When it is Illegal to Repurpose Publicly Available Information for Commercial Purposes?

The Superior Court of Québec recently rendered a decision in Opencorporates Ltd. c Registraire des entreprises du Québec that, albeit limited in scope, raises important concerns with respect to the commercial use of publicly available information.

The Court concluded that the Québec Enterprise Registrar (Registrar) did not have the legal authority to monitor and control the use of information found in the Registre des entreprises du Québec (Register) — a publicly constituted database — once it is lawfully obtained. Since 2016, the Registrar updated its website’s terms of use to prohibit users of the Register from compiling and disseminating its contents for commercial purposes — a fact that was largely accepted and left undisturbed by the parties. Nonetheless, OpenCorporates challenged the Registrar’s assertions that it could compel OpenCorporates to stop publishing data it had collected from the Register prior to the new terms of use. Although the court ultimately ruled in favour of OpenCorporates, its conclusions were limited to assessing the responsibilities of the Registrar. In so doing, it wholly ignored the privacy concerns raised by OpenCorporates’ commercial re-use of publicly available personal information. By sidestepping a discussion about the privacy implications of OpenCorporates practices, the Court missed a valuable opportunity to provide clarity with respect to the use of publicly available information for commercial purposes.

Read our bulletin (co-authored with Andy Nagy) summarizing this decision and providing business takeaways.

This content has been updated on October 28, 2019 at 19 h 14 min.