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Alabama Public Record Laws

Website & Social Media Archiving for Alabama State Agencies

Do you represent an Alabama State Government Agency and wondering how you should archive all your web and social media content? Are you trying to determine what you need to do both from a legal and a technical point of view? Here’s a guide to the different Laws and processes you should follow.

What Laws govern Records Management in the State of Alabama?

Alabama Public Records Law is a set of legislation created in the public interest, designed for access to the records of government and official bodies at all levels in Alabama. The law can be found at statutes 36.12.40-41 and 41.13.1 – 41.13.44 of the Code of Alabama Open Records Law Al. Code §36-25A-1 et seq. and Open Meetings Law Al. Code §36-12-40 et seq. provide to applicable social media and Open Records in the State of Alabama.

Do Alabama State Records Laws include Website and Social Media content?

Yes they do. NARA state that that is a “[P]ublic expectation that all web content is both permanently valuable and accessible” – and so social media and web records are subject to these standards as well as the relevant metadata being pertinent to these laws. Public records are defined within the Code of Alabama as “all written, typed or printed books, papers, letters, documents and maps made or received in pursuance of law by the public officers of the state, counties, municipalities and other subdivisions of government in the transactions of public business and shall also include any record authorized to be made by any law of this state belonging or pertaining to any court of record or any other public record authorized by law or any paper, pleading, exhibit or other writing filed with, in or by any such court, office or officer.”

Case Law: Access to computer records was established in Alabama in Birmingham News Co. v. Peevy, 21 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2125 (1993). In this case, the trial judge highlighted that the main reasons digital and electronic records are identified as “writings” for the purposes of the Public Records Law, are due to the following factors: “ Certainly, the Department was able to carry out its business without the aid of computers before such technology was available. However, the Court recognizes that computers have added a great amount of value to our public records, and that currently the Department generates the MVRs by computers. Therefore, Alabama Open Government Guide Page 20 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press without the aid of the computer database, citizens would not, as a practical matter, have access to all of the information compiled. 21 Media L. Rep. (BNA) at 2126.
What agencies are subject to these laws?

The Alabama code gives a broad scope to the definition of”public officers” – including not only elected or appointed officials but also “all persons whatsoever occupying positions in state institutions.” Alabama Code 36-12-1

What is my agency required to do in line with these regulations?

Individuals and agencies subject to these provisions must monitor, record and archive in a suitable and easily accessible format all relevant writings, and “[A]t all times shall afford full and detailed information in reference to the activities or business required to be done or carried on by such officer or servant and from which the actual status and condition of such activities and business can be ascertained without extraneous information . . .,” Ala. Code § 36-12-2. There is a broad, two Stone standard of information required to be archived and made available in relation to relevant business and activites – that which is “required by law to kept” and “reasonably necessary”. (Walsh v. Barnes, 541 So. 2d 33, 35 (Ala. Civ. App. 1989).

In which form do I need to archive my records?

In Birmingham News Co. v. Peevey, [1993], the trial court ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to produce motor vehicle records in computer form, as requested and as generated by the Department for its own use. The trial court quoted with approval an Ohio Supreme Court opinion, as follows: “[M]embers of the public should not be required ‘to exhaust their energy and ingenuity to gather information which is already compiled and organized in a document created by public officials at public expense.’ An agency subject to Alabama Open Records law should not allow or require the public to expend their own resources , “[i]n order to replicate the value added to the public records through the creation and storage on tape of a database containing such records.”

Such a record as is reasonably necessary to record the business and activities required to be done or carried on by a public officer so that the status and condition of such business and activities can be known by our citizens.” -Stone v. Consolidated Publishing, 404 So. 2d 678, 680-81 (Ala. 1981).

How can we transfer website archives made with PageFreezer to the Alabama State Digital Archives?

PageFreezer exports all data on request in the original file format including the required metadata. This data set can be transferred by FTP or by other means to the Alabama State or Agency Digital Archives.

How can PageFreezer help our agency?

PageFreezer has been working on our Archiving technology and processes since 2006 – We know how to properly archive Web Sites, Blogs and Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram. Just ask any of our over 500 clients including US Cities, Counties and other Government Agencies as well as Multinationals, Financial Service Firms, Healthcare Providers …

Our clients know our technology is secure, reliable and authenticated. More importantly they appreciate the ease-of-use. That’s why our complex technology is simple to use – The archiving is automatic and retrieval is a matter of signing in, going to the date you want, and browsing your site just like you did when the content was just published.

If you have questions about any of this or about how to actually implement effective Online Public Records management start a free trial, schedule a demo or contact us directly.

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