Q: How much can a governmental entity charge for copies of records requested under the Open Records Law?
A: Copy fees are limited to the “actual, necessary and direct cost” of reproduction unless otherwise provided by law. Sec. 19.35(3)(a), Stats. The policy of the Wisconsin Department of Justice is that photocopies should cost around 15 cents per page; any charge in excess of 25 cents per page is considered unusually high. Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Public Records Law: Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31-19.39 Compliance Outline 32-33 (2005).
If a custodian must locate a record, requesters may not be charged for location fees unless they exceed $50, and only the actual, necessary and direct location costs are permitted. See sec. 19.35(3)(c), Stats. Mailing and shipping fees may be charged, although they are also limited to actual, necessary and direct costs. See sec. 19.35(3)(d), Stats. A custodian may require prepayment of fees totaling $5 or more, and he or she may withhold copies of requested records until payment has been received. See Sec.19.35(3)(f), Stats., and State ex rel. Hill v. Zimmerman, 196 Wis. 2d 419, 429-30, 538 N.W.2d 608 (Ct. App. 1995).
If confidential parts of a record must be separated, or “redacted,” the Wisconsin Attorney General maintains that the costs of redacting generally should be borne by the custodian. Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Public Records Law: Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31-19.39 Compliance Outline 33 (2005); see 72 Wis. Op. Att’y Gen. 99 (1983) (OAG 28-33).
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