Montana

Information “in electronic format or other nonprint media” is open to the public, subject to the same restrictions that apply to information in printed form. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-6-110. While there has not been litigation over whether electronic records are to be legally treated the same as all other public records, they are generally regarded as such. Barr v. Great Falls Intern. Airport Authority, 326 Mont. 93, 107 P.3d 471 (2005) (although the specific issue of whether an electronic record constitutes a public record was not raised, the court held that an arrest record from Alaska contained in national computer database was public criminal justice information).

However, the server for the e-mail of officers and employees of state government is not maintained in a manner that permits easy access. The only way to access these e-mail messages is to request the agency that maintains the state server (the Department of Administration) to retrieve computer storage tapes and essentially recreate the information. The department charges for its time and effort in recreating these e-mail messages, and it is often exorbitant. This issue will likely lead to litigation.

Electronic messages are legally treated in the same way as other records in terms of retention and back-up.