Doxpop - Tools for Attorneys and Public Information Researchers: What Doxpop gives back to Indiana and the local communities we serve.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Doxpop gives back to Indiana and the local communities we serve.

Doxpop is grateful to the many counties thatallow us to provide public access to their information. Local court and recorder information is valuable, and it has always been important to us to provide good value to each community in return for the trust they place in us.

Here's a quick introduction to how we give something back to our state and the communities we serve:

First, it is important to note that we take no money from local government for making public information available via the web. For each county we work with, Doxpop bore the substantial cost of developing the software used to transmit public information to our system. No tax funding was used, no public grant money used, and no additional court filing fees were levied to fund Doxpop. The entire investment was funded solely by the owners of Doxpop in order to provide an immediate, no-risk solution for each county. Contrast this to the hundreds of thousands charged to implement public access systems in other counties, and you'll understand why Doxpop has long been a great solution for local government.

In addition to bearing all development costs, Doxpop initially paid 5% of our gross court-related revenues back to each county we worked with. We made these payments for our first four years, and would still be making these payments to all counties today if it weren't for the intervention of the Indiana Division of State Court Administration. In 2006, the Division added an administrative rule that had the effect of requiring that Doxpop must, at its own expense, undergo an extensive audit if we continued to provide payments to counties based on a percentage of our revenue. The minimum annual cost for such an audit would run to over $35,000.00. We don't make enough money to bear that additional regulatory expense.

In response to this rule change, Doxpop offered each county two options: (1) begin receiving a flat fee so that no audit is required; or (2) receive free services from Doxpop with a value exceeding the previous 5% payments. Most counties opted to go with the free services, and as a result, Prosecutors, Public Defenders and County Law Enforcement were added to the list of county offices receiving free access to information from all counties. Judges, Clerks, Probation, Community Corrections and CASA/GAL volunteers had always had free accounts.

In recent years, responding to funding cuts in many state offices, Doxpop has also begun providing free accounts for many state offices who have asked us to help them. Among these are the Indiana Division of State Court Administration (bit of irony there...), the Indiana Department of Child Services and the Indiana State Police.

Doxpop also provides very basic access to all web users at no cost, including the ability to find any public case, and a free court calendar, so people can confirm when they need to be in court.

In total, roughly half of Doxpop's services are provided at no cost to the over 5,000 users in state and county government offices who pay nothing for our services. Contrast this to systems claiming to offer free access to government users when the supporting systems are actually paid for using public funding. Which definition of "free" feels more honest to you?

On the other side of the coin, we must make a living, so someone has to pay. In our case, it's the commercial users of Doxpop. Instead of being funded by taxes, we're funded by the fees we charge commercial users such as attorneys and background check firms--fair fees that they pay voluntarily.

So that's the basic policy choice that many counties made when they chose Doxpop: If most consumers of the information are commercial users, there's no need to charge all taxpayers for information services that effectively subsidize a small group of businesses. On the other side, by helping us keep our costs low, local government ensures that businesses using Doxpop will get a good deal as well. The roughly 5,000 happy paying users of our system make it evident that this arrangement suits them also.

Giving back to the communities we work with and the state we live in has always been an important part of how we operate. We're owned and operated entirely by folks who are proud to live and work in Indiana. When you call Doxpop, you'll be talking to a Hoosier (please excuse the accent!)

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