Main Content


What is the law?

Binding, on-point law (about)

Oregon law specifies that actions taken by the Legislative Administration Committee to make records available to the public "may not be deemed to alter or relinquish any copyright or other proprietary interest or entitlement of the State of Oregon relative to any of the information made available." Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 173.763.

Advisory sources (about)


Oregon law requires that "[e]ach state agency shall have a written policy that sets forth the agency's use, retention and ownership of public records." Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 192.018. This allows individual agencies to set their own policy for the copyright status of their public records.

Public records law (about)

A common law right of access to public records has been recognized in Oregon at least since 1926. Bend Pub. Co. v. Haner, 118 Or. 105, 244 P. 868 (1926): "The public must always have access to all public records required to be kept or made by a public official unless the statute specially provides otherwise." The current public records law may be found at Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 192.410.

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

In general, a requestor is not required to disclose the purpose of a records request. McEwan v. Holm, 226 Or. 27, 359 P.2d 413 (1961) (cited in Reporters Committee, Oregon, Open Government Guide); Guard Publishing Co. v. Lane County School District, 791 P.2d 854, 855 n.1 (Or. 1990); Attorney General Manual, § I(A) (both cited in Oregon Attorney General's Manual, 2014). Some statutory exceptions (see examples below), however, require that disclosure be in the public interest, and evaluation of those circumstances may require the requestor's purpose to be disclosed. Gray v. Salem-Keizer School District, 139 Or. App. 556, 912 P.2d 938 (1996). A 1981 Attorney General order allowed the public records disclosure of a computer program copyrighted by a third party. The order stated that, "[t]he program is not exempt from disclosure, but the use after disclosure is limited by federal copyright laws." Public Records Order, October 19, 1981, Raleigh Lund, described in 44 Or. Op. Att'y Gen. 239 (1984).

Specifics and examples (about)

Status Applies to... Based on?
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the Legislative Administration Committee Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 173.770
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the State Board of Higher Education Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 351.220
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the Department of Corrections and Oregon Corrections Enterprises Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 421.444
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the Oregon Beef Council Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 577.355
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of a board of education of a community college district Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 341.319
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the Oregon Wheat Commission Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 578.105
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of a commodity commission established under ORS 576.051 to 576.455 Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 576.317
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the State Board of Education Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 326.520 (note, however, that the statute specifies that IP may be acquired by gift, purchase, or contract, and does not address content originating within the board). Interestingly, the Oregon Department of Education asserts a copyright in their original publications. ("Because our publications are produced at taxpayer expense, they are copyrighted.").
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of a housing authority created under ORS 456.075 Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 456.128
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of a soil and water conservation district Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 568.550
Copyrightable by statute Oregon Revised Statutes, including an index and annotations Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 171.275(3)
Copyrightable by statute Compilations of state agency rules Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 183.360; note that, paralleling Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 173.763 for electronic disclosure of legislative records, Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 183.365 likewise provides that the electronic availability of agency rules does not abrogate the state's copyright interest.
Copyrightable by statute "computer programs, software, software tools and data" acquired or developed by the Housing and Community Services Department Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 456.562
Copyrightable by statute "copyrightable or patentable data processing programs, information or materials developed, published or produced by a state agency" Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 291.042
Copyrightable asserted by Secretary of State Oregon Administrative Rules Compilation and the Oregon Bulletin

Additional things to consider (about)

A "Frequently Asked Questions" document available from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development says that, "The Public Records Law does not authorize public bodies to violate federal copyright law. A public body must permit a requester to inspect copyrighted materials, but should not make copies or allow someone else to make copies of such materials without the copyright owner's consent or on advice of legal counsel."

The Oregon Public Records Law has one of the least access-oriented statements of purpose in the country. The policy of the act is stated as: "The purpose of ORS 192.005 to 192.170 and 357.805 to 357.895 is to provide direction for the retention or destruction of public records in Oregon in order to assure the retention of records essential to meet the needs of the Legislative Assembly, the state, its political subdivisions and its citizens, in so far as the records affect the administration of government, legal rights and responsibilities, and the accumulation of information of value for research purposes of all kinds, and in order to assure the prompt destruction of records without continuing value. All records not included in types described in this subsection shall be destroyed in accordance with the rules adopted by the Secretary of State." Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 192.001(2). This language focuses heavily on the retention of government control over records and their proper disposal, and can be contrasted with the policy statements found in other states which focus on issues of representative government and free access to public information.

Where else to go




Attorney General Opinions