The Benefits of Commercial and Personal Access to Public Records

The Coalition for Sensible Public Records Access (CSPRA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the principle of open public record access to ensure individuals, the press, advocates, and businesses receive the continued freedom to collect and use the information made available in the public record for personal, commercial, and societal benefit. This paper addresses legislation and rules that discriminates against commercial and personal use of public records by restricting use, raising the cost, or making access more difficult.

It is often said that we live in an information economy. The natural resource on which that economy depends is information and public records and commercial users of those records are a critical source. Public and private data is used in combination to equalize access to business opportunities, provide convenient and personalized customer service, increase markets and market efficiency, and manage and reduce risk. These uses contribute substantially to economic growth. Such use is so ubiquitous, it is easy to forget that good information leads to the decisions, marketing, and communications that help businesses get started or grow. Through equal and reasonable access and pricing for all users of public information, we achieve a greater democratization of opportunity that strengthens the vitality of our entrepreneurial and small business sectors.

Americans for centuries have depended on the commercial and trade use and resale of public records in nearly every important function and aspect of our lives. Whole industries and systems depend on pubic information to function or function properly. When bills limit access to public records, unintended consequences are likely because public records are a critical source of the truth in our society and the many uses of public records are not well understood or appreciated. Like any good system, these uses are mostly invisible and unnoticed by those whom they serve. COALITION FOR SENSIBLE PUBLIC RECORDS ACCESS Unfortunately, this means these uses of the truth can be taken for granted or stepped on without knowing the harm being done. Consider the following top activities that nourish our lives and our prosperity and that depend on accessible, complete, accurate, and truthful public records:

1. Life Events Many critical and routinely valuable events in our lives depend on the accessibility and truth of public records. A reliable system of recording property owners and for assessing the credit worthiness of buyers and sellers means we can securely and economically buy and own a home, a vehicle, investments, and consumer goods of all kinds. The truth about those places and people who care for our youngest, oldest, infirm, and most needy helps us make the right choices and better protect those we love. When our good behavior is reflected in an accessible and true public record, we are rewarded with work and life opportunities fitting our skills and character. Even the everyday life events depend on the truth

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