NCTQ and UW Board of Regents Settle Open Records Lawsuit

 In Case Updates, NCTQ v. UW Bd. of Regents

WILL has once again struck a blow for open government in the state of Wisconsin. Its client, the National Council for Teacher Quality, is engaged in a national project to evaluate schools of education in partnership with U.S. News and World Report. It wants to find out whether our future teachers are being adequately prepared for the classroom.

Nationwide, the education establishment has fought NCTQ tooth and nail. Unfortunately, our public Universities in Wisconsin have been no exception. As part of its effort, NCTQ filed open records requests to twelve UW schools of education requesting numerous documents – including syllabi – for courses related to the training of teachers.  The schools released many of the requested documents but uniformly refused to provide course syllabi, claiming that they were protected by copyright.

On behalf of NCTQ, WILL brought suit against the University of Wisconsin, alleging that the schools’ refusals violated open records laws.  Those laws do contain a narrow exception for “materials to which access is limited by copyright, patent or bequest”; however, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has held that even where public records are copyrighted, public access to those records constitutes “fair use” under copyright law.

In response to WILL’s suit, the schools have agreed to give NCTQ what it asked for. They have promised to turn over the requested syllabi, turn over any syllabi requested by NCTQ in the future, and pay NCTQ’s attorney fees and court costs associated with this lawsuit.

Media coverage can be found here.

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