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


  • Alabama

    The statute is silent on this point. The attorney general has stated that a state agency is not required to produce information electronically that is already available in paper format.  See Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. No. 2007-001, 2006 Ala. AG LEXIS 119 (Oct. 2, 2006).  It should follow that a state agency is not required to produce information on paper when it is already available electronically. The requestor may also 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).  See also Executive Order 734 (4)(c) (discussing fees related to production of electronic records from executive branch).

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  • Alaska

    The statute allows citizens access to information in whatever form it is kept by the government "regardless of format or physical characteristics." AS 40.25.220(3). The assumption, and the practice, is that a requester can obtain documents in the format of his or her choosing, if the agency keeps them in that format. Otherwise, it is not clear that the requester has a right to require the agency to create documents in a format in which it does not ordinarily keep the information.
    For example, if a document is stored electronically using one word processing program such as Word Perfect, or a video document is stored as a Beta tape, the requester would not have the right to require the state to supply these records as Microsoft Word documents or VHS tapes. The public records law specifically provides that agencies are entitled to exercise their discretion about whether to provide duplication of public records in an alternative format not used by a public agency, and to charge an enhanced fee if they choose to do so. AS 40.25.220(1)(A). Certain agencies have attempted at times to provide electronically stored information only in a less usable paper "printout" format, but have ultimately provided information on disk in response to objections from media organizations without the need for litigation.
    One notable exception is the June 2011 production of 22,000 pages of e-mails pursuant to media requests—following the 2008 selection of former Governor Sarah Palin as Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s running mate—for virtually all of the e-mails to or from Palin during her tenure as governor. In the end, these e-mails were produced in hard copy, in sets of six banker boxes of documents. It is likely that this was a unique situation, resulting from a number of factors that included: 1) the unprecedented volume of documents sought, 2) the number of requesters, 3) the number of employees/computers whose records were to be searched and analyzed to comply with the requests, 4) the state’s need to be able to review the documents to remove or redact privileged matters, and 5) the state’s assertion of practical infeasibility with respect to carrying out these responsibilities with the document management software it used at the time. Software now in use by the state should permit the state obtain, review, redact as necessary, and produce electronic documents in their native format. While a requester may not be able to require that a public record be produced in a format other than that in which it is maintained, agreements to produce records in alternate formats can be and have been negotiated for the convenience of either the requester or the agency or both, and there is no harm in asking for such accommodation.

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  • Arizona

    No Arizona statute or case addresses this issue.  As a matter of practice, reporters have been able to choose a format for receiving records.  If a record is requested in its native format, the public body must provide it in that format.  See Lake v. City of Phoenix, 222 Ariz. 547, 551, 218 P.3d 1004, 1008 (2009).

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  • Arkansas

    Yes. A citizen “may request a copy of a public record in any medium in which the record is readily available or in any format to which it is readily convertible with the custodian’s existing software.” Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(d)(2)(B) (added by Act 1653 of 2001).

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  • California

    Yes, if the information requested is in an electronic format the agency shall make that information available in any electronic format in which it holds the information or, if requested, in a format used by the agency to create copies for its own use or for provision to other agencies. Cal. Gov't Code § 7922.570(b)(1)&(2). If the request is for non-electronic records and the agency also has the information available in electronic format, the agency may inform the requester that the information is also available in electronic format. Cal. Gov’t Code § 7922.570(c). If the information is available in non-electronic format, an agency cannot make the information available only in electronic format. Cal. Gov’t Code § 7922.580(b). Section 7922.580(c) does not require release of records in electronic format where "release would jeopardize or compromise the security or integrity of the original record or any proprietary software in which it is maintained." Cal. Gov't Code § 7922.580(c).

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  • Colorado

    Yes. In 2017, the General Assembly enacted legislation specifying how custodians must produce records stored in a digital format. Specifically, the legislation provides that if a public record is stored in a digital format that (I) is neither searchable nor sortable, the custodian shall provide a copy of the public record in a digital format; (II) is searchable but not sortable, the custodian shall provide a copy of the public record in a searchable format; and (III) is sortable, the custodian shall provide a copy of the public record in a sortable format. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-203(3.5)(a) (2017). The custodian is not required to produce the record in searchable or sortable format if doing so would violate terms of an copyright or licensing agreement; it is not technologically or practically feasible to permanently remove information that the custodian is required or allowed to withhold in the requested format; or the custodian would be required to purchase software or create additional programming or functionality in its existing software to remove the information. Colo. Rev. Stat § 24-72-203(3.5)(b) (2017). If the custodian cannot comply with a request to produce a public record in the specified format, the custodian shall produce the record in an alternate format or issue a denial with a written declaration attesting to the reasons the custodian is not able to produce the record in the requested format. If a court subsequently rules the custodian should have provided the record in the requested format, attorneys’ fees may be awarded only if the custodian’s action was arbitrary and capricious. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-203(3.5)(c) (2017).

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  • Connecticut

    The agency shall provide the requested information on “paper, disk, tape or any other electronic storage device or medium requested by the person, if the agency can reasonably make such copy or have such copy made.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-211(a).

    Based on FOIA’s legislative history, the Connecticut Supreme Court has construed Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-211(a) and §1-211(b) to require an agency to perform formatting or programming functions or to contract with an outside entity to perform such tasks in order to comply with a request for electronic records. Hartford Courant Co. v. FOIC, 261 Conn. 86, 93-94, 801 A.2d 759 (2002). If an agency cannot itself comply with a request for a specific format because it does not have the technological capability to separate exempt from nonexempt data and the requester is not satisfied with an alternate medium for satisfying the request, the agency is required to offer to contract the job out and charge the requester for cost of doing so. Id. at 94-95.

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  • District of Columbia

    A public body making electronic records available must provide the records in any form or format requested, provided that the person requesting the records pays the costs of reproducing the record in that form or format. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-532(a-1).

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  • Georgia

    Yes.  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. In such instance, the data or electronic records shall be downloaded in such format onto suitable electronic media by the agency.  O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71(f).  Agencies shall produce electronic copies of or, if the requester prefers, printouts of electronic records or data from database fields that the agency maintains using the computer programs that the agency has in its possession.  Id.

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  • Idaho

    In addition to the variety of ways that requesters may select to create copies of records under Idaho Code § 74-101(2), a person may specifically request an electronic copy of any public record that is available in electronic form. Idaho Code § 74-102(15).

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  • Indiana

    If the public agency agrees to provide enhanced access, the requester could theoretically choose a format, because the definition of “direct cost” includes the cost of developing a program for retrieving the electronic records. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-2(d). A person seeking enhanced access directly from a public agency (instead of an intermediate provider) must enter into a contract with that agency. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-3.5(c)(1). Presumably, the format could be one of the contract terms.

    However, since 2003, public agencies submitting reports to the General Assembly must do so electronically. Paper submission of such reports is prohibited, and no state funds may be used to duplicate, print, distribute or mail a report to the General Assembly. Ind. Code §§ 5-14-6-3; 5-14-6-4.

    A public agency that maintains public records in an electronic data storage system must make “reasonable efforts” to provide the requestor “a copy of all disclosable data contained in the records on paper, disk, tape, drum, or any other method of electronic retrieval if the medium requested is compatible with the agency’s data storage system.” Ind. Code § 5-14-3-3(d).

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  • Kansas

    An agency “must provide copies of these records in the format it stores them.” Roe v. Phillips Cnty. Hosp., No. 122,810, 2023 WL 117359, at *4 (Kan. Jan. 6, 2023). “KORA sets the absolute floor for an agency’s obligations: if it maintains ‘recorded information’ in a given format, a ‘copy’ must mirror that format,” the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in a case regarding an agency’s obligation to provide a copy of a spreadsheet in electronic  format. Id. at *4.

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  • Louisiana

    No. The records custodian is required only to provide the requested information in the format in which it is maintained; there is no obligation to create new documents in a specific format. Zillow, Inc. v. Bealer, 333 So.3d 854, 858 (La.App. 3d Cir.), writ denied, 337 So.3d 908 (La. 2022); Zillow, Inc. v. Gardner, 341 So.3d 765, 772-73 (La.App. 1st Cir. 2022); Zillow, Inc. v. Taylor, 350 So.3d 550, 555 (La.App. 3d Cir. 2022).

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  • Maine

    Yes.  The requester can ask for a copy of the record “either as a printed document of the public record or in the medium in which the record is stored, at the requester’s option, except that the agency or official is not required to provide access to an electronically stored public record as a computer file if the agency or official does not have the ability to separate or prevent the disclosure of confidential information contained in or associated with that file.”  1 M.R.S.A. § 408-A(7).

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  • Maryland

    An applicant can request a copy of a public record in searchable and analyzable electronic format.  § 4-205(c)(1). If the requested record is in the requested format, and the custodian can provide a copy in that format without disclosing confidential or protected information required to be denied or that can be denied at the custodian’s discretion, the applicant shall be provided with a searchable and analyzable copy. Id. However, a custodian is not required to create electronic versions of existing public records or new public records, not allowed to limit copies of public records only to electronic versions, and not permitted to release an electronic record in a format that would “jeopardize or compromise the security or integrity of the original record or of any proprietary software.”  § 4-205(c)(4).

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  • Massachusetts

    Yes, and the custodian must comply if the custodian “is able to provide information in a compatible format or medium.”  SPR Bulletin 3-96, “Application of the Public Records Law to Electronic Records Access” (June 6, 1996) at ¶ 6.  However, because a custodian need not provide information “in a format or medium which is compatible to every requester,” the custodian is not required to comply if the time or reprogramming necessary to accommodate a request in a specific format “is tantamount to creating a document, rather than segregating an existing record.” Id.; SPR Bulletin 4-96 (June 7, 1996). The custodian is only obliged to provide access to existing files, in their existing format, except where segregation is necessary. Guide to Massachusetts Public Records Law (Sec’y of State, rev. March 2009), at 27. “The requester is then responsible for converting the data into the desired format.”  SPR Bulletin 3-96, at ¶ 6.

    Email is a public record subject to the requirements of the Public Records Law. Government agencies have a duty to “effectively manage and control” e-mail as part of the office's record-holding. SPR Bulletin 1-99, “Electronic Mail” (revised and reissued, May 21, 2003). This duty includes establishing a written policy for storing e-mail and retaining e-mails for the prescribed period of time based on content. Email should be printed and stored in paper form, but certain types of email may be stored electronically.

    A common issue with email records relates to deletion of email. Even if a custodian claims that an email message was deleted, backup copies are often retained, and these records remain subject to disclosure regardless of the intent to delete the message. Email is considered analogous to paper documents. The Supervisor of Public Records, however, has noted that there are differences between the two. Namely, the contextual data that accompanies an email (the mailing address, date/time stamp, routing instructions, transmission and receipt information) is considered an integral part of the record and must be retained in any printed or stored version. SPR Bulletin 1-99 (2003).

    “Email systems in use in government offices are government property installed and maintained for the conduct of government business”; agencies “may and should” exercise control over it and have the right to monitor and read employee email.  SPR Bulletin 1-99, at ¶ 7.

    “A custodian is not obligated to provide copies of a computer program,” because such a program is merely “a tool used in the processing of data rather than a ‘record,’ and therefore is not subject to mandatory disclosure.” SPR Bulletin 3-96, “Application of the Public Records Law to Electronic Records Access,” June 6, 1996.

    State government offices are required to preserve the metadata associated with any email message, even if the email is printed out, “to ensure the capture and preservation of a complete record.” SPR Bulletin 1-99 (2003), at ¶ 7.

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  • Michigan

    Where a computer record exists, a requester generally has the right to the record in that form. See Farrell v. City of Detroit, 209 Mich. App. 7, 530 N.W.2d 105 (1995) ("In Michigan, computer records constitute public records subject to disclosure under the FOIA"); Payne v. Grand Rapids Police Chief, 178 Mich. App. 193, 443 N.W.2d 481 (1989) (plaintiff entitled to copy of tape recording of 911 emergency calls, even where city offered to provide transcript of tape). But see Lapeer Cty. Abstract & Title v. Lapeer Cty. Register of Deeds, 264 Mich. App. 167, 691 N.W.2d 11 (2004) (public bodies are not required by the FOIA to provide microfilm copies rather than paper copies of the records at issue, even when the public body keeps the records on mircrofilm). See also Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.232(f) (software — which is not a public record — excludes "computer-stored information or data, or a field name if disclosure of that field name does not violate a software license.").

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  • Minnesota

    The Act does not apply to "records" but to "data." The Act makes it clear that the format of the data is not critical to its accessibility. "Photographic, photostatic, microphotographic, and microfilmed records shall be considered as accessible for convenient use regardless of the size of such records." Minn. Stat. § 13.03, subd. 1.
    In addition, if an agency maintains public data "in a computer storage medium," a requester may specify a copy of the data in that medium, if the government entity "can reasonably make the copy or have a copy made." Minn. Stat. § 13.03, subd. 3(e).

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  • Mississippi

    Miss. Code Ann. § 25-61-10(2) provides: "A public body shall provide a copy of the record in the format requested if the public body maintains the record in that format."

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  • Missouri

    A public governmental body “may” provide electronic services involving public records to members of the public. By statute, public governmental bodies are “strongly encouraged,” but not required, “to make information available in usable electronic formats to the greatest extent feasible.” A useable electronic format shall allow, at a minimum, viewing and printing of records. However, if electronic records are kept on a system capable of allowing the copying of electronic documents into other electronic documents, the public may request the data in electronic format and the governmental body “shall” comply. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.029.1. A separate provision allows that “[i]f records are requested in a certain format, the public body shall provide the records in the requested format, if such format is available.” Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.023.3.

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  • Nebraska

    Yes. The party requesting the document may designate any form in which the public record is maintained or produced, including, but not limited to, printouts, electronic data, discs, tapes and photocopies. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712(3)(a). However, the agency need not produce or generate any record in a new or different form or format modified from the original form or format of the public record. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712(3)(c). Also, persons may request copies only if the custodian has copying equipment reasonably available. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712(3)(a). Persons also can choose a format for receiving records with regard to certain agencies whose records are available through the state’s comprehensive website,

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  • Nevada

    Yes, a person may request a copy of the public record in any medium in which the public record is readily available. NRS 239.010(4). The public agency may not deny a request because it would prefer to produce the records in a different format.

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  • New Hampshire

    The Statute permits a public body that maintains records in a computer storage system to provide a printout of a public record rather than producing the original document. RSA 91-A:4, V. That said, if a requester can demonstrate substantial burden in terms of time or expense the public body may be required to produce the public record(s) in the format requested. See Menge v. City of Manchester, 113 N.H. 533 (1973) (City ordered to copy its computer tape instead of producing individual property tax card records); compare Hawkins v. N.H. Dep't of Health and Human Services, 147 N.H. 376 (2001) (Statute does not require public bodies to create new records); Taylor V. School Administrative Unit #55, 170 N.H. 322 (2017)(providing thumb drive complied with the Statute where the requester asked for the records to be sent by email)

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  • New Jersey

    A custodian shall permit access to a government record and provide a copy thereof in the medium requested if the public agency maintains the record in that medium. If the public agency does not maintain the record in the medium requested, the custodian shall either convert the record to the medium requested or provide a copy in some other meaningful medium. (See N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(d)).

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  • 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) (2011).  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, ¶¶ 18-27,106 P.3d 1273.

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  • New York

    There is nothing in the statute addressing the requester’s right to choose a format for receiving records. Further, there is no case where a requester attempted to obtain records in a particular format. Case law has stated, however, that access to information in a computer cannot be restricted because it is not in printed form. Babigian v. Evans, 104 Misc.2d 140, 427 N.Y.S.2d 688 (Sup. Ct. 1980), aff’d, 97 A.D.2d 992 (1st Dep’t 1983).  Case law has also stated that when a portion of a document must be redacted, a state agency may refuse to allow inspection of that document, and instead require redacted copies of the document to be prepared, and charge the established copying fee. Brown v. Goord, 45 A.D.3d 930, 845 N.Y.S.2d 495 (3d Dep’t 2007); see also NY Dept of State Comm on Open Government, Advisory Op 11638 [Aug. 18, 1999]; NY Dept of State Comm on Open Government, Advisory Op 11355 [Mar. 2, 1999]; NY Dept of State Comm on Open Government, Advisory Op 8391 [Aug. 1, 1994]).  On the other hand, an agency is not required to prepare any record not possessed or maintained by it. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law. § 89(3) (McKinney 1988).

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  • North Carolina

    Persons requesting copies of public records may elect to obtain them in any and all media in which the public agency is capable of providing them. G.S. § 132-6.2. “A public agency or custodian may satisfy the requirements ... by making public records available online in a format that allows a person to view the public record and print or save the public record to obtain a copy.” G.S. § 132-6(a1). “No request for copies of public records in a particular medium shall be denied on the grounds that the custodian has made or prefers to make the public records available in another medium.” § 132-6.2(a). “Nothing in this section shall be construed to require a public agency to put into electronic medium a record that is not kept in electronic medium.” § 132-6.2(e)

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  • North Dakota

    A public entity is not required to create or compile a record that does not exist. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(4).

    The requestor has the option of accessing an electronically stored record in either a printed medium or through any other available medium. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(4). A computer file is not considered an available medium if no means exist to separate or prevent the disclosure of any closed or confidential information contained in the file. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(4). Except as reasonably necessary to reveal the organization of data contained in an electronically stored record, a public entity is not required to provide an electronically stored record in a different structure, format, or organization. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(4).

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  • Ohio

    The requester can choose the medium upon which public records will be copied. Thus, where public records are stored electronically, the requester has the right to choose a paper printout or a computer disk or computer tape. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(B)(6).

    The requester can choose a format for receiving records so long as the computer is already programmed to produce the information in that format, but there is no duty to compile information in a way not already permitted by the existing computer program. State ex rel. Scanlon v. Deters, 45 Ohio St. 3d 376, 379, 544 N.E.2d 680 (1989), overruled on other grounds by State ex rel. Steckman v. Jackson, 70 Ohio St.3d 420, 639 N.E.2d 83 (1994).

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  • Oklahoma

    The public body is not required to provide the record in any format other than that maintained by the public body. See 51 O.S. § 24A.18. An agency may convert the record into the requested electronic format but is not required to do so. 2012 OK AG 22. Public bodies are not required to email records requested. Wagner v. Office of Sheriff of Custer County, 2021 OK CIV APP 20.

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  • Oregon

    Yes, qualified. ORS 192.324(3) (formerly ORS 192.440) states that if a record is maintained in electronic form, the custodian shall provide it in the form requested, if available.

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  • Pennsylvania

    Yes. The Law’s definition of “record” includes records in any form, including records containing “information stored or maintained electronically and a data-processed or image-processed document.” 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.102. Moreover, it states: “A public record being provided to a requester shall be provided in the medium requested if the record exists in that medium; otherwise, it shall be provided in the medium in which it exists.” 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.701(a).

    The agency has the option of making its records available through “any publicly accessible electronic means” and may respond to a requester by stating that “the record is available through publicly accessible electronic means or that the agency will provide access to inspect the record electronically.” If the requester is “unwilling or unable to access the record electronically,” the requester may submit, within 30 days of the agency’s notification, a written request “to the agency to have the record converted to paper,” and the agency “shall provide access to the record in printed form within five days or the receipt of the written request for conversion to paper.” 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.704.

    The Law cautions that “[n]othing in this act shall be construed to require access to any computer either of an agency or individual employee of an agency.” 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.701(b).

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  • Rhode Island

    A requestor “may elect to obtain them in any and all media in which the public agency is capable of providing them. Any public body which maintains its records in a computer storage system shall provide any data properly identified in a printout or other reasonable format, as requested.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(g).  “At the election of the person or entity requesting the public records, the public body shall provide copies of the public records electronically, by facsimile, or by mail in accordance with the requesting person or entity’s choice, unless complying with that preference would be unduly burdensome due to the volume of records requested or the costs that would be incurred.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(k).  However, “[i]f a public record is in active use or in storage and, therefore, not available at the time a person or entity requests access, the custodian shall so inform the person or entity and make an appointment for the person or entity to examine such records as expeditiously as they may be made available.”  R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(f)

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  • South Carolina

    Records must be furnished in a form that is both convenient and practical for use by the requester if it is equally convenient for the public body to provide the records in the requested form. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-30(b).

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  • South Dakota

    No. SDCL §1-27-4.

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  • Tennessee

    The Act has no provision for allowing the requester to choose a format to receive records except that “the requestor be given the option of receiving information in any format in which it is maintained by the agency, including electronic format.” T.C.A. § 8-4-604(a)(1)(A)(ii)(d). In Wells v. Warton, 2005 WL 3309651 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 7, 2005), the court stated the Act “does not require a custodian of records to provide public records in a manner a citizen requests.”  The custodian can chose the manner so long as it does not distort the information or inhibit access. Id. In Lance v. York, 359 S.W. 3d. 197 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2011) the court ruled the custodian was not required to convert requested records from the existing paper format to a scanned electronic format.

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  • Texas

    Pursuant to Section 552.228(b), if public information exists in an electronic or magnetic medium, a requestor may request a copy either on paper or in an electronic medium, such as on diskette or on magnetic tape, if the following three requirements are met: (1) the governmental body has the technological ability to produce a copy of the requested information in the requested medium, (2) such body is not required to purchase any software or hardware to accommodate the request, and (3) provision of a copy of the information in the requested medium would not violate any copyright agreements between the body and a third party. If a governmental body is unable to comply with a request for any of these reasons, it shall provide a paper copy of the information or a copy in another medium that is acceptable to the requestor. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.228(c). In addition, a governmental body does not comply with the Act by releasing substitute documents to the requestor unless the requestor agrees to such substitution. See Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-633 (1995).

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  • Utah

    “In response to a request, a governmental entity is not required to . . . provide a record in a particular format, medium, or program not currently maintained by the governmental entity.” Utah Code § 63G-2-201(8)(a)(iii). “Upon request, a governmental entity may provide a record in a particular form . . . if: (i) the governmental entity determines it is able to do so without unreasonably interfering with the governmental entity’s duties and responsibilities; and (ii) the requester agrees to pay the governmental entity for providing the record in the requested form in accordance with Section 63G-2-203.” Id. § 63G-2-201(8)(b).

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  • 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).

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  • Virginia

    The Act provides generally that access shall be provided by inspection or copying, at the requestor’s option. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3704.A.  If nonexempt records are maintained in an electronic database, the public body shall produce them in any tangible medium identified by the requester if that medium is used by the public body in the regular course of business. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3704.G.

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  • Washington

    Washington law defines “public record” broadly to include electronic formats. RCW 42.56.010. There is no provision in the Act permitting agencies to limit the format in which public records may be examined or copied. Consequently, the requester can choose any available format for receiving the records. Although the PRA does not expressly require an agency to provide unredacted e-mails in an electronic format, an agency must do so where reasonable and feasible, under the PRA’s “fullest assistance” provision (RCW 42.56.100). Mechling v. Monroe, 152 Wn. App. 830, 222 P.3d 808 (2009).

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  • West Virginia

    W. Va. Code § 29B-1-3(3) requires that copies of records that "exist in magnetic, electronic or computer form" be made "available on magnetic or electronic media, if so requested." There are no state Supreme Court cases where the application or interpretation of this requirement has been an issue. There is no plausible reason for a public body not to honor a FOIA requester's preference for the format of information they prefer when the agency discloses that information. The overarching goal of the FOIA is to provide all persons "full and complete information regarding the affairs of government." If copying charges are substantially greater than the cost of downloading information from public records to a computer disc, making public access to the records more expensive would undermine the Act's goal of transparency.

    Unfortunately, some West Virginia public bodies, reportedly vary in their willingness to comply with this section. It is common today for the state’s agencies to obtain, compile and/or retain records in electronic formats. In the second decade of the twenty first century it has become common for public bodies to post considerable information on internet websites where it can be downloaded by citizens without making FOIA requests.   It is also common for FOIA requesters to ask for and obtain information provided in magnetic, electronic, or similar electronic formats.

    It is reported that some public bodies charge considerably more than the actual cost of a computer DVD or CD, thus raising the issue of violation of W. Va. Code § 29B-1-3 (5) that limits charges imposed on FOIA requests to the “actual cost of reproduction."    Other policies, procedures and practices may be instituted by public bodies as a result of the significant changes in information gathering and because of the widespread use of computers, smart phones, other electronic communication devices and the internet.

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  • Wyoming

    If the records are in electronic format, the custodian shall provide the record in “alternative formats unless doing so is impractical or impossible.  W.S. §16-4-202(d)(ii).

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