Selling transcript copies of an open or public meeting
Statement of facts
A freelance reporter has requested the Committee on Professional Ethics for an advisory opinion regarding the permissibility under the Association's Code of Professional Ethics of the reporter's sale of copies of a transcript to members of the audience in the following situation. A law firm privately hires a freelance reporter to make a record of an open or public meeting. The reporter is not creating the official record for the meeting. Certain members of the audience request copies of the transcript from the reporter after the meeting.
It is the opinion of the Committee that this situation presents a slightly different set of facts from those presented in Public Advisory Opinion No. 8 (1989). Although this is an open or public hearing, a law firm privately hires the reporter to report the proceeding. The reporter is not creating the official record for the proceeding. Provision No. 4 of the Code requires the reporter to preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of information, oral or written, entrusted to the member by any of the parties in a proceeding. Although the hiring party may not be a party to a proceeding, it is the party that hired the reporter to create a transcript of the meeting. When creating a private rather than an official record, the reporter first must look for permission from the hiring party in order to sell copies of the transcript of the proceeding to others.
As suggested in Public Advisory Opinion No. 8 (1989), the reporter may want to avoid possible problems by asking the hiring party before the proceeding starts whether the reporter may sell transcripts of the proceeding to members of the audience.
It is the Committee's opinion that, without the permission of the hiring party, the reporter may not sell copies of a transcript of a public or open meeting to members of the audience if the reporter is hired by a private party and is not creating the official record for the meeting. If the reporter sold or gave a copy of the transcript under such circumstances without the express permission of the hiring party, the reporter would violate Provision No. 4 of the Code, which mandates that the reporter preserve the confidentiality and security of information entrusted to the reporter.
THIS PUBLIC ADVISORY OPINION REFLECTS THE STATUS OF THE LAW IN MOST JURISDICTIONS. MEMBERS ARE REQUIRED TO CONFORM TO THE ACCEPTED PRACTICES SET FORTH IN THIS PUBLIC ADVISORY OPINION TO THE EXTENT THAT SUCH PRACTICES ARE CONSISTENT WITH THEIR OWN APPLICABLE STATE AND LOCAL LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS.