To fee or not to fee: Requester attitudes toward freedom of information charges

A. Jay Wagner, David Cuillier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study seeks to establish a foundation for how FOI fees are received by public record requesters, and how fees influence behavior across demographics and requester types. A survey of 330 public records requesters in the United States revealed sharp disparities in how requesters perceive fees. Private citizens, journalists, academics, and nonprofit requesters were more likely to identify excessive fees as a serious impediment, whereas commercial requesters and lawyers did not. The study also found differences in how fees are experienced at the federal, state, and local levels. Findings suggest that fees are particularly problematic for certain requester types, notably average citizens and those seeking records in the public interest, and that fees may therefore obstruct the public's ability to become informed and better self-govern. Based on democratic theory, this U.S.-based study provides caution and insights for governments throughout the world against imposing barriers that might obstruct civic participation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101879
JournalGovernment Information Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Access attitudes
  • Access to government information
  • Fees
  • Freedom of information
  • Freedom of information act

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Law


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