Law Is Free

Law Is Free

“After following the initial progress of the Radio community, I've come to believe that this type of web publishing will have a widespread and drastic effect on the development of the law. By changing the way court opinions are published, I believe the law itself can be transformed in the same way that web publishing has transformed software and news content….

An increasing number of excellent practicing WV attorneys have told me recently that they are cancelling their subscriptions to commercial electronic legal publishers. Why? Two reasons. First, because all the content is already available, and searchable, directly from the source itself, right on the Web, from the day the decisions are released. What's more, a service I started last year delivers short topical summaries of all opinions filed via e-mail. This simple idea has real power to attorneys, who have repeatedly praised this service.

The point — law is free. So now that courts have the power to deliver content themselves, why aren't they doing it? Well many are at least posting decision on their respective Web sites. And there are movements afoot to create common markup standards for court decisions. But why not take the next step? My guess is that the right technological answer hasn't been available yet. But with the advent of XML-RPC, SOAP, and DIY Web Services, I think the landscape is changing radically.  Here's what I believe would change the law itself radically: Make the points of law in court decisions available as a “feed” on a macro scale — attorneys and interested members of the public could subscribe to various topical channels of a “legal” aggregator, made up of original source contributors (courts), and open source-webloggian-legal commentators. Nothing like this is really happening now, as far as I know. (Free legal publishing sites like Findlaw simply re-post the static content made available from the various states.) That's the germ of the idea. And what I want to do with it is use Radio to create a legal feed, then see where these ideas go.” [Rory Perry]

I have to say… lawyers are really running with this blogging thing. I've learned more about the law during the last couple of months than I have in years. I'm very impressed with Rory's idea – he's shifting legal information. Ernest and Rory would be quite the dynamic duo. Hey Bruce – got blog? [The Shifted Librarian]

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