means what it says ... information that is freely available to the public. Period. If you think there is security in making it more difficult to obtain you're delusional.

It's like saying "free speech!!!" and then turning around and expecting someone to excercise that right only in their basement. At a whisper. When alone.

If it's public information it should be readily available. Furthermore, if it's PUBLIC INFORMATION how can you reasonable claim copyright?! That's pure insanity. Who holds the copyright? The public? Go futher, it's information - *not* an artistic work of any sort. What will they try now, patent it?

Re:Except... (2, Insightful)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611005)

Well, I think the OP had a point there. After all, with online phone directories (that sometimes have mailing addresses, etc.) coupled with this kind of data, targeted mailings become too damn easy (yes, my opinion).

For example, run a quick query with some simple software and presto you now have the address, phone number, name of all public employees over 30 in area X,Y,Z making more than $80,000 per year. That's something I wouldn't want the average run of the mill "marketing" (read slimeball) drone to have easily available. Now, if they want to go to the city records office or something and write all this stuff down on paper and then transfer it to their computer - more power to them. But they won't, and we all know that. So, by keeping it public but off the internet it keeps it from being abused en-mass.

Re:Except... (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612389)

By keeping it online and freely available at all times, there is a much smaller risk that it will be destroyed, and a much larger risk that it will be discovered. A corrupt politician now knows that he can bribe the county clerk and steal with impunity. Sure there is the possibility that a intrepid reporter will follow the paper trail to find the inconsistencies, landing him in jail. But those things don't happen very often, and if I were a corrupt politician I would disregard it.

Once a large infrastructure of data is placed online, there are many more people someone would need to bribe(IT admin, clerk, data inputer), and there are far more eyeballs watching, as any jackass with a perl script can find missing documents.

Fool proof? Hardly, but better than what you propose.

Re:Except... (1)

DaveWick79 (939388) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612395)

Well, there already are mailing list companies selling this type of demographic dataset anyways. It's all public info, its just a matter of ease of access.

Re:Except... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20611689)

It's like saying "free speech!!!" and then turning around and expecting someone to exercise that right only in their basement. At a whisper. When alone.

Or, worse yet, in an "officially designated free speech zone" where your speech cannot be heard within two miles of the designated government functionary about whom you are peacefully assembling to redress a grievance.

Fuck that shit -- ALL OF AMERICA is a free speech zone and the sooner we reclaim that concept, the sooner we'll be rid of the tyrannical bastards who would stifle our First Amendment rights.

Re:Except... (1)

reddburn (1109121) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612943)

You're missing the point. The only lines on a pay stub that are public information are those containing the name of the employee and the gross compensation. The tax information is private, unless subpoenaed. Don't couch your pseudo philosophy in legalese unless you understand the law and know even the most basic premises thereof.

Re:Except... (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610719)

"Why? Because it was being abused. So now it's not universally available and publicly searchable on the internet. That doesn't mean the information still isn't "public". And before you say that the government's job should be to use technology to make access to such information easier, e.g., via putting on the internet, ask yourself if you'd want all information about you that is technically "public information" aggregated and made quickly and easily searchable by anyone on the internet on a whim, or if you'd rather that people have to actually have a legitimate need for specific pieces of information, and be willing to go through the processes to get it?"

Please be more specific about "abuse".

Re:Except... (3, Insightful)

peretzpup (530366) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610721)

If it's public information & I'm a member of the public, that means once I get it I can do whatever I please with it. The government certainly isn't necessarily obligated to provide easy access to it, but I'm not sure why I shouldn't be allowed to do so. Now whether these stubs are in fact public information could, possibly, be a valid question. Bit suspicious of governments retroactively declaring information non-public after they've published it, myself.

Re:Except... (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610829)

1. No one declared employee compensation non-public.

2. Images of entire pay stubs are not necessarily (and probably aren't) public.

3. Any member of the public may still obtain compensation information about employees from the city.

Re:Except... (2, Interesting)

peretzpup (530366) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611055)

I was actually responding to the main thrust of your argument, which seemed to be that government not being obligated to present public information in an easily accessible form somehow implied that private citizens shouldn't be allowed to do so once they get their hands on it. As to the documents in question, honestly, I have no idea of their status and it seems that the city is very interested in my staying confused on this subject. That makes me strongly suspect either that these stubs being made publicly available was an ill-conceived effort to comply with a public records law and they're now scurrying to present an appearance of due diligence after a breach of confidentiality which was entirely down to their own incompetence so they'll have something to point to during the inevitable lawsuits against them by their employees or the higher ups are embarrassed to have had their inflated salaries and benefits packages exposed and are trying to hush it up/get revenge. But that's just me.

Re:Except... (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612419)

Interesting theory, but the pay-stubs did not contain any personal information, just "Person X made $Y and received $Z in benefits this year", and only the higher up's salaries were published. So I think I'll go with your second theory.

Re:Except... (1)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610825)

The Des Moines Register publishes a web extra [desmoinesregister.com] detailing the compensation for all state employees. (Right now it covers the 2005 fiscal year.) It is searchable by department, or by county, and you can even list them in order of salary from highest to lowest. For reference - the four highest paid state employees are coaches for the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

Re:Except... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611281)

Well, at least they deserve the money. Do you know how much money those football teams generate in ticket sales alone? Let alone sale of licensed paraphernalia? I only with sports teams at Canadian universities generated so much money. Then the schools would have a lot more money to spend.

Re:Except... (1)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611631)

Except the money goes towards stadium upgrades and other sports related items.

Re:Except... (3, Informative)

Claremont Buzz (1156815) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610941)

Well, you are right that there is more to the story than the subject line. However, you are incorrect in assuming that we at the blog aggregated the information. That was the form it was in on the city website - 283 paystub images bundled together in 1 .pdf file.

Also, we did not post every one of the 283 images. We posted two, one for the Claremont City Manager, and one for the director of Human Services.

Additionally, the laws governing these matters are particular to each state. Wisconsin is not California. Like it or not, in California, as a result of an 8/27/07 California Supreme Court decision, the information on the paystubs is public. That's why we did not think anything of it when we saw the images. We simply thought Claremont was providing that information on their website as they did with everything else - agendas, minutes, and city staff reports going back fifty years.

A local newspaper, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, has been covering the issue and submitted the matter to several California public records experts, none of whom found anything exceptional in the images, other than the bank routing numbers, which were not discernable in our images. Here is a link to the Bulletin article:

http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_6888125 [dailybulletin.com]

Re:Except... (2, Interesting)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611347)

Thanks for the followup. From the information posted and linked in the slashdot summary, it wasn't clear exactly how the paystub images were obtained, or the format they were in.

You are correct that Wisconsin is not like California; I wasn't implying it was similar in every legal respect. However, the information in my example is also completely public...but it's no longer publicly accessible on-demand on the internet, and there is no legal compulsion requiring the government - whether it is the state of Wisconsin or a municipality in California, under their respective laws - to provide it via the internet or in any particular fashion.

Note also that I didn't say that the images of the paystubs *certainly* weren't public, just that while (some of) the information *on* the paystubs may be public, it doesn't necessarily follow that images of the paystubs themselves are public. That aside, any copyright argument is indeed puzzling. My only point was that there was likely more to the story, and the city seemingly didn't intend for this document to be publicly accessible, without regard to the fact that any or all of the information *on* them is public; further, it sounds like at least some of the information isn't technically public, whether you obscured it or it wasn't legible. Even if it is due exclusively to their bumbling incompetence, if the document wasn't intended to be public, I believe the city has some standing to ask for the removal of content of the document, even if the lion's share of it is public information. Further, as I'm sure you're aware - and aside from what the city believes about minutia other than compensation on the pay stubs - any member of the public can still obtain compensation information on city officials if desired.

That was my only point: that it doesn't have to happen via the internet. Also, what would happen if you provided all of the information that is most certain to be public information from the pay stubs, but not the images of the pay stubs themselves? Is it your feeling that there would be a problem? If not, I don't see what the issue is, here.

Re:Except... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20612997)

No problem listing the salaries and benefits, the problem is posting other info on the paystubs. Both images that were shown have the private employee number. Now those can no longer be used for entry codes. Also, I don't want my extended family to see where I have my money going in automatic deductions, and I especially don't want others seeing it. City goofed (as far as we know), but they aren't arguing against posting the salaries and benefits, only the images.

Re:Except... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20611335)

(And love how the article is tagged "censorship"...)

You have a kinder word for when anyone, especially a public official, attempts to remove from public scrutiny any published information? Tell me the word, whore.

It makes no difference whether the information is available in another venue or format -- it's censorship, pure and simple.

And there is also the corollary (and desired) effect of attempting to instill fear in anyone in the future who attempts this kind of publication.

Why? Because it was being abused.

Abuse does not take away use.

-- Thomas Aquinas

... ask yourself if you'd want all information about you that is technically "public information" ...

Push your bloody fuck of a strawman back up your asshole.

In the first place, I'm not a public official, so your candy-ass question is without meaning.

Second, knock off the childish "all information about you that is technically 'public information'" -- no one has expressed a desire for "all" information. It's just a red herring you dragged in by the tail to bolster your non-argument.

... aggregated and made quickly and easily searchable by anyone on the internet on a whim, or if you'd rather that people have to actually have a legitimate need for specific pieces of information, and be willing to go through the processes to get it?

Where in the definition of "public information" is there any mention of "need for specific pieces of information" -- IT'S PUBLIC, you silly shit. There is no requirement in the word PUBLIC for there to be any NEED. If I want to know what the president's salary is, even on a drunken whim, IT MUST BE DISCLOSED TO ME -- no requirement on my part to provide proof of need.

... actual images of pay stubs may not be at all (and probably isn't).

Well, haven't you just got the most capacious asshole to be pulling all this surmise out of -- may not be at all (and probably -- seven words, bounded at each end by weasel words showing that you don't know what the bloody fuck you're talking about, but sure wish it were this way.

Christ, why am I even wasting time on an intellectual pissant like you?

Re:Except... (3, Informative)

jthill (303417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611341)

"public information" != "information that must necessarily be accessible instantly, on-demand

Sure: the government isn't obligated to go to any great length to make it convenient for the public to get public data, and they can even charge for what efforts they do make.

So?

That's not even remotely similar to the government forbidding a member of the public from exposing public information which he regards as scandalous to public scrutiny, which is what happened here.

Would you want anyone to see images of your entire pay stubs[...]?

Even the most slack-witted scan, which I just performed with about ten seconds' effort, reveals this:

The city did not contact this blog, nor have we been told what information in the documents is confidential - there were no Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no personal identifiers. The documents only contained name and pay information

Re:Except... (1)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611773)

How can salary information be abused? It can't be. It doesn't allow you to loot someones bank account, fake their identity or any other kind of mischief. What it can be used to, though, is salary bargaining. It is much easier to demand a raise if you can prove, black on white, that you are underpaid. Employees know that, employers do too, which is why they want that kind of info to be a as closely guarded secret as possible. Do your colleagues know how much you earn? Does your boss like you discussing it?

In Sweden, how much someone earn is public information. Or actually what they pay in taxes is, but you can easily count backwards from that. Checking out such information before you negotiate your salary for a new job is a great idea which I learned the hard way. Should have done a credit check before I accepted a lower than average salary because the company didn't do very well, when in reality the boss took 3-4x as much as me. Everyone gets fooled like that all time time because all the cards are stacked in the employers favor. They have all the knowledge of what salaries there are and you have none, even unions can't do much anymore. But getting salary information is a great way to at least reduce the knowledge gap a little.

Too much info (1, Redundant)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610269)

Yes, city/state/federal compensation is 'public info'. But there is much more on a pay stub that is very personal info.

Were these actual scans?

Re:Too much info (1, Interesting)

Claremont Buzz (1156815) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611081)

Yes, these were actual scans; and no, they did not have any personal information - no Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no home addresses, no phone numbers, no dependent information. Nothing. All of the remainder, like it or not, is considered public information for public employees under California law.

We would not have posted the 2 (out of 283) that we did if there were personal identifiers on the stubs.

Here is a link to a local newspaper's article on the public nature of the documents:

http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_6888125 [dailybulletin.com]

Re:Too much info (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612079)

We would not have posted the 2 (out of 283) that we did if there were personal identifiers on the stubs.We would not have posted the 2 (out of 283) that we did if there were personal identifiers on the stubs.

Your vision of personal and mine are evidently different.
"In Parker's pay stub, for the pay period ending Dec. 17, itemized earnings, benefits, leave earnings and deductions are listed and quantified by dollar amount."

I am a fed employee of grade XX-YY. A person of grade XX-YY Step Q makes $ZZ,ZZZ/year. Poof...thats all you, the public, needs to know. Deductions on an identifiable basis? No. Leave earnings (and leave expenditures)? No.

"I don't know what the city is referring to with reference to medical information," Francke said. "Because I've never heard of a pay stub that includes any medical information."

How much I spend (or don't spend) on medical/dental insuranceis personal information.

Your vision of this may differ from mine. But this is mine.

Re:Too much info (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612793)

Leave earned can also be affected by the transfer of prior military leave for persons who have recently entered civil service employment (They will generally have leave well above what their years in civil service would normally entail). Anomalous appearing leave earnings can identify personnel who are prior service and give a fairly good estimation of their years in service, and possibly even time in combat zones. Entire service histories have on occasion been classified at federal Secret level, and normally are at least Service-member related confidential (requiring the person's signed permission to release singly in association with his or her name, but usually releasable in aggregate). California's laws and courts simply cannot authorize making that information public, any more that they can veto the Federal budget or declare a French national holiday.

compensation != paystubs (4, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610289)

The compensation is public. Pay stubs are not compensation. Pay stubs contain fun stuff that may lead to the compromise of the financial security of the individual. Requesting the takedown of the pay stubs was more than reasonable.

Re:compensation != paystubs (1, Redundant)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610605)

No personal information was released other than name, salary, and received benefits. This is just a local government that is embarrassed by their ridiculously high administrative salaries. See http://claremontca.blogspot.com/2007/09/labor-day_07.html [blogspot.com] .

Re:compensation != paystubs (0, Offtopic)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610919)

Note to mods. It's not redundant when the post number is lower.

Re:compensation != paystubs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20612593)

My favorite is when the faggot mods mark the first or second posts of a story as Redundant

Re:compensation != paystubs (1)

jthill (303417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611435)

The Dance of the Hierarchy-Worshipping Toadies-at-Large is playing *everywhere* these days, isn't it?

Your premises are false.

Ten seconds' effort, the simplest scan of TFA, would have shown you your premises are false.

Re:compensation != paystubs (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611725)

There are two articles involved, and they contradict each other. Meanwhile the original data has been hidden, so we can't uncover the truth.

Re:compensation != paystubs (1)

jthill (303417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612725)

Where, please, do they say anything concrete about what was on those images?

The city could have shut the controversy down immediately by saying anything along the lines of "at least one social security number was exposed on the images we asked Google to remove". Or home address, or anything at all concrete.

And note this, from the dailybulletin article:

"Bottom line is, if we have a problem with our system that would allow for information that shouldn't be public to be public, we need to identify if there is a problem with our system," said City Manager Jeff Parker. "So until that is solved and identified, we're going to take that action."

"if we have a problem [...] we're going to take that action."

If I step on a nail, I'm going to get a tetanus booster. I just got a tetanus booster. Did I step on a nail?

And again:

contain private information about employees that should not be available to the public.

"should", according to whom? What information the city *is* required to make available to the public is a matter of law. What information *should be* available to the public is opinion.

Again: all they have to do to is identify one piece of personal data on those images that isn't publicly available by law. Poof: end of controversy. As it is, this is some kind of bastard echo of The Castle.

They're just ignorant. (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610323)

I deal with FOIA type stuff all the time, and the truth of it is, most government employees have no idea what is public and what is not. They fire off knee jerk threats, and withhold stuff all the time.

Used to be the media kept them in better check, but if your local newspapers aren't suing the crap out of them every time they step out of line (and mostly they're not these days, because it's expensive), then they start power tripping and keeping secrets.

Re:They're just ignorant. (3, Informative)

winkydink (650484) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610407)

Actually, the California ruling came about as the result of the Contra Costa Times suing the City of Oakland.

http://www.mercurynews.com/politics/ci_6732431 [mercurynews.com]

Oh absolutely. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611155)

Almost all freedom of information law came about because a print media outlet sued the fuck out of someone for keeping secrets. Television never does that sort of thing, and bloggers don't have the resources to do that sort of thing.

When journalism all becomes corporate journalism, you stop seeing good papers sticking it to the man for freedom of information...The dollars it takes to sue come out of the budget of the editorial section...A "non-revenue generating business unit"...nevermind that the point of the whole thing is to generate NEWS and it's hard to do that if the local government is free to withhold whatever they want, and they are, if you can't cost justify suing.

the yro scolor scheme sucks (3, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610385)

let me repeat: the yro color scheme sucks. Particularly the part where comment titles are a slightly darker shade of red than the background box.

Re:the yro scolor scheme sucks (3, Funny)

Pootworm (1000883) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610429)

Agreed, now I have to read the actual text of the comment to know what's being discussed. That's just not the Slashdot way!

Re:the yro scolor scheme sucks (1)

kennygraham (894697) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610905)

Normally I'd mod you a troll, but I had to highlight the title of your comment to read it.

All themes... (1)

TypoNAM (695420) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610925)

All the CSS/Themes have been changed to this retarded crap, is this some kind of a joke?
I've checked Linux, Games, Apple, and of course YRO sections, and all of them have this color problem in their respective CSS files.

Re:the yro scolor scheme sucks (1)

rhizome (115711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611167)

let me repeat: the yro color scheme sucks. Particularly the part where comment titles are a slightly darker shade of red than the background box.

Ha ha, you still use the default theme? I use the "Practically Text Only" which has barely any color fields. I'd go nuts otherwise.

Not just YRO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20611193)

All the colors just got changed and now they're unreadable. Guess someone b0rked a CSS file? Oops.

Re:the yro scolor scheme sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20611749)

I'm not having any problems. i'm seeing white text on brown background.

Possible reasons for your problem:
* server problems - maybe /. had problems serving css files when you accessed the site
* browser cache - browser remembers an outdated css file. clear your browser cache to force it to redownload
* bad browser - what browser do you use?

HTH ( I guess not because anons are invisible nowadays )

Recent Court Ruling (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610387)

http://www.cfac.org/content/index.php/cfac-news/commentary20/ [cfac.org]

California Supreme Court decision, IFPTE, Local 21 v. Superior Court

Quote: "Significantly, the Court could have---but did not---limit its holding to employees earning over $100,000. While the justices no doubt were impressed by evidence of abuses and mismanagement concentrated at the high end of the public pay scale, they were careful not to ascribe any legal significance to the compensation threshold.

Similarly, the Court could have---but did not---limit its holding to local governments, like Oakland, that have a history of disclosing their employees' salaries, thus undermining workers' claims to a "reasonable expectation" of privacy in their government compensation."

Copyright? Nada.

CC.

Bizarre legal argument (0)

OSPolicy (1154923) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610391)

>"It doesn't make any sense," said Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware. "First of all, I doubt that it's a fact that the city copyrights the pay stubs. I don't know why it would." They wouldn't. Why not? Because it's no longer necessary to register something for the author to claim copyright. That does not mean that it's not copyrighted. >"And secondly, it's not clear to me that the display of the pay stubs would violate the copyright act anyway. It's simply displaying an image of them, it's not making a copy of them." An image *is* a copy. >Francke added that if the documents are indeed copyrighted, the posting by the blog of the pay stubs would qualify as a "fair use" - meaning it would pass legal muster - because there is no market value lost by the publication. Fair use is defined by 17 U.S.C. 107 and by various judicial decisions. 17 U.S.C. 107 sayeth, in part: /========== ...the fair use of a copyrighted work... for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include-- (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. \========== This may or may not be "fair use", but it's easy to use the statutory definition to make an argument against. If the blogger accepts advertising or otherwise profits from his blogging then this can be construed as a commercial use; he nature of the pay stubs, or of any pay stub, is typically private; and the entirety of each stub is used rather than quoting a subsection such as stating only the name of the employee and the compensation. I don't know the whole story on this one, but it's not just government-oppresses-blogger.

Bizarre legal argument (2, Interesting)

OSPolicy (1154923) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610431)

First, I apologize to the Slashdot community for moronically making my previous posting under this same title without using preview. If I had, I'd have seen that all of my spacing was lost and I thereby made the post almost unintelligible. Moderators, if you would be so kind as to delete the previous post then I would be in your debt. Second, here's the post as it should have appeared:

>"It doesn't make any sense," said Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware. "First of all, I doubt that it's a fact that the city copyrights the pay stubs. I don't know why it would."

They wouldn't. Why not? Because it's no longer necessary to register something for the author to claim copyright. That does not mean that it's not copyrighted.

>"And secondly, it's not clear to me that the display of the pay stubs would violate the copyright act anyway. It's simply displaying an image of them, it's not making a copy of them."

An image *is* a copy.

>Francke added that if the documents are indeed copyrighted, the posting by the blog of the pay stubs would qualify as a "fair use" - meaning it would pass legal muster - because there is no market value lost by the publication.

Fair use is defined by 17 U.S.C. 107 and by various judicial decisions. 17 U.S.C. 107 sayeth, in part: /========== ...the fair use of a copyrighted work... for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include--
      (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
      (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
      (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
      (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
\==========

This may or may not be "fair use", but it's easy to use the statutory definition to make an argument against. If the blogger accepts advertising or otherwise profits from his blogging then this can be construed as a commercial use; he nature of the pay stubs, or of any pay stub, is typically private; and the entirety of each stub is used rather than quoting a subsection such as stating only the name of the employee and the compensation.

I don't know the whole story on this one, but it's not just government-oppresses-blogger.

Re:Bizarre legal argument (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610669)

Forms cannot be copyrighted. This is just a litigious local government with an overzealous lawyer.

And as an aside, commercial income does not invalidate fair use. The logical structure of the law is not clear, and only says that the purpose of use must be considered. If it were that iron clad, Governments and corporations could sue when the media releases leaked documents, as they are profiting off their "copyright".

Re:Bizarre legal argument (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610875)

Umm.. forms can be and are copyrightable.
I can create a form with text, that enables any number of processes to be handled well.
Unless it's graph paper... it's unique, and creative works.

Re:Bizarre legal argument (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612461)

I should have been specific, Government forms usually cannot be copyrighted. At the very least, they are "opt in".

Re:Bizarre legal argument (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20610821)

>>"It doesn't make any sense," said Terry Francke, general counsel of
>Californians Aware. "First of all, I doubt that it's a fact that the city
>copyrights the pay stubs. I don't know why it would."
>
> They wouldn't. Why not? Because it's no longer necessary to register
> something for the author to claim copyright. That does not mean that it's
> not copyrighted.

You'd be right in most cases - individuals and organizations are granted copyright by default. But the general rule with respect to *government* is, "if the government creates a copyrightable work, that work is immediately placed into the public domain by default." Why? Well, since governments are - in theory - merely the embodiment of the public itself, hence anything they create naturally belongs to the public.

In other words, if you or I create it, it is copyrighted by default and a positive action must be made in order to put it into the public domain. If, however, the government (including its employees in the course of their duties - the equivalent of "works for hire" if they were employed in private industry) creates it, **it is in the public domain by default** unless a positive action has been made to place it under copyright.

So, long story short, you're dead wrong. If the government made it (in this case, a City Government) and didn't specifically file for copyright, it's almost a lock that it's NOT copyrighted.

IANAL. TINLA.

Re:Bizarre legal argument (1)

Claremont Buzz (1156815) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611157)

To answer your questions:

- We do not accept advertisements. We do have a widget that has ads, but that we receive no revenue from it; it simply comes with the widget. We've offered to remove it if it offends any readers, but no one responded, and we happen to like it because it's handy.

- There were no personal identifiers on the stubs. No Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no home addresses or phone numbers, no dependents. The payroll info and the names are all public records in California. A local paper has copies of the documents and submitted them to California public records experts, as you noted in your post.

Here is a link to the article you referenced:

http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_6888125 [dailybulletin.com]

Re:Bizarre legal argument (1)

Professor Mindblow (1142939) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611225)

There's some bad lawyering going on in that article. The lawyer for the city claims attorney-client privilege over emails to Google. Not covered. Only some communications between client and lawyer are privileged. Communication between lawyer and a third party, in this case Google, are never privileged. Doesn't mean she has to hand the emails over on a simple demand, but they're not privileged. The quote from the "open government" lawyer about how an image is not a copy is pretty bizarre. But so is claiming copyright as the reason to take the images down. That must just be a buzzword to trigger Google's action. I'm not an IP lawyer, but surely if the US Government can't copyright its works then Claremont, CA, can't.

Re:Bizarre legal argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20613653)

This may or may not be "fair use", but it's easy to use the statutory definition to make an argument against. If the blogger accepts advertising or otherwise profits from his blogging then this can be construed as a commercial use;

So if I'm a professional book critic who is paid by a newspaper, I have no fair use when quoting a passage for critical purposes? Don't be silly.

he nature of the pay stubs, or of any pay stub, is typically private;

Ooohhh -- "typically" -- pulling this bit of guesswork out to where the sun does shine is not what you want to call persuasive.

and the entirety of each stub is used rather than quoting a subsection such as stating only the name of the employee and the compensation.

Well, if you want to get pedantic, the part used is only a minuscule part of the whole work (magnum opus, if you find that more suitable, though not synonymous), the whole work being the entire municipal payroll for the month, if not the year or century.

I don't know the whole story on this one, but it's not just government-oppresses-blogger.

But don't let that stop you from posting a string of BS. Absent the further information required to make any other point, it is indeed "government-oppresses-blogger".

Don't Give In (3, Informative)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610453)

Don't give in just because the city attorney says he wants it all back. He is not the law. Only a court can decide what's legal and what isn't. Taking legal advice from a city attorney, or the policeman who just arrested you, is some of the worst advice you will get.

Public Information (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610513)

Generally you WRITE a REQUEST for this information, not snoop around and find it. Bad on the City to leave stubs lying around as that's just more stuff for identity thieves to pillage.

Re:Public Information (4, Informative)

Claremont Buzz (1156815) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610805)

You presume a number of incorrect things. First, there was no "snooping around" involved. The information was posted on a public, online City of Claremont archive designed to reduce the need for the public to make written requests for city documents. The site had been up for several years. We accessed the information while researching an essay on public employee compensation. We simply typed a search for the Claremont City Manager, Jeff Parker, together with the word "performance." We were looking for his latest performance evaluation, which was discussed in public at a city council meeting earlier this year. Up popped a .pdf with pay stubs for all city employees.

Second, there was no personal information for ID thieves to use on any of the paystubs. No Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no personal phone numbers or home addresses. Only the employee's name and payroll information. All of this information is public information in California - other states may have different laws, but this is the state of affairs in California.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, a local newspaper that has been covering the story, has a copy of the same .pdf file the blog used. The paper published an article on this topic today:

http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_6888125 [dailybulletin.com]

Censorship Issues (1)

Jeremiah Stoddard (876771) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610611)

The fact that the city had the pay stubs taken down doesn't worry me -- they probably shouldn't be allowed to be publicly accessible. The censorship concern of this to me is: from the article it sounds like the city's first act in finding something it didn't like online was going straight to the ISP to remove it, rather than trying to contact the person who posted the information first. It sets a bad trend -- removing from the individuals rights as well as responsibilities in what they publish...

Who knows, though, what the article might be leaving out...

Change Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20610615)

Please change the title of this article to:

"Incompetent shit heads that are employed by the city of Claremont post scans of employees pay stubs on their PUBLIC WEBSERVER then cry like fucking vaginas when someone actually finds them."

Position Pay ranges versus individual pay stubs (1, Insightful)

surfingmarmot (858550) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610705)

My wife works in city government. The salary ranges and what a called control points (maximums for a position) are indeed public knowledge although some of the high level execs hide their bonuses, but not pay levels, in obscure documents. Wonder why ;-) But as many hear have stated, an individual's pay stub isn't a position pay range--it is uniquely personal and contains information about taxation, vacation. PTO, health insurance, life insurance, possibly bank information, possibly social security information, maybe addresses, dependents, etc. The city is divulging way too much information and that should be shut down ASAP.

Re:Position Pay ranges versus individual pay stubs (1)

Claremont Buzz (1156815) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611033)

Look, we don't make the law. It is what it is for better or worse. Perhaps the city should not have posted the paystubs publically, but the fact is, in an article published today in the local Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (which has been covering the issue), several California public records experts indicated that there was nothing in the pay stub images, other than bank routing numbers, which could be redacted, that could be construed as confidential.

There were no Social Security numbers, no home addresses, no dependent informaton, no telephone number - nothing. There were names and payroll information, which the California State Supreme Court ruled on 8/27/07 were public information in the case of public civil servants.

Here is a link to the Bulletin's article:

http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_6888125 [dailybulletin.com]

Vague legal sparring leads to vague options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20610859)

A major problem seems to be that both Google and the city have been very vague about the objections they have to the paystub images. The initial complaint (relayed by Google, as the city refuses to release the actual complaint letter) references confidential data; upon the blogger's refutation of this claim, the second takedown notification from Google cites the fact that the paystub images are copyrighted material owned by the city. What can be done in response to amorphous threats and responses that are not readily visible to the blogger?

Had the city send a DMCA takedown notice, the blogger would have a reasonable basis to file a counternotification; absent that, what procedure is there for the blogger to state to Google that he believes his posting of the content is fair use of non-confidential information? Obviously Google is a private company and free to ignore these claims in order to avoid legal action from the city, but they really ought to have clear procedures, as they do in DMCA cases, to restore content and stop the recurrent take-downs.

I suppose this only reinforces the argument that one's content ought to be published on an independently owned domain portable to various ISPs to avoid arbitrary action by hosting services (à la Six Apart's censorship of legal speech discussing "Lolita"). However, given that so many people rely upon these services, reputable ones, and I hope Google falls within this group, should provide clear standards and safeguards for their customers/free content producers.

Public Emploees Records (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610863)

I do believe that the government only has to publish the salaries of *positions*, unless they are elected officials. They dont ( and really shouldn't ) tie them to actual individuals for publishing.

I also question what was on the stub, the address, and empID perhaps? That stuff shouldnt be published.

Re:Public Emploees Records (1)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613523)

Those harmed shoudln't blame the Whistleblower...

Blame the negligent Government Employee who let the documents become available in the first place.

Not A Big Deal (0)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 6 years ago | (#20610979)

It seems pretty obvious how pay stubs could contain private information. In addition to the salary they include information about deductions taken (from the withholding) that implicitly gives info about financial situation. Not to mention the possibility they include social security numbers, employee ID information or even deductions due to wage garnishment (lawsuit/divorce).

No, the people involved didn't give the best explanations but that's probably because they (wisely) decided to act before consulting their law books extensively. The right reason for asking these be taken down is for privacy concerns. As far as public employee salaries being public I'm not so sure it doesn't have a bunch of exceptions. I thought that in CA they exempted some employees (including police officers) recently but maybe I am misremembering.

In any case while I think there is some interest in having employee salaries available to the public (with exceptions when it is important for negotiations) I think it is reasonable to keep the pay stubs themselves offline unless they are carefully blacked out. This is exactly the reason FOIA requests exist and are reviewed before the info is published. At the very least given the permanent harm if IDs are stolen and the transitory harm if the people have to put the post back up in two days acting quickly doesn't seem so bad here.

And this is from someone who is pretty damn absolutist about free speech. I have some qualms with blackmail laws and right of publicity but given that the law wouldn't demand people be allowed to post a private employees full payroll info I don't see much harm in taking these down until things are figured out.

Re:Not A Big Deal (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612017)

It seems pretty obvious how pay stubs could contain private information.
Jeebus, RTFA. What might seem "obvious" to you based on idle speculation is no substitute for the actual facts of the case:

"there were no Social Security numbers, no dates of birth, no personal identifiers. The documents only contained name and pay information"

myopic view of the public service (1)

waterford0069 (580760) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611181)

The thing I notice about this blogger's investigation is that he seems very focused on the raw number that people are being paid over the context for what they are being paid for.

That context includes things like the number of people reporting to you (or in your tree), educational requirements, duties, length of service, etc. etc. etc.

Many of these people could be in private industry where they could earn more with the skills and experience that they have. If you want to get the best people to run you city/state/province/country, you have to compensate them accordingly. Altruism can only go so far. (Especially if you are cop and your job is to dodge bullets.)

You insensitive clods! (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611449)

What are these "pay stubs" of which you speak? Some of us don't get pay stubs, we get the net amount we earn.

I'd love it if everyone just got their gross pay and a 1099. Especially "public" employees.

Let them have the joy of filing quarterly taxes... all that paperwork keeps their public service brethren employed.

Wow, that is one clueless lawyer (2, Interesting)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#20611979)

The comments by the lawyer were amusing.

First, he seems unaware that if something is copyrightable, copyright is automatic. So, if paystubs are copyrightable, the city would not have to do anything special. They would be copyrighted the moment they are printed.

Second, he says that they aren't copying the paystubs, just making images of them to display, so it would not fall under copyright. An image of a document is a copy as far as copyright law is concerned, so that's strike two.

finally, he says that this would be covered by fair use because there is no market value in the pay stubs. Affect on market value of a work is just one of the four factors considered in determining whether a use is fair use. Strike three.

Lawyers who do not specialize in copyright often make mistakes, but this guy seems to be setting some kind of record here!

Re:Wow, that is one clueless lawyer (1)

JoelKatz (46478) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612835)

He actually had a fourth strike. He missed the obvious slam dunk argument. The pay stubs are not subject to copyright because the contain no significant expressive or creative content. Every bit of content in them is purely functional.

Maybe they had a colorful background image of a beautiful young woman running through the grass towards a gazebo with a unicorn in it?

It is totally obvious here that the city was trying to suppress factual information. You can't do that with copyright.

This is the problem... (1)

brundlefly (189430) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612393)

The USA has been a country for well over 200 years. We started with a decent set of guidelines for basic laws, expecting to fill in the details over time, as we saw the need. (See a need, fill a need. Just like BigWeld says.)

Fast forward to today. We've been making laws for 231 years, +/- my errors in American History and Math. There are so many, I repeat so many, laws on the books that it's unreasonable to expect any single person to know and obey them all. Even big organizations sometimes slip up and violate laws they didn't mean.

To make matters worse, sometimes decent, logical laws get passed, and yet there are so many laws on the books that it's impossible to police things to make sure none of them get broken. And so, shady entities have a wide margin of arbitrage between legality and enforcement, from which to pry their takings. Usually the frequency and severity of the punishments is inversely proportional to the obscurity of the law (more obscure == less penalty) and so it's actually profitable and more efficient to dance around in the gray areas of legality. Bummer.

(You're wondering where I loop back around and relate this to TFA? Me too. Lemme think.)

Oh yeah. Public employees usually aren't the most talented or savvy of the lot. There are some awesome people in the public sector, but in general the _average_ govt. employee is not as strong a worker as the _median_ govt. employee. "Free market" capitalism combined with capped government salaries ensure this.

So our expectations of public bureaucracy need to be lowered, sadly. This is just another example of why. Expecting the highly unlikely to happen and getting saddened by it not happening isn't really fair or logical.

Some systems need to be changed from without, not within. And expecting them to change themselves just isn't going to happen.

I put government into this category.

We need a new government system.

We need a radical departure from today's way!

Who is with me?! Yeah! Let's set off a firecracker every six inches along the entire state line of California, all at once. The ensuing shocks will cause the state to break free and sail towards Hawaii. At which point we'll, uh, wait a sec...

1. Light firecrackers
2. Sail California into the Pacific
3. ??
4. Profit!

5. Justice Dept. barges in, seizes computers
6. EFF steps in
7. ??
8. Profit again!

We can't fail....

State Employees (1)

vondiggity (1038522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20612701)

I know where I work (The Cal State System) one can simply check out a book from the library listing everyone that works for the university and their current pay rate.

Re:State Employees (2, Interesting)

cortesoft (1150075) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613569)

I live in California, and our local newspaper prints every local government employee's salary every year in a special edition of the paper. They print everyone's - from the city manager and the mayor, down to school principals and secretaries. They have done this for as long as I can remember, and it always sparks controversy about pay rates and such, but I never remember anyone complaining that it shouldn't be public.

Simple Courtesy..... (2, Interesting)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613763)

People here in the U.S. need to understand that just because they have certain rights provided by law DOESN'T mean that they should be assholes.

I mean for example, just because I have the right to access public employee information doesn't mean that I have to go around publicly displaying the employee's pay stubs.

Some people might disagree, saying that we should be able to find out what people are being paid (as ALOT of public officials get paid six, sometimes seven, figures just to play golf and ski), which is true, but that doesn't justify the overt publishing of employee's personal information. If you want to find out what public officials are earning, you should just do a simple FIA request yourself. Keep in mind that the claim is to keep an eye on excessive spending of taxpayer dollars. However, what about the wasteful spending of funds by corporations? Corporate executive abuse their funds too, not just governments.

Naysayers should ask themselves if they would publicly post their own information. Think about it: If you are a public official, and someone publishes your personal information, it is ok, while if someone posts your personal information, and you are NOT a public official, it is an invasion of privacy. So what? A job is a job is a job. Period.

My beliefs are this: If you were elected to office through a public election, then your information should be available. If you were hired in the same way that private employees are, then your information should be kept private, with the obvious exceptions for budget analysis and allocation (departmental allocation, travel expenses, office expenses, fees, etc.), but amounts/figures only.

Why should we force the city street sweepers, meter maids, library Reference Desk clerks, or librarians to be publicly scruitinized and have their own personal privacy invaded and compromised in the same way as police chiefs, fire chiefs, city council members, and mayors? (I think that there is less of a chance that a Librarian is corrupt and being overpaid, rather than the mayor or council members.)

Just because you work for the city/state/federal goverment, and not a private business doesn't mean that your personal information should be available for the world to see and become somebody's bitch.

Simple Rule:

Elected Official (Term Jockey) -> Public Information.
Hired Employee (Clock Watcher) -> Private Information.

Remember: Just because you have rights doesn't make it right to abuse them by being a dick.

Be polite and respectful of other people's privacy, even if you have the right to abuse and violate it.

Re:Simple Courtesy..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20613945)

"People here in the U.S. need to understand that just because they have certain rights provided by law DOESN'T mean that they should be assholes."
Agreed, but it is not the city's perogative to decide whether you're being too much of an asshole with your rights. Your rights are your rights. It doesn't matter what you're doing with them. If the city wants to try to get your rights changed, they can do that. I doubt they'll be successful.

Libel (1)

forlornhope (688722) | more than 6 years ago | (#20613959)

There are several quotes where city officials basically call the blogger a thief. The blogger then goes on the point out that their actions show that they knew the real source of the information. Sounds like a the blogger could sue the city officials. If I were them Id be looking into that one.
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