Freedom Of Information Act

The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives citizens of the United States the right to ask the government to release documents, and unless the government can show cause for keeping something secret, they are required to turn it over.

FOIA requests are generally used by reporters and activists to collect information that government agencies would rather keep secret, often because they are trying to avoid public scrutiny, or because the information is not publically available any other way.

FOIA requests are especially useful tools for government watchdogs who keep an eye on law enforcement to protect against government overreach and abuse. However, FOIA is also useful for trivia buffs and amateur historians looking for juicy details about public figures.

After 40 years, the FOIA request has been used to ask (at least) for nearly every type of information that the government might have, but reporter Vanessa Golembewski may have found an original use: requesting Pres. Obama’s advance screener copies of Game of Thrones (GoT). This was Ms. Golembewski’s first ever FOIA request, and, as a GoT fanatic, I wholeheartedly support her efforts. She is entirely correct when she stated her reasons for expediting the request:“Jon Snow’s life is very much in question.”

Sadly for you, me, and every other GoT fan out there, it is unlikely that the White House will release the videos to the general public. GoT is a “fixed representation in a tangible medium,” i.e., it is a piece of art that physically exists and is therefore protected under copyright law. Her request will almost certainly be rejected, but even if it is not, the government rarely responds quickly enough for her to get copies before the season airs later this month.

We’ll keep our eyes and ears peeled for any news of Jon Snow’s well-being, but we all will probably be waiting for the premier on April 24th.

Winter is Coming.