Sunshine Q&A: When is it okay to share a public document?

A Georgia journalist contacted us to ask whether it’s appropriate to share documents obtained through an open records request, whether or not the agency that provided the document was fully authorized to do so. The question is a valid one: If one agency won’t provide the information because it’s part of an “ongoing investigation,” what’s to stop an individual from obtaining it from another channel? In this case, the county coroner provided an autopsy in response to a perfectly legal open records request. But there’s a caveat: Is the journalist who obtained the document allowed to share it? The answer: Definitely. As Hollie Manheimer says, “To the extent you obtained a public document through proper legal channels, there are no restrictions on sharing it.” Read her complete answer here.

Sunshine Q&A is a complimentary service of the Transparency Project of Georgia and the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, a federal 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  These opinions should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult your own attorney for individual legal advice. Submit your questions about open government here.

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