The Ohio Supreme Court has rebuked Cuyahoga County’s attempt to bill two companies $208,000 each for two months’ worth of real-estate records already stored digitally.
In a 7-0 ruling, the court said the county can only charge $1 for each compact disc to hold the downloaded digital files, not $2 per physical page as argued by county officials.
The decision was a victory for the companies and journalists and newspapers that filed briefs in the case. The ruling gives the public better access to the information.
The county recorder contended that documents handled by her office are not public records, and that state law requires her to collect $2 per page for photocopies, even if the records are available electronically. The court, however, ordered the county to give Data Trace Information Services and Property Insight its records in electronic form.
Justices said putting electronic images on a CD is not “photocopying” and rejected arguments that documents in the recorder’s office are not public records.
They also noted that of eighty-eight Ohio counties, sixty provided a CD containing copies of real-estate records. They charged between $1 and $20 per CD. Just one other county outside of Cuyahoga requested $2 per page.
Justices also reiterated that governments can charge those seeking records only the cost of copies and not for employee time to respond to make copies.
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