Many of the relevant components of the law regarding access to government data are contained in Minnesota statute 13.03. Here are some of the basics:
• All government data is considered public unless otherwise classified as private. (Which data is considered private is outlined in the Minnesota Data Practices Act, Chapter 13 of Minnesota statutes.)
• Data must be maintained in a way that makes it easily accessible for convenient use, and requests for data must be met in an appropriate and prompt manner (statute 13.03).
• A person MAY NOT be charged a fee to “inspect” or view data, so many frequent requestors have learned never to ask for copies of government data to avoid the imposition of fees (statute 13.03 subdivision 3).
• If a person asks for copies of data, the government unit may charge the actual cost of “searching for and retrieving government data, including the cost of employee time, and for making, certifying, and electronically transmitting the copies of the data or the data.” The government unit cannot charge a fee for employee time in separating private data from public data (also called “redacting”). If 100 or fewer pages are requested, the government unit may not charge the actual cost of staff time, and can apply a fee no greater than 25 cents per page of data copied. If more than 100 black and white paper copies of data are requested, the actual cost of the copies and the staff time may be assessed.