The North Dakota Century Code states, “Automation of public records must not erode the right of access to those records.” N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(3). As public entities increase their use of and dependence on electronic recordkeeping, they must provide reasonable public access to records electronically maintained and must ensure that exempt or confidential records are not disclosed except as otherwise permitted by law. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(3).
Furthermore, public entities may not enter into a contract for the creation or maintenance of a public records database if that contract impairs the ability of the public to inspect or copy the public records of an agency, including public records online or stored in an electronic recordkeeping system used by the agency. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(3).
An electronic copy of a record must be provided upon request at no cost, other than the standard costs allowed, unless the nature or volume of the public records requested to be accessed or provided requires extensive use of information technology resources. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(3). In that case, the agency may charge no more than the actual cost incurred for the extensive use of information technology resources incurred by the public entity. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(3). “Extensive” is defined as a request for copies of electronic records which take more than an hour of information technology resources to produce. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(3).