OpenRural's Guide to Digital Public Records in N.C.
Ryan ThornburgUniversity of North Carolina
• What are they?• How do I get them?• What do I do with them?
“alldocuments, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, soundrecordings, magnetic or othertapes, electronic data-processingrecords, artifacts, or otherdocumentary material, regardlessof physical form orcharacteristics”
“Persons requesting copies of public records mayelect to obtain them in any and all media in whichthe public agency is capable of providing them. Norequest for copies of public records in a particularmedium shall be denied on the grounds that thecustodian has made or prefers to make the publicrecords available in another medium.”
“No request to inspect, examine, or obtain copies ofpublic records shall be denied on the grounds thatconfidential information is commingled with therequested nonconfidential information. If it isnecessary to separate confidential fromnonconfidential information in order to permit theinspection, examination, or copying of the publicrecords, the public agency shall bear the cost ofsuch separation.”
“Nothing in this section shall … require a publicagency to respond to a request for a copy of a publicrecord by creating or compiling a record that doesnot exist. … Nothing in this section shall beconstrued to require a public agency to put intoelectronic medium a record that is not kept inelectronic medium.”
1. CompleteAll public data is madeavailable. Public data is data that is notsubject to valid privacy, security or privilegelimitations.
• Time• Date• Location• Nature of a violation• Name of a person arrested, charged, or indicted.• Sex of a person arrested, charged, or indicted.
• Age of a person arrested, charged, or indicted• Address of a person arrested, charged, or indicted• Employment of a person arrested, charged, or indicted• Whether the arrest involved resistance• Whether the arrest involved possession or use of weapons
• Whether the arrest involved pursuit• Description of any items seized in connection with the arrest• Name of complaining witness• Sex of complaining witness• Age of complaining witness• Address of a complaining witness • EXCEPT …
• if release of the information is reasonably likely to pose a threat to the mental health, physical health, or personal safety of the complaining witness or materially compromise a continuing or future criminal investigation or criminal intelligence operation. (You can appeal)
• if it will jeopardize the right of the State to prosecute a defendant or the right of a defendant to receive a fair trial or will undermine an ongoing or future investigation (police must first get a court order)
“The use of a public record inconnection with a criminalinvestigation or the gathering ofcriminal intelligence shall notaffect its status as a publicrecord.”
2. PrimaryData is as collected at the source, with thehighest possible level of granularity, not inaggregate or modified forms.
3. TimelyData is made available as quickly asnecessary to preserve the value of the data.4. AccessibleData is available to the widest range of usersfor the widest range of purposes.
5. Machine processableData is reasonably structured to allowautomated processing.Not PDF.
6. Non-discriminatoryData is available to anyone, with norequirement of registration.“No person requesting to inspect andexamine public records, or to obtain copiesthereof, shall be required to disclose thepurpose or motive for the request.”
7. Non-proprietaryData is available in a format over which noentity has exclusive control.
8. License-freeData is not subject to anycopyright, patent, trademark or trade secretregulation. Reasonable privacy, security andprivilege restrictions may be allowed.
• Know the ‘Custodian’• Know the Name of the Paper• Know the Fields You Want
Every public agency shall create an index of computerdatabases compiled or created (after 1998)• list of the data fields• description of the format or record layout• frequency with which the database is updated• list of any data fields to which public access is restricted• description of each form in which the database can be copied using the agencys computer facilities• a schedule of fees for the production of copies in each available form(Database = “data or documents residing in adatabase management program or spreadsheetsoftware”)
“Pursuant to the state open records act, N.C. GeneralStatute 132-1 to 132-10, I am requesting access to or copiesof information contained in the [name ofdatabase], specifically the following fields: …“I request that the data be made available in the [filetype]format and copied onto either a CD-ROM or portable USBdisk that I will provide.“If our request is denied in whole or part, I ask that youjustify all deletions by reference to the specific exemptionsof the act. We will also expect you to release all segregableportions of otherwise exempt material.“This material will be used in the preparation of newsarticles. As such, I ask that you waive all fees in the publicinterest. However, I am willing to pay up to $500 in youragency’s direct costs for search and copy. Please contact meif this amount is insufficient.”
• Reply: “as prompt as possible”• Copies: “as soon as reasonably possible”• Denials: Should be in writing, citing specific statutory reasons.
Costs:• “extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance”• “producing the record in the medium requested results in a greater use of information technology resources than that established by the agency for reproduction of the volume of information requested "
Costs:• “a special service charge, which shall be reasonable and shall be based on the actual cost incurred for such extensive use of information technology resources or the labor costs of the personnel providing the services, or for a greater use of information technology resources that is actually incurred by the agency or attributable to the agency”