Friday, 20 October 2017

Getting your hands on TransLink's SkyTrain audio files

If you look at this screenshot here, I am staring at a number of audio files that contain announcements from TransLink's SkyTrain system. This means that I have station name announcements for every stop on the Expo and Millennium Lines as well as the associated chimes and extra messages.

I do not have any of the Canada Line announcements for reasons I'll explain later.

This was inspired by Seattle's Sound Transit having released said files last year.

The annoying part in all of this is that TransLink is forbidding me from distributing these files even if I stipulate that they're not to be used for commercial purposes. This is despite the fact that I have received them under the rules of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Here's how the e-mail exchange went post-release:

Dear Cariad,

The recordings have been provided in response to a Freedom of
Information request. Any further dissemination or use of the
recordings requires TransLink's prior written consent. In order to
assess whether consent would be granted, TransLink will need to
receive information about the purpose and time period of the intended
use. If consent is granted, TransLink and the person requesting
consent would need to enter into an agreement regarding the use of
recordings. If you are interesting in seeking consent to use the
recordings, please send your request to

Yours truly,

My initial reply:
So if I were to disseminate them on my blog and make clear that 
they're not to be used for commercial recordings without TransLink's 
written consent then that would be acceptable?

Okay. So let's see what they say:
Hi Cariad,
Our Commercial Programs area would have to answer your question.
I've copied them on this reply.
Dear Cariad,

Further to Colleen's response below, any further dissemination 
(including on your blog) is not permitted.
Should you want to request consent, please include all of the details 
on your request for use, background and context for TransLink's 

Best regards,

While I am not a lawyer, this seems to be violating the spirit of the FIPPA laws. As a result of this frustrating e-mail exchange I cannot distribute these files and am not up for fighting this further. I can however make it easy for anyone to file a request for these files so you can do goofy things like have the SkyTrain door closing chime as your text messaging notification sound.

So what did I do to get them? Simple! I asked via their customer feedback form!

Fill out the form as per usual with your details, that you require a response, and that this is regarding SkyTrain (use anything for the date of occurrence) and then include the following in the details box:

This is a request to have audio files containing train announcements for SkyTrain's Expo and Millennium Lines. You may cite FOI request 2017/512 filed by Cariad Keigher as reference to the contents being requested.

The request will take probably 45 days to complete upon which you'll get access to a "secure" portal to retrieve the files and be able to engage in any further communications.

Because Canada Line is not operated under the TransLink umbrella in the same way (thanks, Gordon Campbell), they opted to not provide the files citing that it isn't a safety or privacy issue.

I've decided to complain to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) since it is my understanding that there should be no limitations on disseminating the information I received from TransLink--that and ProTrans BC (operator of the Canada Line) should in my mind still be subject to honour this request. I can understand their request to not have these audio files used for commercial purposes, but it seems really ridiculous that they cannot just attach a licence to these files.

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