Techdirt comments approvingly on a new project from Harvard Law School, called Free the Law, which is a joint effort with a company called Ravel to scan and post in nicely searchable format all federal and state court decisions, and put them all online, for free. As Techdirt puts it, This is pretty huge. While some courts now release most decisions as freely available PDFs, many federal courts still have them hidden behind the ridiculous PACER system, and state court decisions are totally hit or miss. And, of course, tons of historical cases are completely buried. While there are some giant companies like Westlaw and LexisNexis that provide lawyers access to decisions, those cost a ton -- and the public is left out. This new project is designed to give much more widespread access to the public. And it sounds like they're really going above and beyond to make it truly accessible, rather than just dumping PDFs online. ... Harvard "owns" the resulting data (assuming what's ownable), and while there are some initial restrictions that Ravel can put on the corpus of data, that goes away entirely after eight years, and can end earlier if Ravel "does not meet its obligations." Anything that helps disrupt the stranglehold of the major legal publishers seems like a good thing.
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