III. STATE LAW ON ELECTRONIC RECORDS

The Alabama Public Records Law provides access to "public writings," without more definition, but recent statutes, case law, and attorney general opinions have recognized that the term includes electronic records. See, e.g., Ala. Code § 22-9A-21(f) (1997) ("The [nonrestricted public birth] records may be made available for viewing in photographic, digital, electronic, or other suitable format as provided for by rules of the [State Board of Health]."); Birmingham News Co. v. Peevy, 21 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2125 (Cir. Ct. of Montgomery County, Ala., July 22, 1993) (Alabama Department of Public Safety ordered to make computer databases of Department available to provide access to motor vehicle records in the databases) (as of Sept. 13, 1997, access to MVRs is governed by 18 U.S.C. §  2721); 227 Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. 42 (1992) (redacted data from fire district computer database due to be disclosed); 217 Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. 29 (Nov. 17, 1989) and 197 Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. 21 (Nov. 16, 1984) (computer printout of executions and sales is "well-bound book" as required by statute); 209 Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. 29 (Nov. 4, 1987) ("The reasoning applicable to documentary records in [the tax assessor's] office also applies to information provided by your office through the use of computers.").

The trial judge in Peevy articulated one of the primary reasons that computerized information is recognized as a "writing" for purposes of the Public Records Law, as follows:

Certainly, the Department was able to carry out its business without the aid of computers before such technology was available. However, the Court recognizes that computers have added a great amount of value to our public records, and that currently the Department generates the MVRs by computers. Therefore, without the aid of the computer data base, citizens would not, as a practical matter, have access to all of the information compiled.

21 Media L. Rep. (BNA) at 2126.