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What is the law?

Binding, on-point law (about)


Advisory sources (about)


A valid third party copyright can prevent disclosure under the Ohio Open Records Law. State ex rel. Gambill v. Opperman, 2013-Ohio-761, 135 Ohio St. 3d 298, 986 N.E.2d 93. But see, 1993 Ohio Op. Att'y Gen. No. 93-010 (May 14, 1993) (allowing disclosure of third-party house blueprints required to be submitted to local government, in spite of copyright interest). In several cases, the state has attempted to use copyright as a defense against public records disclosure, but the state supreme court has consistently refused to rule on the copyright claim. See State ex rel. Perrea v. Cincinnati Pub. Sch., 2009-Ohio-4762, 123 Ohio St. 3d 410, 416, 916 N.E.2d 1049, 1055; State ex rel. Carr v. Akron, 2006-Ohio-6714, 112 Ohio St. 3d 351, 359, 859 N.E.2d 948, 956. Another case, State ex rel. Rea v. Ohio Dep't of Edn., 1998-Ohio-334, 81 Ohio St. 3d 527, 532, 692 N.E.2d 596, 602, indicated that non-commercial uses requested under the Open Records Law are fair use for the purpose of federal copyright. Similarly, in an advisory document, the Ohio Attorney General advises that "[i]f a public record sought by a requester is copyrighted material that the public office does not possess the right to reproduce or copy via a copyright ownership or license, the public office is not typically authorized to make copies of this material under federal copyright law." This implies that federal copyright law supersedes public records requests in Ohio, although it does not directly address whether the state itself may hold copyrights.

Public records law (about)

A common law right of access to public records in Ohio dates back at least to 1901. Wells v. Lewis, 12 Ohio N.P. 170 (Superior Ct. of Cincinnati 1901 (summary) ("As public records are but the people's records, it would seem necessarily to follow that unless forbidden by a constitution or statute, the right of the people to examine their own records must remain.") The current Ohio Open Records Law may be found at Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 149.43.

Does the public records law restrict the use of disclosed records?

In Ohio the "purpose in requesting to inspect and copy public records is irrelevant." State ex rel. Consumer News Services, Inc. v. Worthington City Board of Education, 776 N.E.2d 82, 90 (Ohio 2002). The provision of multiple copies to a requestor may, however, be made conditional on assurances that the records will not be used for commercial purposes. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(B)(7).

Specifics and examples (about)

Status Applies to... Based on?
Copyrightable by statute "reports of the supreme court, of the courts of appeals, and of inferior courts" [1] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2503.23
Copyrightable by statute Highway maps published by the state Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 149.17
Copyright assigned to state unless otherwise contracted for "all know-how, trade secrets, and other forms of property, rights, and interest arising out of developments, discoveries, or inventions... which result in whole or in part from research, studies, or testing conducted by use of [funds from the department of development]" Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 1551.12
Copyright asserted by department Materials on the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel website

Additional things to consider (about)

Ohio law says that "all records are the property of the public office concerned and shall not be removed, destroyed, mutilated, transferred, or otherwise damaged or disposed of." Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 149.351.

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