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Freeing America's Operating System

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Creative Commons – Freeing America’s Operating System:

Last November Carl Malamud’s Public.Resource.Org announced an initiative to free 1.8 million pages of U.S. case law, publishing them online with no restrictions on reuse.

Today the results of this initiative are available at http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/.

From the press release (pdf):

Today’s release covers all U.S. Supreme Court decisions and all Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 on. The release is equivalent to 1,858 volumes of case law in book form, a stack of books 348 feet tall.

Also from the press release, David Boies says:

Practical access for all Americans to legal cases and material is essential to the rule of law.  The Legal Commons is an important step in reducing the barriers to effective representation of average citizens and public interest advocates.

Developers and resource providers are already picking up on this:

The cases made available to developers today will be used throughout the Internet. For example, the AltLaw service from Columbia and Colorado Law Schools has announced they will incorporate the information in their free service. Creative Commons and Public.Resource.Org are donating a copy of the data to the U.S. Courts and the Government Printing Office for their archives. A number of commercial legal research providservices.

Interesting developments in the legal research world! I just commented on the new “Public Library of Law” that’s doing something similar. And just to reiterate, the “gold standards” of legal research in the U.S. are Westlaw and LexisNexis, and both services are very expensive. More competition is a good thing, and an even better thing is to have free open/public access to legal information.