Q&A: Price of information from state police

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From the Journal & Courier (Lafayette):

Q: The newspaper is negoti­ating the price for traffic accident information with the Indiana State Police and its vendor, Appriss, which operates the database on traffic accidents.

The Appriss contact says the cost will be $90 an hour for an “extract” and 10 cents per record. Based on that information, we’re estimating it will cost $1,916 to get some information we want.

What is your take on this?

A: I’m not sure what the basis is for their fee, so I suggest you follow up on it.

This type of request doesn’t fall under the Access to Public Records Act’s “enhanced access” provision, so they can’t argue for a “reasonable fee.”

That means it falls under IC-5-14-3-6(c), seeking information contained electronically that may require “reprogramming.”

If that’s the case, they would be within the statute to charge you “direct costs” to fulfill your request.

“Direct cost” is defined at IC 5-14-3-2(c).

Direct cost would be 105 percent of the sum of:

• The cost to program the computer to retrieve your information (if any reprogramming is necessary)

• The labor to retrieve the electronically stored data requested

• The cost of any medium used to duplicate the information, such as a flash drive or CD.

I don’t know what the $90 an hour represents.

Since it’s electronic data there aren’t hard copies involved, so there isn’t a copying fee. I’m at a loss as to how they can justify the fee of 10 cents per page.

I’d follow up with them on where the costs are coming from based on the fee restrictions of the Access to Public Records Act.

Do keep in mind one thing not in your favor: The public agency controls the format that you can receive the records in – paper or electronic, for example.

So the vendor and the state police could get together and decide, “Fine, if you don’t want to pay this charge we’ll give you the information on paper and let you re-enter the data into your system.”

So you may not have the leverage you’d like to bring the cost down.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

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