The Massachusetts Public Records Law “clearly applies to government records generated, received, or maintained electronically.” SPR Bulletin No. 4-96 (June 7, 1996). A records custodian must furnish “copies of non-exempt portions of computerized information at the cost of reproduction, unless otherwise provided by law.”  Guide to Massachusetts Public Records, Law (Sec’y of State, rev. March 2009), at 27.

There is no statutory public entitlement to online access to Massachusetts government records, although many records are currently available online. Nor is there any general statute requiring or authorizing the keeping of records electronically, although the practice is clearly recognized in specific statutes. See e.g., G.L. c. 66A, § 1 (defines and anticipates use of "automated personal data system"); c. 90, § 30A (limits access to computer terminals under control of Registrar of Motor Vehicles). See also 950 CMR 32.06(b) (sets fees for copies of city and town "street list," computer tapes and mailing labels).

Many state and municipal records are now automated, and in some instances municipal officials feed information directly into state-owned computers (e.g., street lists, voter lists, juror lists). Whether a particular record or type of record is available in tape, computer disc or other automated form is usually most easily discovered by direct inquiry of the custodian. Questions relating to the maintenance and disposal of government records (including electronic records) should be directed to the Records Management Unit of the Massachusetts State Archives.