For the first time since obtaining non-profit status, MuckRock has been designated by a federal agency as a commercial requester, this time by the Army Corps of Engineers. Commercial requesters are not qualified for fee waivers, and have to pay prohibitive processing and reproduction fees.
This determination was made in response to a request to the ACoE Omaha District for information about the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe, and despite language clearly identifying the request was being made in the capacity as a media requester.
The State Department has a helpful breakdown of requester categories on their website. Commercial requesters are defined as, “a request from or on behalf of one who requests information for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interest of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made.” Now compare that definition to what State considers a news media requester, and decide for yourself which MuckRock best fits into:
“Representative of the news media means any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. The term news means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. News media include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only in those instances when they can qualify as disseminators of ``news’‘) who make their products available for purchase by the general public.”
We will be fighting back against this categorization, and will be sure to update you as the process unfolds.