Access to electronic records.
The Public Records Act does not distinguish between paper and electronic records. Instead, the act explicitly includes electronic records within its coverage. The definition of "public record" includes a "writing," which in turn includes "existing data compilations from which information may be obtained or translated." RCW 42.17.020
(48) (incorporated by reference into the act by RCW 42.56.010
). Many agency records are now in an electronic format. Many of these electronic formats such as Windows® products are generally available and are designed to operate with other computers to quickly and efficiently locate and transfer information. Providing electronic records can be cheaper and easier for an agency than paper records. Furthermore, RCW 43.105.250
provides: "It is the intent of the legislature to encourage state and local governments to develop, store, and manage their public records and information in electronic formats to meet their missions and objectives. Further, it is the intent of the legislature for state and local governments to set priorities for making public records widely available electronically to the public." In general, an agency should provide electronic records in an electronic format if requested in that format. Technical feasibility is the touchstone for providing electronic records. An agency should provide reasonably locatable electronic public records in either their original generally commercially available format (such as an Acrobat PDF® file) or, if the records are not in a generally commercially available format, the agency should provide them in a reasonably translatable electronic format if possible. In the rare cases when the requested electronic records are not reasonably locatable, or are not in a generally commercially available format or are not reasonably translatable into one, the agency might consider customized access. See WAC 44-14-05004
. An agency may recover its actual costs for providing electronic records, which in many cases is de minimis. See WAC 44-14-050
(3). What is technically feasible in one situation may not be in another. Not all agencies, especially smaller units of local government, have the electronic resources of larger agencies and some of the generalizations in these model rules may not apply every time. If an agency initially believes it cannot provide electronic records in an electronic format, it should confer with the requestor and the two parties should attempt to cooperatively resolve any technical difficulties. See WAC 44-14-05003
. It is usually a purely technical question whether an agency can provide electronic records in a particular format in a specific case.
[Statutory Authority: 2005 c 483 § 4, amending RCW 42.56.570
. WSR 07-13-058, § 44-14-05001, filed 6/15/07, effective 7/16/07.]