Waiver of Fees
The FOIA directs agencies to furnish records without any charge or at a reduced charge "if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester." 5 U.S.C. 552 (a)(4)(A)(iii) (1988). Requests for waiver or reduction of fees ("fee waiver") must be considered on a case-by-case basis and should address the requirements for fee waiver in sufficient detail for the agency to make an informed decision as to whether it can appropriately waive the fees in question. See U.S. Department of Justice, Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview 502 (May 2000 Edition) ("FOIA Guide"). In determining whether the statutory requirements are met, agencies should consider six factors in sequence. Id. at 504-514. These factors are summarized below.
1. The subject matter of the requested records must specifically concern identifiable "operations or activities of the government." A request for access to records for their intrinsic informational content alone would not satisfy this factor.
2. For the disclosure to be "likely to contribute" to an understanding of specific government operations or activities, the releasable material must be meaningfully informative in relation to the subject matter of the request.
3. The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of the public at large, as opposed to the understanding of the requester or a narrow segment of interested persons. One's status as a representative of the news media alone is not enough.
4. The disclosure must contribute "significantly" to public understanding of government operations or activities.
5. The extent to which disclosure will serve the requester's commercial interest, if any.
6. The identified public interest in the disclosure must outweigh the requester's commercial interest.