OpenCorporates takes Quebec company register to court

Yesterday, OpenCorporates filed suit in the Superior Court (Civil Division) in Montreal, Quebec, for a declaratory judgement against the Quebec Registraire des Enterprises, to ensure that OpenCorporates data on Quebec companies remains freely available to journalists, NGOs and thousands of other users around the world.

The suit is in response to a demand that the Quebec register sent to OpenCorporates late last year that it remove the information that it holds on Quebec companies, claiming that “only the Registraire Des Enterprises is authorized to hold the register and make the register accessible to the public”.

This is a first for OpenCorporates, and not a move we’ve taken lightly (not least because this sort of thing isn’t cheap, and we’d prefer to spend the money on opening up more jurisdictions).

However, we believe that this demand is neither supported in law, nor does it support the public benefit. It is also contradicted through other actions by the register, including making a subset of the data available as a download for others to use, albeit with restrictions that means it does not qualify as “open data”. In fact, this is the first time in its 6 years of operation that OpenCorporates has ever received such a demand from a government.

Given OpenCorporates is regularly used by journalists, NGOs, business, and even the Quebec government, and is ultimately about opening up company data for the company benefit, we feel we have no choice but fight this demand by getting a ruling confirming that it can carry on holding the data on Quebec companies, and making it available for all.

We’ll be blogging here with continued news about how the case goes, and what you can do to support it. To begin with, if you’re based in Quebec, do contact your local MNA, and ask them to pressure the Registraire not just to retract the demand but to publish the entire register as open data. Otherwise, do spread the word via your personal and professional networks, blogs, twitter and other social networks.

If you want to add your voice to our open letter, email hera at opencorporates.com.

Photo: Benson Kua

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