A&A: Am I allowed to make my own copies instead of paying the agency fees?

Q: A local government agency has allowed me to inspect public records per a PRA request, but refuses to allow me to make copies at my own expense. Instead they maintain the position that my rights end at inspection and I would need to pay them to make any copies. Are you aware of any case(s) or statute(s) which support this position?

A: With respect to copies, the Public Records Act, at Govt. Code section 6253(b), provides as follows: “[E]ach state or local agency, upon request for a copy of records . . . shall make the records promptly available to any person upon a payment of fees covering direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee if applicable. Upon request, an exact copy shall be provided unless impracticable to do so.”

Therefore, nothing in the statute requires the agency to permit you to make your own copies. The only limitation is that the agency may only charge you for the direct costs of copying unless a statutory fee applies. Many agencies do permit requesters to make their own copies or have the copies made by a bonded copying service. But the law does not require them to provide this accommodation.

Holme Roberts & Owen LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.