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A decision by the Ohio Supreme Court to limit fees on electronic duplication of records was lauded by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which had argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that a $2 per page fee for electronic records was excessive and contrary to the intent of state law.
The Court’s ruling in State ex rel. Data Trace Information Services, LLC, et al. v. Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer mirrored the Reporters Committee position that real estate records from the Cuyahoga County recorder’s office are public records that must be provided “at cost” to requestors. The county had sought to instead charge a $2-per-page statutory "photocopying" fee for each image of the electronic records that was copied onto a blank CD.
Because the documents already were scanned into the office’s computer system, the cost of providing copies amounts to about $1 per CD, not the more than $200,000 the recorder’s office sought to charge for two months of data. This fee structure was, in fact, only argued in Cuyahoga County; other Ohio counties charged between $1 and $20 per disc.
“The Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling reaffirms the importance of not only making information physically available, but also ensuring people’s right to access government documents is not chilled by outrageously excessive fees,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “We are very pleased to see these nonsensical fees struck down by the court.”
About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.
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