Primary Legal Materials, FREE & On-Line. It’s About Time

Carl Malamud at O’Reilly Radar reports on Law.Gov, “America’s Open Source Operating System”. As st forth in the opening paragraph:

Public.Resource.Org is very pleased to announce that we’re going to be working with a distinguished group of colleagues from across the country to create a solid business plan, technical specs, and enabling legislation for the federal government to create Law.Gov. We envision Law.Gov as a distributed, open source, authenticated registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States. More details on the effort are available on our Law.Gov page.

Primary legal materials include case law and statutes.

For years, easy access to these materials has been tied up in paid gateways tended by private publishing houses. This has NEVER made sense to me. Why can’t we have a system offering superior access to this free content? The powers behind Law.Gov apparently agree and are working towards that end.  Let the money makers focus on their secondary materials and expert commentary. Case law and statutory law accessible and on-line are necessary components of an open government, a result we all should embrace.

2 comments on “Primary Legal Materials, FREE & On-Line. It’s About Time

  1. FWIW, I believe Esther Dyson made an observation years ago that those who organized (i.e., indexed) Internet content would be the real value creators. [Of course, I possess neither a cite nor a link for said observation!]. Do anyone believe that the law publishing monoliths have ever–or will ever–truly incorporate such pearls into their business models?

    OTOH, in a world where kindergartners (like mine) construe “to Google” as a verb, when will an introduction (however sugarcoated) to Boolean algebra (plain English: search logic) reach the primary grades? Is anyone even thinking this way?

  2. Actually, Ed, I DO think this way. That is why I still cherish hard book libraries for research, when I can access them. I still use Boolean search to check my natural language results. I search both Westlaw and Google (main line and custom search engines). Because there is more than one way to skin a book, a cat, a research project, or pretty much anything that might need skinning, and more than one way to organize the same information.

    Kids should be taught all of these methods of understanding and searching as well: just as there are different learning styles, there are different tools that fit each learning style or even each research question. If you are only taught one method, how will you ever recognize the weaknesses of that method and guard against them?

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