As I reported yesterday, LexisNexis has acquired legal-research start-up Ravel Law. One of Ravel’s most significant projects over the past two years has been its collaboration with Harvard Law School to digitize Harvard’s entire collection of U.S. case law, said to be the most comprehensive and authoritative database of American cases anywhere outside the Library of Congress.
As I reported when the digitization project started, part of the agreement between Ravel and Harvard was that access to these cases would remain free to everyone. Ravel could sell access to advanced tools for case analytics and research, but the basic ability to search and read these cases would be free. LexisNexis said yesterday that it was committed to maintaining that free access.
Today, Harvard released a statement confirming that public access to these cases would continue. The statement quotes Jonathan Zittrain, vice dean for library and information resources:
We embarked on this project knowing that a startup as smart and bold as Ravel Law could be acquired by any number of businesses, including those long involved in commercial legal research. Our agreements were inked with these possibilities in mind, and key benefits and obligations of those agreements will now flow to LexisNexis. We look forward to completing this project according to its long-planned timetable, and to exploring other opportunities with anyone interested in promoting free and open access to primary legal materials, which in turn promotes the cause of justice.
This is as I suspected — there were contractual commitments to keep this information public and LexisNexis will inherit those commitments.