The Sierra Club filed an appeal after a decision in June 2010 that the data were in fact software, and that they were thus not available at cost, per the California Public Records Law. (APB coverage)
On May 31, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the original decision.
Justice Raymond Ikola, writing for the Court of Appeal, cited legislative history and said the county was correct.
The current wording of the exemption, he noted, was enacted in 1988 specifically to permit the City of San Jose to recoup the cost of developing its computer graphing systems.
“The Legislature, by substituting ‘computer mapping systems’ for ‘computer readable data bases’ in the statutory definition of computer software, narrowed the definition sufficiently to preserve the public records status of most computer-stored information, while excluding from public disclosure a narrow and specific type of database (i.e., a computer mapping database),” the justice explained. “A computer mapping database is not excluded ‘merely’ because it is stored on a computer, but because its development is time-consuming and costly and the Legislature has made a policy decision that local governments should be allowed to recoup some of their development costs.”