My latest Web Watch column for Law Technology News magazine, Case Law Libre (free reg. required), looks at several recent projects to move case law into the public domain, from Public.Resource.Org to Alt-Law to PreCYdent. Here are the opening grafs:
“Feb. 11, 2008 was a day that may forever change the course of online legal research. On that day, the non-profit Public.Resource. Org published 1.8 million pages of federal case law online, free of copyright or other restrictions. The release included all U.S. Supreme Court cases and all federal circuit decisions since 1950.
“Ever since 1872, when John West hit upon the idea of building a business around publishing court decisions, commercial publishers have maintained a firm hold on the dissemination of judicial opinions. Not to knock them — legal publishers filled an essential niche and continue to provide valuable and necessary products.
“But in this information age, private control over the distribution of public case law seems anachronistic. For nearly two decades, gradual progress has been made towards greater public access. But the Public.Resource.Org release is just one of several developments whose convergence suggests that this trend is accelerating.”