Authentication of Primary Legal Materials and Pricing Options

Always worth reading is Intersect Alert, the one published by the SLA San Francisco Bay Region Chapter (and not to be confused with Chuck Bartowski’s Intersect).

This item about a new California Office of Legislative Counsel white paper is from the most recent issue:

Authentication of Primary Legal Materials and Pricing Options
“The recent passage of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has brought to the forefront the issue of costs of authenticating primary legal materials in electronic format. This white paper briefly reviews five methods of electronic authentication. These methods are based on trustworthiness, file types, effort to implement, and volume of electronic documents to be authenticated. Six sample solutions are described and their relative costs are compared. The white paper also frames the legal landscape and background of authentication for primary legal materials in electronic format, and provides context and points to applicable resources. The aim of this collective effort is to promote the understanding of costs related to authentication and invite further discussion on the issue.”

Legal Research Methods in a Modern World: A Coursebook

Together with my Stanford Law School colleague George D. Wilson and our friend and Danish legal scholar Henrik Spang-Hanssen, we have just published the third edition of our legal research book, a revision of Legal Research Methods in the U.S. and Europe, 2nd Edition.  But with the inclusion of short but good (in my opinion) chapters on legal research in China and Russia and some other materials, we have changed the title to Legal Research Methods in a Modern World: A Coursebook.

The book, now weighing in at 453 pages (and bargain priced at $ 55.00), is rich with illustrations and peppered with legal research tips.  My contribution is mainly Chapter 5, about legal research methods in the United States, and it is based upon and follows the advanced legal research class that I co-teach here at Stanford.  New to this edition, in addition to other updates, is the inclusion of research exercises that we have found most useful from the class.  I did not include the answers — because I hope to continue to use these exercises — but I would be very happy to share the answers and my thoughts on approaches with other instructors of legal research.

The legal world is certainly getting smaller, and it is our shared belief that this would be handy book for any attorney to have as he or she deals with lawyers from other countries and their legal cultures.

The book should be available from; but if not, or if you want to order copies in mass quantities, the U.S. distributor is International Specialized Book Services.  For other countries, the distributor is Marston Book Services.

We also have a corresponding website here.

Two Million Dollar Gift for Law.Gov

Today, Google announced the winners of their Project 10^100 , giving 10 million dollars in total to ideas that will help change the world.  (Short video of the winning ideas here.)

Law.Gov is one of the winners.  As the Google posting states:

Public.Resource.Org is a non-profit organization focused on enabling online access to public government documents in the United States. We are providing $2 million to Public.Resource.Org to support the Law.Gov initiative, which aims to make all primary legal materials in the United States available to all.

What great news!

Carl Malamud writes on the O”Reilly Radar today: “This grant is going to help Public.Resource.Org continue our work on Law.Gov and Video.Gov. For Law.Gov, this is going to mean a shift into real production, building on the very solid consensus that was reached earlier this year on the Core Law.Gov Principles.

Carl Malamud also shared a status update for efforts in that post.  Beyond the amazing gift from Google, the big updates include:

  1. Before the Law.Gov Report can be finished, video from the 15 Law.Gov workshops needs cleaning up and cataloging. ” Point.B Studio and Foolish Tree Films have been hard at work creating a 15-DVD set of workshop proceedings with approximately 70 pieces of video. The video will all get released as a final mix on the net as well as on DVDs printed at Lulu, and this core will form the basis for the next steps of the report.”
  2. To help further the National Inventory of Legal Materials,  there will soon be a “bug tracker where people can enter their survey results, in particular creating trouble tickets for jurisdictions that violate the Law.Gov Core Principles.”
  3. Carl Malamud is close to “a final agreement with UC Hastings and the Internet Archive to scan 3 million pages of 9th Circuit briefs.”  And, Malamud has sent California’s Title 24 out to be “double-keyed, turning it from PDF scans into valid marked up hypertext.”   Carl Malamud is also working on an effort to make fully available online the local codes of his surrounding North Bay Area communities.

More developments are coming up.

Codifying Commonsense – the Principles

I am very pleased and proud to add my signature to the LAW.GOV PRINCIPLES AND DECLARATION just posted at  These principles coalesced during the fifteen workshops and have received the unanimous consent of the co-covenors of these workshops.  The principles include items that we librarians have discussed for years, even decades, like vendor-neutral citation.  And these principles are consistent with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform States Laws (NCCUSL) draft of a new “Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.”

Here are the principles:

The primary legal materials of the United States are the raw materials of our democracy. They should be made more broadly available to enable an informed citizenry.

Primary legal materials include documents of primary authority issued by governmental bodies, such as court opinions, statutes, and regulations. They also include the supporting documents and other media issued and maintained by those bodies, such as dockets, hearings, forms, oral arguments, and legislative histories. These materials can be found in every branch, at every level, national, tribal, state and local, and should be available to anyone with the will and the heart to obtain them.

The following principles should govern the dissemination of primary legal materials in the United States:

1. Direct fees for dissemination of primary legal materials should be avoided.

2. Limitations on access through terms of use or the assertion of copyright on primary legal materials is contrary to long-standing public policy and core democratic principles and is misleading to citizens.

3. Primary legal materials should be made available using bulk access mechanisms so they may be downloaded by anyone.

4. The primary legal materials, and the methods used to access them, should be authenticated so people can trust in the integrity of these materials.

5. Historical archives should be made available online and in a static location to the extent possible.

6. Vendor- and media-neutral citation mechanisms should be employed.

7. Technical standards for document structure, identifiers, and metadata should be developed and applied as extensively as possible.

8. Data should be distributed in a computer-processable, non-proprietary form in a manner that meets best current practices for the distribution of open government data. That data should represent the definitive documents, not just aggregate, preliminary, or modified forms.

9. An active program of research and development should be sponsored by governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials to develop new standards and solutions to challenges presented by the electronic distribution of definitive primary legal materials. Examples include the automated detection and redaction of private personal information in documents.

10. An active program of education, training, and documentation should be undertaken to help governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials learn and use best current practices.

Adherence to these principles by governmental bodies is not just good for democracy and justice, it will spur innovation and will encourage:

1. Broader use of legal materials in all parts of our education system, including our law schools.

2. Researchers in law schools, universities, and other research institutions to have broader access to bulk data, spurring important research on the functioning of our government.

3. Innovation in the legal information market by reducing barriers to entry.

4. Savings in the government’s own cost of providing these materials through adherence to best current practices.

5. Small businesses to understand rules and regulations they must deal with, reducing their costs and increasing their effectiveness.

6. Increased foreign trade by making it easier for our foreign partners to understand our laws.

7. Better access to justice by making legal information more broadly available to citizens.

How we distribute the raw materials of our democracy is a foundational issue in our system of government. Access to the raw materials of our democracy is a prerequisite for the rule of law and access to justice and makes real the principles of equal protection and due process.

and here are the signatories:

Jack M. Balkin
Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment
 Yale Law School 

Robert C. Berring, Jr.
Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law
Berkeley Law, University of California 

James Boyle
William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law
 Duke Law School 

Nicholas Bramble
Postdoctoral Associate in Law
 Yale Law School 

Tom R. Bruce
Director, Legal Information Institute
 Cornell Law School 

Richard A. Danner
Archibald C. & Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law
 Duke Law School 

Laura E. DeNardis
Executive Director, Information Society Project
 Yale Law School 

Edward W. Felten
Professor of Computer Science & Public Affairs
 Princeton University 

Jerry Goldman
Professor & Director, Oyez Project
 Northwestern University 

Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate
UC Berkeley and Princeton University

  Jennifer Jenkins
Director, Center for the Study of the Public Domain
 Duke Law School 

Mitchell Kapor
 Mitchell Kapor Foundation 

S. Blair Kauffman
Law Librarian and Professor of Law
 Yale Law School 

Mark A. Lemley
William H. Neukom Professor of Law
 Stanford Law School 

Lawrence Lessig
Professor of Law
 Harvard Law School 

Paul Lomio
Director, Robert Crown Law Library
 Stanford Law School 

Carl Malamud

Harry S. Martin III
Librarian & Professor of Law Emeritus
 Harvard Law School 

Peter W. Martin
Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law
 Cornell Law School 

John Mayer
Executive Director
Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction

  Judy Meadows
State Law Librarian
 State Law Library of Montana 

Paul Ohm
Associate Professor of Law and Telecommunications
University of Colorado Law School

  Tim O’Reilly
Chief Executive Officer
 O’Reilly Media 

John G. Palfrey
Henry N. Ess III Librarian & Professor of Law
 Harvard Law School 

Pamela Samuelson
Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law
Berkeley Law, University of California

  Stuart Sierra
Assistant Director, Program on Law and Technology
 Columbia Law School 

Stephen Schultze
Associate Director, Center for Information Technology Policy
 Princeton University 

Tim Stanley
Chief Executive Officer

Erika V. Wayne
Deputy Director, Robert Crown Law Library
 Stanford Law School 

Christopher Wong
Postgraduate Fellow
 New York Law School 

Tim Wu
Professor of Law
 Columbia Law School 

Harlan Yu
Doctoral Student in Computer Science
 Princeton University 

Jonathan Zittrain
Professor of Law & Computer Science
 Harvard Law School

Building the National Inventory of Legal Materials (resume building too).

Erika Wayne and I spoke at the American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting in Denver, Colorado on Saturday, July 10, 2010.  We spoke at the “Legislative Advocacy Training 2010:  Raising the Bar in Your State” session.  Below is the text of my remarks.

I’m going to let Erika do most of the talking, as she has done most of the work.  And she has done a lot of work on this.

But I would like to say a word about the importance of the National Inventory of Legal Materials (NILM) and also to encourage other library directors to encourage their staffs to use their 20% time, or 10% time, or even 1% time to contribute to the inventory.

Rick Klau, who works at Google and who was a guest speaker in our class, used some of his 20% time to help the team developing the Google Scholar Legal Opinions project;  so very great things can come with the help of  small, individual efforts.

The National Inventory of Legal Materials is part of the movement, which I’m very proud to say had its kickoff even on January 12, 2010 at Stanford Law School. is a very ambitious project.  And, as Jonathan Zittrain said at our January event, it might fail.  But as Professor Zittrain went on to say, even if it does fail, much good will come from the effort.

And one of those good things is the National Inventory of Legal Materials, which truly has great stand-alone value.

Anyone who questions the need for need only to work on the National Inventory — it is a most eye-opening experience, and should make you advocate for

One small example:  NOCALL, the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (which has done model work on the California Inventory) has a listserv.  Last spring an S.O.S. went out over the NOCALL listserv:  A firm needed bound volumes of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decisions.  The decisions are online, but with no way to cite them.  The firm needed the print volumes only to get cites for a brief.  Messengers were sent scrambling, while all the content sat online and unused.

We did our own little national inventory with the 42 students in our Advanced Legal Research class this past spring.  We had each student look at statutes/codes, cases, and regulations/administrative decisions for an assigned state.  One student found that her state posted its version of its public utilities decisions online with volume numbers, but no page numbers.  Close, but still no cigar for citation purposes.

But what shocked our students the most was the wide use of copyright assertion and the wider use of disclaimers.  So many states said, basically, “we’re posting these legal documents online but you can’t rely upon them.”  Our students, ever the cautious lawyers-in-training, won’t even use eCFR due to its warning that it is not an official source of the CFR.

I’d like to now suggest another reason to work on the National Inventory and that is to get this nice tag for your resume:

     Contributor, National Inventory of Legal Materials.

It’s just one little line.

It’s just six words:  Contributor. National. Inventory. [O]f. Legal. Materials.

Six words plus a comma that would tell an employer much about the candidate.  Six words (plus a comma) that, for me anyway, would really make a resume stand out from the pile.

The one line, those few words, would tell me that the candidate is aware; that he or she is involved; that he or she is a big-picture person.  It would tell me that the candidate is a producer — helping to produce positive change.  And it would tell me that the candidate is a “plate-spinner.”  We’re all busy, but a contributor is finding time to toss up one more plate — the National Inventory — and give it a spin as needed.   It’s needed.  The Inventory will never be “done” — it needs to be an organic document, kept evergreen by the contributors to reflect the latest developments.

As I mentioned before, might ultimately fail.  But it might also succeed — there are some amazingly forceful and visionary people behind it.  But for to succeed, we need to get everyone on the same page, and that page is the National Inventory of Legal Materials.

National Inventory of Legal Materials – Bits and Pieces

On Tuesday, June 15th, there will be a event hosted by the Center for American Progress.   

For the event, I plan to share some of our preliminary findings.  Here are a few of the talking points:

The National Inventory of Legal Materials is an attempt to describe, detail and catalog where one can find the legal materials of our Federal, State and local systems.

At the first workshop held at Stanford, we were fortunate to have members of the Northern California Association of Law Librarians (NOCALL)  in attendance.  And, as a group we decided to develop a California prototype of the inventory.     

Since that time, we developed spreadsheets and forms.  And, we now have over 20 volunteers working on the California inventory which includes nearly 700 records.  Some of the information that we have gathered includes copyright assertions, disclaimers, official status and price information.  

And, as our project grew, so did the larger National Inventory.

Now there are 195 volunteers across the country working on federal and state level inventory projects, as it is now a full-fledged activity of the American Association of Law Libraries.  This project marries very nicely with AALL’s continued leadership and advocacy on  topics ranging from permanent public access to authentication to official status of online legal materials.   Much of this work draws and builds upon the fine work of the AALL Electronic Legal Information Access and Citation Committee.

[Also, our Advanced Legal Research class did a tremendous amount of research on National Inventory related questions this past quarter, and we are very grateful for their interest and discoveries.]

Here are a few of the preliminary findings:

At least eight  states assert copyright over their statutory codes online.

Preliminary research shows that  perhaps 42% of the states (or 21 states) assert copyright over their administrative codes online.

Apparently, only one state provides access to case law for a fee.

Almost every state’s online  legal resources include disclaimers, either to the status or reliability of the content.  (And: nearly none of these states had the same disclaimers in print equivalents of these resources.)

Given that the California inventory is nearly completed here are a few examples from California :

Of the nearly 540 municipalities and counties in California, most have online codes and ordinances; however, approximately 40% of these legal materials state that they are not “official” and have a strong Web disclaimer about the use of the online version.

Approximately 50%  of these codes have copyright assertions.

When we tried to determine if these materials were available in bulk access, we contacted a few of these municipalities.  And, our small sampling of these online materials found that none provided bulk access.

A typical disclaimer on these municipal codes might read:

“This code of ordinances may not reflect the most current legislation adopted by the municipality.  These documents are provided for informational purposes only.  These documents should not be relied upon as the definitive authority for local legislation.  Formatting and pagination varies from the official copy.  The official printed copy should be consulted prior to any action being taken”

To purchase these codes in print, the price starts at approximately 100 dollars (and going up beyond that). 

At the state level, the California administrative code is provided for free online by West but there is a copyright assertion and the cost for a subscription to the official print version is approximately $3500 per year.

Title 24, the building code is published separately and not part of the California Code of Regulations website.  The FAQs on this site direct you to visit the California Building Standards Commission that links you out to the International Code Council’s copyrighted site where you can view only one section at a time of the building code.

[Although we have not yet done so, it might be interesting  to check to see how many standards incorporated by reference are available freely on the California regulations site.]

As to the Attorney General opinions in California: you can find these in official form in print for approximately $400. 

If you visit the free version online, there is this disclaimer:  “Disclaimer of Duty to Continue Provision of the Data:  Due to the Dynamic nature of the internet, resources that are free and publicly available one day may require a fee or restrict access the next.”  

One of the executive agencies in California had full-text of administrative decisions on their site; however, without any pagination – which would be required if you were to cite to it in CA courts.

As to the courts, to gain access to the full archive of California Supreme Court cases you must click “agree” to a license preventing you from using the data for “nonprofit or public use.”

Further, the court site states:  “it is not intended to function as an alternative to commercial computer-based services and products for comprehensive legal research.”

The  Court opinion archive is provided by Lexis under contract with the State of California.

There is a free, archive of recent slip opinions on the California Court site, without a license click agreement; however, these are filed ‘as-is’ with edited/corrected versions only appearing on the other website. The slip opinion archive states: “This archive is not provided for purposes of legal research.”

Outside of California, here are a few highlights from other states:

Apparently, Delaware and Utah are the only states authenticating their online administrative code with digital signatures or MD5 hash.

It appears that only 7 states have clearly made their online administrative code of regulations official. 

Similar to California Courts, New Jersey’s Administrative Code has a license agreement you need to click through to view, preventing you from using the data for “nonprofit or public use.”

Vermont does not have an Administrative Code of Regulations online.

If you want to secure bulk access to the Arizona code of regulations, it will cost you upwards of $15,000.   Although, there is no charge for postage and handling.

If you want to get bulk access in Indiana, it might take a bit of time as each request is looked at on a case-by-case basis. 

Most states simply do not provide information on gaining bulk access to their legal materials.

There are a number of inconsistent examples.

Although Arkansas’s code of regulations is not fully available online and their Rules register is only official in print form,  Arkansas’ online court opinions are official, authenticated, and utilize medium neutral citation formats. 

If you want to look at Alabama appellate and supreme court opinions on the web, you will need to pay a fee – these are not freely available on the courts’ site.

Connecticut copyrights its appellate court opinions.

In Idaho all cited opinions are posted on the court’s website the day of release; however, once in West’s Pacific/Idaho reporter, the opinions are removed from their website.  And, Idaho has created a digital repository to provide for permanent public access to state agency materials.

If you go to the Vermont Legislature’s web pages, they provide the text of the Vermont statutes.  However, it states: “The Vermont Statutes Online is an unofficial copy. . . provided as a convenience. It has not been edited for publication. The ‘official’ version . . . is online at LexisNexis Publishing.”  However, by statute, the Legislative Council of the Vermont General Assembly is required to “maintain official computerized databases of the Vermont Statutes Annotated” and post them on the Web “with a seal of authenticity.”  

In Ohio, there are digital signatures on recent Supreme Court opinions showing authenticity; however, only the printed decisions are deemed official.  It also appears that both the Ohio Revised Code and Administrative Code are not official and bear a copyright assertion.

Oklahoma has been ahead of the curve on online legal information, and for some time has made freely available all Supreme Court opinions since 1890 and criminal appeals cases since 1908  on the court website.

Each of Oklahoma’s county and district courts have their records available online though one of two Web sites. 

However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently issued a directive that “Public access to electronic case information is available on a case-by-case basis….. bulk distribution of electronic case information is not allowed.”

 And there is more, much more.  But enough for now.  I welcome your input and suggestions and corrections as this is a fluid and evolving project.

The Eggplant That Ate the Spokane County Law Library


You’d better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
For he may eat your city soon.
You’d better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
If he’s still hungry, the whole country’s doomed.


The 3 Geeks and a Law Blog pointed me to a story in the Spokane, Washington newspaper Spokesman-Review.  I won’t rehash what he 3 Geeks blog item “Spokane County Law Library Needs Bailout for Westlaw Bills” opines, but the Spokesman-Review story by reporter John Craig, “Spokane County law library falls behind on bills,”  is disturbing to me on several levels.

The story quotes the librarian as saying that her Westlaw fees “are three times as much as the company was charging Pierce County . . . for the ‘exact same’ service.”  I do not know the details, but I can see how a reader might be led to believe that this poor county law library is being gouged by a huge monopolistic corporation. 

What is also disturbing to me is the report that the library is averaging $ 12,000 a month for Westlaw service, while its annual budget is only $ 220,000.  The library’s total labor costs are reported to be $ 78,236, which means that the county is paying Westlaw roughly twice what it’s paying its staff.   At the Stanford Law Library the total we spend for our staff is roughly twice what we spend for all materials (online and print), and that seems right to me — it’s the staff that is our most valuable resource.

The third disturbing element to the story is the suggestion that perhaps the county law library is a “relic” and should be shuttered for more “cost effective approaches” such as having public libraries (and not specialized law libraries) serve the legal information needs of the public.  To me this is short-sighted on so many levels that I could go on and on for pages about why this is a bad direction.

If this story does not help build a case for, I don’t know what would.

Many states have discontinued publishing official state reports and rely upon West instead.  Appendix D of Fundamentals of Legal Research, 9th Edition, by Steven M. Barkan, Roy M. Mersky and Donald J. Dunn, includes a table “States That Have Discontinued Publishing Official State Reports” (excerpted below) showing what states have adopted West’s National Reporter System as the official publisher.

Washington is not one of these states.   It appears that Washington is one of the more progressive states in providing decisional law to the public for free.  The Washington State Court website contains free opinions from the last 90 days, and then links to ; the LegalWA site links directly to the Municipal Research Services Center of Washington, a nonprofit dedicated to providing free legal resources for Washington where case law from 1854 forward can be found.

There is definitely a place for expensive LexisNexis and Westlaw bills — in the high stakes world of Biglaw litigation (with clients to bill back) for certain, but in a county public law library?  There has got to be a better way.

Here’s an excerpt from that table I mentioned above:


Except for Louisiana, all states have discontinued their official reports have adopted West’s National Reporter System, or an offprint of the National Reporter System, as official.  Alaska has used the Pacific Reporter as its official reporter since it became a state.

[Copied below are the states listed in this table, next to the "Year of Last Case"]

Alabama                            1976

Ala. App.                           1976

Colorado                           1980

Colo. App.                        1980

Delaware                           1966

Florida                               1948

Indiana                              1981

Ind. App.                          1979

Iowa                                   1968

Kentucky                         1951

Louisiana                        1972

Maine                               1965

Minnesota                      1977

Mississippi                    1966

Missouri                        1956

Mo. App.                       1952

North Dakota              1953

Oklahoma                    1953

Okla. Crim.                  1953

Rhode Island             1980

South Dakota             1976

Tennessee                   1971

Tenn. App.                  1972

Tenn. Crim. App.      1970

Texas                            1962

Tex. Crim. App.       1963

Utah 2d                        1974

Wyoming                    1959

A Draft 50 State Survey of Copyright Claims in State Codes and Court Opinions

In preparation for the event held at Stanford Law School in January of this year, I started to put together a list of how each state treats its legal publications for copyright purposes.  Specifically, I looked at the web versions of state codes to locate any claims in copyright over the code text.  This led to searching in the print editions held in our library to see what copyright was claimed in these series.  Finally I searched the codes themselves (aided by the indexes provided on Westlaw) to find any claim that had been codified.  Along the way, the search expanded to how states treat any copyright claims in their court opinions (either online or in their code) as well.

My  method was not scientific.  I looked for clear statements on each website directly related to the code or opinions themselves.  Small copyright notices at the bottom of pages that seem to claim copyright in the pages themselves were not considered claims over the code text or opinions.  I understand that an argument can be made that those symbols of copyright could extend to the entirety of the material posted by that entity.

A very rough draft of the results is posted here.  I obviously have a lot of work left to do, including cleaning up some of the questions marks that have been left unanswered.  Official print versions for the state codes and reporters will also need to be consulted to fill out these charts.  And administrative law is just a glint in my eye at the moment.

I hope this document can be expanded and that it may prove useful in the current discussion on access to state and federal primary sources of law.

Public Means Online

Today’s Washington Post features an editorial supporting the new Public Online Information Act, H.R. 4858.

[Rep. Steve Israel, D-NY] “has introduced the Public Online Information Act (POIA), a sensible and modest bill that could nevertheless be a catalyst for important changes in how the federal government thinks about and handles public information. It could also lead to greater transparency in the workings of the government.”

As the folks at the Sunlight Foundation have noted: “public means online.”

However, the realities of getting the bill passed means that it does have its limits.  Most notably, “public information generated by Congress, including real-time lobbying registrations, is exempt from the mandatory provision, as are public filings within the judicial branch.”

But with and other transparency efforts ongoing, we can be hopeful for even bigger changes down the road.

Yesterday, Carl Malamud gave a rousing talk to the NOCALL Spring Institute about

[By the way, NOCALL throws down an amazing Spring Institute every year -- this year was no exception!  Besides the terrific parties, they always pull in a great range of speakers and topics, from Ryan Calo (on Privacy Tools) to Mark Sirkin (on New Roles in the Law Firm of the Future).  Many attendees spoke highly of the forum on the Google Book Settlement, featuring Mary Minow, Gary Reback and Andrew Bridges.  On Saturday, I enjoyed demonstrating the awesome RECAP plug-in -- hopefully, more folks will be downloading PACER court documents to the archive. ]

Malamud’s inspirational talk got the crowd buzzing.  NOCALL members are already involved in the prototype of a national law inventory for the effort.  And, invigorating talks like this one should help spread the word and add more volunteers to the project.    As Malamud mentioned, the inventory will help provide key metrics for the report (for example: how many municipalities assert copyright over their regulations).

While the California legal inventory is now underway, more work is needed [READ: please contact me if you would like to volunteer to help!].  And, other AALL chapters/working groups should be starting their legal inventory projects very shortly.

For those who are still curious about and for those who are contemplating volunteering for their own state legal inventory project(s), I encourage you to view at least one of Malamud’s talks online and/or read his “By the People” pamphlet.

Stay tuned…As “public means online’, equals change.

Will Knowledge and People Converge?

In today’s HuffPo, Paul Lippe (Legal OnRamp founder) interviews David Curle (legal information market analyst) in “Will Knowledge & People Converge?”

The interview moves through key trends and recent history in the legal information and publishing sector (including the latest improvements offered by the ‘big guys’ at Westlaw and Lexis).

Then the discussion shifts to the impact of Google Scholar‘s free case law on the legal information market:

“It’s revolutionary in the sense that the general public now has easy access to the law of the land, something that was surprisingly hard to obtain before.”

Curle mentions the FastCase iPhone app that allows free searching of its database.   The days of charging for ‘just access’ to primary legal materials are coming to a close.    And, welcome to the generation of and

“ has the ambition of making all primary US legal material available in standardized, machine-readable formats that can be incorporated into new kinds of information products.”

. . . .

“open access to legal sources will spur the creation of new markets for legal information among consumers, and even more so among non-lawyer professionals who need to understand a narrow field of that they work with all the time. Expect to see new products and services built on top of the free legal information that will make the law more accessible to those new markets.”

And, speaking of new products building on free content.  Curle moves on to discuss SpindleLaw.

“They are building, in a kind of collaborative, Wiki-like way, a database of the legal rules that lawyers find in court decisions and in legislation. Their idea is that it’s pretty inefficient to get to those rules by searching and reading long court opinions. They are extracting and organizing the rules with links to the legal sources. They have a long way to go to prove that the concept works, but I like the way they are trying to turn the research process on its head.”

These are very interesting times.