A&A: Can a private company profit by selling public information

Q: Can a private company make a profit by selling public information? Or is there a law that says they cannot take public information and charge people to look at it?

A: There is no restriction on a private entity that obtains public records from charging someone for copies of those records. The Public Records Act’s prohibition on charging for copies, beyond the direct costs of duplication, applies only to governmental agencies. Those who want records are able to get them for the costs of duplication directly from the agency.

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.

One Comment

  • It depends on what you mean by public information and whether it is subject to copyright protection. Most daily newspapers are available to read online for free, but the content is copyrighted and requires permission for redistribution.

    Facts are not subject to copyright. However, the arrangement and presentation format of facts, say in a database hit list, is protected by copyright.

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