Follow-Up on the Great “Photocopy” Dispute

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As you may recall, last week you were treated to this deposition excerpt in which the parties were wrangling (for pages and pages) over the definition of "photocopy." Over the weekend I got some more details from the lawyer asking the question, and now it seems like he should have gotten an answer.

He says the issue is this: The county recorder charges $28 for two pages (and $4 per page after that) to record and index deeds, mortgages, and so on. It backs up each day's files onto a master CD. The lawyer represents two title companies that need to get those files. For the past decade, that has cost them each $50 per CD, or a little over $1,000 a month. One day, they noticed that the bill had suddenly jumped to over $100,000 a month. This prompted a few questions.

The county had decided to take the position that the law allowed it to charge for every page of every document copied from a master CD. What the law actually says, though, is that it can charge $2 per page "[f]or photocopying a document, other than at the time of recording and indexing …." Ohio Rev. Code § 317.32(i) (emphasis added). Therefore, the meaning of "photocopy" is an issue in the case because the county is taking the position that copying a file onto a disk is the same as "photocopying a document."

While the other side can (and likely did) object that the meaning of the term is a legal question for the court, that doesn't mean the witness can avoid answering the question of what "photocopying" means to him. Understandably, he probably didn't really want to answer the question because (1) it'd be embarrassing to be on the record saying that copying a file onto a disk is the same as "photocopying a document," and (2) he didn't want to undermine the county's ability to get $2 per page for pushing a button, which is basically a license to print money. Hence ten pages of fighting over what "photocopy" means.

The lawyer told me he never did get an answer to his question, but thinks he made his point.