Attorney General's Opinion 1981-82 #443



March 25, 1982

The Honorable Kenneth B. Rollins
Member, House of Delegates

81-82 443

This is in reply to your letter of March 3, 1982, in which you request my opinion on the following questions relating to the reproduction of certain copyrighted topographic maps produced by Loudoun County at the taxpayer s' expense.

"1. May the county impose limits on the reproduction of copies of the maps obtained by citizens (or by a town within the county) either by request or under the Freedom of Information Act?

"2. May a county charge more than the actual cost (direct labor, equipment and materials) for supplying a copy of such maps?

"3. May a county, as a condition precedent to a lease or loan, limit the reproduction of such maps by citizens (or by a town within the county)?"

Your questions are answered by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (the "Act") and applicable copyright laws. The Act requires the disclosure of public records upon proper request, unless there is an exception or prohibition provided by law. Maps are included in the definition of "official records" that are required to be open to inspection and copying. See §§2.1-341(b) and 2.1-342(a) of the Code of Virginia (1950), as amended. Section 2.1-342(a) provides that, while the public body may make reasonable charges for the copying and search time expended in the supplying of such records, "in no event shall the charges exceed the actual cost of the public body in supplying such records."

The United States copyright laws (17 U.S.C. §1, et seq.) give exclusive rights of reproducing copyrighted work to the owner of the copyright. See 17 U.S.C. §106. Maps are included in the subject matter identified within the purview of the copyright laws. See 17 U.S.C. 101 and 102, The purpose of the copyright laws is to "secure to copyright owner the exclusive right to multiply copies." Fawcett Publications v. Elliot Publishing Co., 46 F.Supp. 717 (D.C. N.Y. 1942).

The Act requires that the maps you refer to be made available for public inspection and allow the county to make reasonable charges for copying and search time expended in the supplying of such records. The U.S. copyright laws give the county, as owner of the copyright, the exclusive right to reproduce such maps, thereby prohibiting reproduction of the maps by anyone other than the county without its consent.