Main Content


What is the law?

Binding, on-point law (about)


Advisory sources (about)

Tex. Att'y Gen. Op. ORD 660 (1999) indicates that if federal copyright is held by the state, it does not preclude disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. This Attorney General Opinion additionally implies, but doesn't state, that statutory authority may be needed for the state itself to assert a copyright. See Ashley Messenger, Dennis Pitman, Can States Use Copyright to Restrict the Use of Public Records?, Comm. Law., February 2013, at 4, 6. Another attorney general opinion, Tex. Att'y Gen. Op. ORD 2002-5672 (2002), makes reference to public records as not subject to copyright, which may indicate a presumption that records are in the public domain, but does not clarify further. Multiple additional attorney general opinions indicate that government records which are subject to copyright must be provided for inspection but not copying under the Texas Public Information Act. Op. Tex. Att'y Gen. Nos. MW-307 (1981); JM-672 (1987).

Public records law (about)

Texas has had a recognized common law right of access to public records since 1903. Jenkins v. State, 75 S.W. 312, 312 (Tex. Crim. App. 1903). The Texas Public Information Act was first enacted in 1973, and may be found at Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 552.001.

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

Government entities are not permitted to require requestors to disclose the purpose of a records request, Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 552.222, and intended purpose may not be considered when determining whether to disclose a record. Indus. Found. of the South v. Tex. Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668, 674 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). There is an exemption in the Public Information Act, however, for "[c]ommercial or financial information for which it is demonstrated based on specific factual evidence that disclosure would cause substantial competitive harm to the person from whom the information was obtained," which protects original submitters of information from direct competition as a result of government association. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 552.110.

Specifics and examples (about)

Status Applies to... Based on?
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the Texas Department of Health Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 12.020
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the Texas Water Development Board Tex. Water Code Ann. § 6.197
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 1001.007
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of a county government Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. § 270.009
Copyrightable by statute Intellectual property of the Texas Department of Transportation Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 201.205
Public Domain by statute "study guides and other material developed by the [Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification] Board" Tex. Occ. Code Ann. § 1103.259

Additional things to consider (about)

The Texas code sometimes refers to records as "property of the state": Tex. Water Code Ann. § 5.175 ("All information, documents, and data collected by the commission in the performance of its duties are the property of the state."); Tex. Water Code Ann. § 16.012 ("full and proper records of his work, observations, data, and calculations, all of which are the property of the state"). Texas law also prohibits the unauthorized removal of records. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 552.351.

The Texas State Archives and Library Commission indicates on their website that: "To the best of our knowledge, works produced by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and appearing to customers, visitors, users, constituents and the general public on any of our web properties (website, social media, blogs, etc.) are not copyright protected. This designation does not apply to works of other State of Texas websites and websites of local governments, which may be protected by copyright."

Where else to go




Attorney General Opinions