Skip to content

4. Can the requester choose a format for receiving records?


  • Alabama

    In Birmingham News Co. v. Perry, 21 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2125 (Cir. Ct. of Montgomery Co., Ala., July 22, 1993), the trial court ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to produce motor vehicle records in computer form, as requested — and as generated by the Department for its own use. The trial court quoted with approval an Ohio Supreme Court opinion, as follows:

    "[M]embers of the public should not be required 'to exhaust their energy and ingenuity to gather information which is already compiled and organized in a document created by public officials at public expense.' Similarly, a public agency should not be permitted to require the public to exhaust massive amounts of time and resources in order to replicate the value added to the public records through the creation and storage on tape of a data base containing such records."

    Id. at 2126 (quoting Ohio ex rel. Margolius v. Cleveland, 19 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2122, 2124 (Ohio S. Ct. 1992) (effective Sept. 13, 1997, access to MVRs is governed by 18 U.S.C. § 2721).

    The Alabama attorney general has declared, however, that

    [i]t is not [a public agency's] responsibility or duty to provide the information to [the requester] in a particular form nor must [the agency] necessarily compile or assimilate the information for the public. Your responsibility is to provide reasonable access to the information and for the information to be a reasonable form (e.g. legible copies if possible or in regular language rather than a code form a person outside the office would not be familiar with).

    Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. No. 88-00079 at 5 (Dec. 16, 1987) (diskette of personnel data requested; the requested data need not be provided in that particular form); see also Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. No. 2007-001, 2006 Ala. AG LEXIS 119 (Oct. 2, 2006) (“Because a state agency may regulate the manner in which public records are produced, inspected, and copied, a state agency . . . is not required to distribute public records in the manner that a requestor specifies.”) The requestor may use its own equipment to generate copies of records as long as the chosen method does not unduly interfere with the operations of the requestee.  Ala. Att’y Gen. Op. 76 (June 10, 2009).

    view more
  • Georgia

    Under the Act, “[a] requester may request that electronic records, data, or data fields be produced in the format in which such data or electronic records are kept by the agency, or in a standard export format such as a flat file electronic American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) format, if the agency's existing computer programs support such an export format.” O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71(f). “In such instance, the data or electronic records shall be downloaded in such format onto suitable electronic media by the agency.” Id.

    view more
  • Kansas

    Generally, a requester can only choose a format in which the record is already held.  Any person has the right to obtain a computerized voter registration list in electronic format if the public agency has the capability of providing such record in electronic format. Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 1988-152; see also K.S.A. 45-501.

    view more
  • New Mexico

    Yes.  "Public records" is broadly defined, NMSA 1978 § 14-2-6(G) (2013), and no specific restrictions as to the requested format exist, but the public body has discretion when responding to a request for public information in a certain format.  NMSA 1978 § 14-2-9(A) (2013) allows the public body to provide a hard copy partial printout of data containing the public information if "necessary to preserve the integrity of the computer data or the confidentiality of exempt information." A records custodian is required to provide a copy of a public record in electronic format if the “public record is available in electronic format and an electronic copy is specifically requested.”  NMSA 1978 § 14-2-9(B) (2013).  A custodian is only required to provide an electronic record in the file format in which it exists at the time of the request.  Id.  Additionally, NMSA 1978 § 14-3-15.1(A) (1995) provides specifically that "information contained in information systems databases shall be a public record," but some restrictions and variations on access to this information exist, including the payment of a "reasonable fee."  See also NMSA § 14-3-18 (2005), (statute regarding county and municipal database information).  The New Mexico Court of Appeals has held that a public agency has no duty to produce computer database records in electronic format if the party requesting the information is unwilling to enter into an agreement as set forth by § 14-3-15.1(C).  Crutchfield v. N.M. Dep't. of Taxation and Revenue, 2005-NMCA-22, ¶¶ 18-27.

    view more
  • Vermont

    If an agency maintains public records in an electronic format, the requester may choose to receive the copies in either electronic format or paper format. 1 V.S.A. § 316(i).  An agency may, but is not required to, convert paper public records to electronic format. Id.  The Vermont Supreme Court has noted that nothing in the Act “prevents a public agency from contractually binding itself to provide electronic versions of documents in a specified format in return for sufficient consideration.”  Blum v. Friedman, 172 Vt. 622, 624-25, 782 A.2d 1204, 1207 (Vt. 2001).

    view more
  • Wisconsin

    Generally speaking, a requester has the right, with respect to any "record which is not in a readily comprehensible form," to receive a copy of the information "assembled and reduced to written form on paper." Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(e); see also State ex rel. Milwaukee Police Ass'n v. Jones, 237 Wis. 2d 840, 852, 615 N.W.2d 190, 196 (Wis. Ct. App. 2000) (holding that police department must make digital audio tape of 911 call available for inspection and copying, and that provision of analog tape alone is not sufficient compliance with request). A requester is entitled to copies of emails in electronic form. Lueders v. Krug, 2019 WI App 36, 388 Wis. 2d 147, 931 N.W.2d 898.

    view more