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Utah's Right to Know
Donald Meyers
Donald W. Meyers writes about open-government issues for The Salt Lake Tribune. He is also the site manager of utahsright.com, the Tribune's online database of public records. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists' National Freedom of Information Committee and sits on the board of directors of the Utah Foundation for Open Government.

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Colorado city wants to ban people taking pictures of public records

Durango, Colo., officials are trying to close what they see as a public-records loophole that is costing them money.

The Durango Herald reports that the city is proposing an ordinance that would ban people from photographing public records they request. It seems people are using their cellphones and tablet computers to get around photocopying fees by taking pictures of the documents.

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The city charges 25 cents per page after the first 10 pages, whether the information is photocopied or scanned for emailing, along with billing for the employee’s time to prepare the files. Colorado’s records law, like Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act, allow people to inspect public documents for free.

So far in Utah, it’s perfectly legal to take pictures of the documents without having to pay a fee. Even HB477 didn’t try to outlaw that practice.

City Clerk Amy Phillips told the paper that city workers will consolidate documents for a records request, and expect the person to come in and pick which ones should be copied.

"[B]ut we’re finding out now that people are able to come in with a phone and just (photograph) the copies," Phillips said. "Then we don’t retrieve the money we spent."

Along with a photo ban, the city is also proposing a $30-per-hour fee to for gathering the documents.

The proposal goes to a City Council vote on Tuesday.



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