NI Fahrenheit 45 101 – Fire Service seek to burn a blog

“I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it’ll make sense.”

I didn’t expect to return to my costing 11th bonfires blog series until a final entry bringing together all the drains on the public purse. However I’m forced to revist the topic today as the first entry in the series attracted an unexpected response from the Freedom of Information Co-Ordinator [sic] at the NI Fire and Rescue Service.

I  have previously noted the impossibility of getting information from the PSNI on costs associated with 11th bonfires and praised the Fire Service for their prompt and full response on similar questions. That positive experience of the NIFRS has been dented as they sent me an email suggesting that reproducing their reply to my FoI request is a breach of copyright. I assume they expect me to remove it.

‘Please note that the supply of information under Freedom of Information does not give the recipient the automatic right to re-use it in any way that would infringe copyright.  This includes, for example, making multiple copies, publishing and issuing copies to others’.

Of course  I know under the FoI Act material given in a reply does not indicate a transfer of copyright. I also know a reply is not automatically copyrightable of itself.

I have asked the Fire Service which element of the figures on costs to them for 11th bonfires they deem copyrightable material. I have also asked them under a further FoI request if they have had any external submissions on my blog.

I await their answers and have not removed a single word.


While the Fire Service did have my publication of  the FoI response raised with them by a 3rd party and that prompted their email it transpires the email didn’t actually mean anything. Given the clarification (of sorts) they sent I’m confused as to why they even bothered sending me such a pointless email in the first place. Possibly line of least resistance when dealing with someone willing to complain over the blog? :

NIFRS was made aware of the fact that the information provided had been re-used, therefore the only intention of the email to you dated 21 September 2010 was merely to draw your attention to the paragraph on the reuse of information.

NIFRS feels it is important that the information provided is re-used in an appropriate manner and in light of this the final paragraph is standard in all FOI response letters.

Following receipt of your correspondence I can confirm that NIFRS will revisit the wording of this standard paragraph and revise if necessary. NIFRS has embraced fully all aspects of FOI since its introduction and will continue to provide prompt responses to requests for information.

In response to your FOI of 21 September 2010, I can advise that on 20 August 2010 NIFRS was made aware that the information provided in response to an FOI request from yourself had been published on a website. Reference was also made to the final paragraph on the re-use of information which resulted in the email to you.

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  • William Markfelt


    They’re talking shit. The Copyright Act (1988) has no impact on an answer from the NIFRS, unless they sing the answer down the telephone, or get Brian Blessed to recite it AT you.

    They MIGHT make a case if you copied the work, but if you’ve put the work into your own words (you did, didn’t you?) then they’re pissing up a rope.

    And of course you can bite back by suggesting that the reproduction of their ‘work’ is news reporting, on which no copyright laws apply.

    Failing that, no copyright exists on statutory enquiries.

    Failing that, no coptright exists on research purposes.

    Failing that, no copyright exists on incidental inclusion into a wider story (you did ask the PSNI first, right?)

    Failing that, you can claim you DID cite the source of the material as the NIFRS, which limits their copyright claim.

    But before that, I’d tell them to fuck off rather than get into a pissing contest with them.

  • Mark McGregor


    I agree. But it is going to be interesting to play this out with them.

    Essentally the same information was provided to an MLA so it makes it so much more interesting:

    I doubt they decided to go down this road of themselves.

  • William Markfelt

    The escape clause will be ‘stock, pre-written notepaper which was not intended to imply, etc, etc’.

    I still favour the idea of telling them to fuck off. Much more satisfying to yank chains via that route and see if they’ve got the idiocy to respond accordingly.

    Legal people do like to make money, but it’s a brave one who’ll cite contraventions to the Copyright Act in this instance without a judge making them looki like a right pranny.

  • Mark McGregor

    Great thing is I hosted it off-site, so Mick has no concerns or worries.

    We get to see this play out – I don’t give a flying feck about legal threats.

  • tacapall

    Fair play to you Mark, The lords on the hills have weilded their authority. Get a signer on to take a judicial review, make them pay the bill for a challenge on their own decietfulness.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    In fairness to MMG, there is some mileage in this.
    But I always go for “screw up” over “conspiracy” and would surmise there was no outside interference….which in a sense is actually worse if an arbitrary decision (to seemingly subvert the spirit of Freedom of Information) is made at a omparatively low level.
    Good luck with it.

  • Clanky

    Mark, have you checked that the e-mail they sent to you, complaining about your breach of copyright wasn’t subject to copyright?


  • Martin

    Over-reaction here: this is a standardised reminder that if (only if) information is released in the form of a document/image that is covered by copyright, then the mere fact of it’s release to you does not give you the right to reproduce the document/image etc. It doesn’t mean you can’t communicate the information contained therein.

    So if photographs by Moochin happened to be on a file held by Fire Service, released to Mark thru FOI, then Mark would have no automatic right to reproduce the photos. Tho could happily describe what was depicted in them.

    Turn the paranoia down a click?

  • Robo

    Another issue is a production of cancer-causing Dioxins. This report says

    “It is estimated that up to 14% of dioxin air emissions in the UK occur around Guy Fawkes’ night (5 November, celebrated with bonfires and fireworks).”

    The WHO says “Proper incineration of contaminated material is the best available method of preventing and controlling exposure to dioxins.”

  • Mark McGregor

    It seems one of our readers did report the entry to the NIFRS – I’ll fill you in later.

    The material won’t be going anywhere.

  • Johnkingii

    Dear Mark I have always refrained from posting on your blogs as it seems to me as pointless as Rabbii talking to Reinhard Heydrich but I’ll have a go. Attempting to hide your real intentions behind a smokescreen of costs is akin to Rooneys girlfriends saying they were only in it for his good looks. In this era of elf and safety all forms of cultural expression incur costs should we ban the Chinese new year because of fireworks in the streets the olympics due to their inherent high costs or god forbid 1916 celebrations in Dublin due to the costs incurred but I forget in your analysis that’s not the real army of Ireland marching down o,Connell street. If you don’t like a people or culture at least have the gonads to come out and say it and find something to do between 9am and 5pm as you obviously have to much time on your hands

  • Neil


    Is it not ok for us to query the overall cost of the 12th? It seems perfectly acceptable for Unionists to post on the cost of Irish medium education for example, or the costs of translating documents to Irish, or the cost of the human rights commission.

    On the other foot any complaint regarding the ridiculous costs, financial and human, of the annual getting fucked out of your head on alcohol and burning rubbish fest is base sectarianism.

    Yes he’s a Nationalist, as am I. Yes he has a problem with the 11th/12th, so do I. Why would I not, violence tends to occur. Private and public property tends to be destroyed. Orangemen tend to piss all over the place, due to the large quantities of beer consumed. Sectarian attacks increase and business ceases.

    The thing that worries loyalists (I’m not suggesting you are one, though that is what I suspect), is that once all this info comes out, as in Scotland, bands will be forced to pick up the bill for some of the millions squandered on the annual coat trailing competition.

    Unfortunately the day has come where Unionism can’t just get out there and march where they like, rub nationalist noses in the shit (using bands named after sectarian loyalist murderers, waving the fingers at the families of victims standing at Sean Graham’s bookies, carrying a banner honouring that same sectarian killer), you’re on the back foot, and as the full details come to light of the waste of money lavished on the orange order year on year, you see your number coming up.

    Keep it up Mark, we taxpaying folk are interested to know how much we have to pay for the privilege of being intimidated, of having the country ground to a halt, and of having our lives disrupted for a sectarian hatefest annually. I for one appreciate every bit of info I can get, and fuck the ostriches who believe the head in the sand approach will stave off the change that’s coming.

  • Neil

    Out him/her. Go on, dare ya. We all have ideas who it was I’ll bet, I know I do.

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    Ah the Golden Future Time when there won’t be a Prod About The Place! Oh Mary Queen of Ireland when will it dawn?

    As to reducing public costs, how about cutting the bru to the Westies and the Wans? That should save a fare few million.

    Loved the ‘taxpayer’ quip. Have you watched some marching behind the bands? Can’t think of any other place you may have run across any of that breed.

  • First the Irish News and now the Fire Service you can’t stay out of trouble Mark lol

    No wonder there was a mention of FOI classes for some on here 😉

    Why didn’t you just lift the phone and ask the helpful people in the ICO in Belfast like i do – problem solved !!

  • Mark McGregor

    Whoever wanted this story to go away should have a look at pages 14-15 of today’s Irish News.

    Seems they decided to look into the issue in more detail

  • Seems the Tele wants in on the action as well.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Al Capone was finally got on tax evasion. Point is he was put away.
    It would be great if the orange culture fans suddenly woke up and said all this bonfire stuff is sectarian and nasty and stop….but on the other hand if they get “done” on ‘elf and safety, pollution or cost to the Public Purse…its the same effect as getting Al Capone off the streets.

  • Neil

    Ah the old sectarian Belfast Tele, hiding it’s anti-orange agenda behind the smoke screen of costs eh? Facts are so difficult to dismiss though aren’t they. Ah well, why shouldn’t the 30 million odd taxpayers, the majority of whom are located across the Irish Sea, pay for enjoyment of a few hundred thousand people over here?

    Ok, so it’s a problem for the nationalist population in general, ok, it costs well over 4 million in 5 years, ok it’s dirty, environmentally unfriendy, and an excuse for tatooed piss heads to get their fun on, ok it invariably leads to violence, and destruction of public and private property, but to mention any of the facts surrounding this ridiculous annual hatefest brings howls of ‘sectarianism’.

    Gotta hate those facts, kind of hard to dismiss.

  • joeCanuck

    What’s next? You submit your FOI request and you are given your answer along with a superinjunction forbidding you to even say that you submitted a request?
    It’s bordering on the absolutely ridiculous to claim copyright on public information. Who exactly is the owner of the copyright?

  • Reader

    Neil: Ah well, why shouldn’t the 30 million odd taxpayers, the majority of whom are located across the Irish Sea, pay for enjoyment of a few hundred thousand people over here?
    Most of the rest of your reply seems to be a diversion. Mark’s original point was the cost of the bonfires. Since neither you nor Mark care much about English taxpayers, the above is a challenge to the sincerity of Mark’s tactic, while the rest of your post hints that you see a challenge on the cost of bonfires as being just a neat tactic to suppress anything and everything else.
    The first paragraph of your 5:06 post on the 22nd shows where you and fitzjameshorse1745 are heading. Were you so impressed by the tactic that you decided to endorse and copy it?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Alas I am not a member of any organisation which has a record of intolerance….or tolerance for that matter.
    And of course Mr Tom Elliott is a member of the Orange Order. Apparently….and I heard him say it….he has great respect for the GAA.
    I am sure I am at least as respectful of “orange culture” as Mr Elliott is of “GAA culture”

  • Mark McGregor

    Wee update above to finish this pointless sidetracking element of the story caused by one of our readers.

    It is clear I did not break any copyright.