Oct 2 2013

Free Law Project to Provide Public Access to Legal Materials

The Free Law Project, announced on September 24, will enable citizens and community groups to do legal research. It can be very difficult for the public to get access to the text of legal decisions, and, even statutes. Just knowing the statute may not be enough. It is also important to have access to the interpretations and applications of a statute over years or even decades. The new Free Law Project may fill the gap.

Free Law Project was created by Michael Lissner and UC Berkeley School of Information assistant professor Brian Carver, who researches and teaches about intellectual property law and cyberlaw. The pair previously created CourtListener, a repository of a million legal opinions from 331 jurisdictions, along with advanced tools for searching and analyzing the documents.

The goals of the co-founders for the new project are:

  • To provide free, public, and permanent access to primary legal materials on the Internet for educational, charitable, and scientific purposes;
  • To develop, implement, and provide public access to technologies useful for legal research;
  • To create an open ecosystem for legal research and materials; and
  • To support academic research on related technologies, corpora, and legal systems.

Case law is technically in the public domain. However, legal decisions may beĀ  in proprietary systems accessible only at exorbitant fees. Even those in open source Internet sites are often under unknown names or too scattered for ease of location by interested citizens. Free Law Project intends to overcome these barriers and make all legal materials easily and freely available to all.

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