Magazine article Information Today

Information America: Online Access to Basic Public Records

Magazine article Information Today

Information America: Online Access to Basic Public Records

Article excerpt

Information America: Online Access To Basic Public Records

One of the best sources for finding basic corporate information is from the state in which the company does business. Every state requires business to file basic information about their company. Usually the information consists of a company name, address, names of officers, registered agents, and similar basic business information. Usually the information is filed with the Secretary of State, or a Corporations Division of the Secretary of State's Office.

Other business information can be acquired from lower state or municipal court records. For example, some researchers might be interested in finding out if a company was currently involved in any litigation. Local, or municipal court information is usually available only from the clerk of the local court.

A frequen complaint of legal researchers is inadequate access to state administrative, and local court records. In many states the only method for acquiring public record information is to contact the appropriate office by phone or letter. In some jurisdictions the quickest way to acquire court decisions of specialized state or municipal courts is to hire a local document delivery service to go to the office, request the file, make the appropriate copies and send them express mail.

Information America (IA) is an information service that may provide some relief to the nagging problem of easy access to public records. Information America, an online service based in Atlanta, Georgia, and begun only six years ago, tracks selected public record information for approximately seven states and seven metropolitan areas. IA was created to provide researchers online access to state and municipal public record information.

Today many state administrative offices, and state and local courts are developing or have already developed online systems to manage their information. In many instances these information systems now provide a way for legal assistants, law librarians, and many attorneys to have their own online access to state and municipal public record information.

But often times gaining access to these online systems means that researchers must first contact the right sources, gain access to the right phone numbers, and learn the correct system protocol before they can search the municipal courthouse records for Atlanta or San Francisco. Each system is different, and in most instances state and municipal administrative offices are not set up to offer this kind of service. Many will not allow online access to their databases.

Information America is the liaison between some public records now available in machine readable form, and researchers needing the kind of cost effective and expedient access to those records that is supplied by an online service.

Although it is true that in most instances the online information available through IA can be accessed through the right administrative offices, administrative office access is usually not an option, or when it is, is often limited, slow, difficult to access and inefficient. Ia offers a menu driven system that guides users through the nuances of searching, for example, Los Angeles' municipal courthouse files, as well as the records of the Delaware Secretary of State.

The Basic IA Service

The basic IA service is comprised of two parts: an online research service, and an electronic document delivery service. In practice, when subscribers log on to the IA system they are shown a list of menu options. The first set of options lists all of the states that are currently online. If researchers are interested in searching or ordering documents from the Delaware Secretary of State's office they select the Delaware option, and are prompted with a Delaware state menu.

The individual state menus list not only the state, municipal and other files that can be searched in that particular state, but they also provide access to IA's electronic mail and document delivery service. …

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