When Lucy says she hasn’t seen anything this idiotic in a long time…that’s saying a lot!

A small, much used Xerox photocopier in the li...

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From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a shameless attempt to wring fees from data:

Journalists have elbowed into Cuyahoga County’s dispute over the cost of CDs loaded with deeds and mortgages, arguing that the public should have the databases at cost.

The county wants to charge more than $200,000 for CDs of property records, based on a state law that mandates a $2-per-page fee to photocopy or fax documents. Officials have spent nearly $25,000 in tax dollars on lawyers to defend that position.

Fine, two journalism organizations say. But the CDs aren’t paper; and they’re not photocopies.

“This case is not terribly complicated,” writes the Ohio Newspaper Association. “The Cuyahoga County Recorder is not making a photocopy of any record. And it cannot, therefore, charge a fee that would make a valuable database inaccessible to the public.”

The association joined the Arlington, Va.-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Ohio Land Title Association in filing briefs this week in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The journalism organizations are getting involved now, they say, because of the potentialramifications. If the court decides the county can charge $2 per page on CDs, journalists would not be able to afford databases that make analysis and investigative journalism possible.

“I have not seen anything this idiotic in a really long time,” Reporters Committee attorney Lucy Dalglish said in a phone interview. “You really have to work hard to interpret a statute that badly.”

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