- Records subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act
Pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Government Code § 6250 et seq.) "Public records" include "any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics." (Cal. Gov't. Code § 6252(e).) notes that "[a]ll public records are subject to disclosure unless the Public Records Act expressly provides otherwise." County of Santa Clara v. CFAC California Government Code § 6254 lists categories of documents not subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act. In addition, computer software is not considered a public record, while data and statistics collected (whether collected knowingly or unknowingly) by a government authority whose powers derive from the laws of California are public records (such as license plate reader images) pursuant to EFF & ACLU of Southern California v. Los Angeles Police Department & Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and are not exempt from disclosure and are public records.
Although the act only covers “writing,” the Act, pursuant to Government Code § 6252(g), states: “Writing” means any handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, photocopying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combinations thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.
- Agencies permitted to claim copyright
California's Constitution and its statutes do not permit any agency to claim copyright for "public records" unless authorized to do so by law. The following agencies are permitted to claim copyright and any works of these agencies should be assumed to be copyrighted without clear evidence to the contrary:
County of Santa Clara v. CFAC held that the State of California, or any government entity which derives its power from the State, cannot enforce a copyright in any record subject to the Public Records Act in the absence of another state statute giving it the authority to do so.
Note: Works that are considered "public records" but were not created by a state or municipal government agency may be copyrighted by their author; the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution prevents state law from overriding the author's right to copyright protection that is granted by federal law. For example, a state agency may post images online of the final appearance of a building under construction; while the images may have to be released by such agency since they are public records, their creator (e.g. architecture/construction firm) retains copyright rights to the image unless the contract with the agency says otherwise. See: Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual: To what extent does federal law preempt state law regarding public inspection of records?.
Disclaimer: The information provided, especially the list of agencies permitted to claim copyright, may not be complete.