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Friday, May 08, 2009

Penn. law likely to change how e-mail is handled

Pennsylvania's new Right-to-Know law includes all electronic information in what is presumed to be a public record. The law is likely to lead to new policies on what is considered public versus private electronic communications and how e-mails are preserved, according to the law firm Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall.
Pennsylvania's new Right-to-Know law stands to change the way many government entities administrate public records, particularly the way e-mail messages are handled, according to Guy P. Beneventano, municipal law expert and partner in the Harrisburg law firm Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall, LLP.

"As a general rule, all records, including information maintained electronically, are presumed to be public records," Mr. Beneventano said today. "That includes email messages created, received or retained as of January 1, 2009, which means government entities should start with the understanding that the email is part of an official public record if it is sent or received in the ordinary course of the government's business."

Mr. Beneventano said that public access to email communications is limited only if the email fits one of three categories of exemptions in the law. "The email is presumed to be a public record unless it fits one of thirty statutory exceptions; unless it is protected by a legal privilege -- such as attorney-client privilege; or unless it is otherwise exempt from disclosure by some other federal or state law, regulation or court order."
More here.

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