Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

August 21, 2007

A Legal Wikipedia?

by @ 6:54 am. Filed under Technology

An article in yesterday’s New York Times examined the efforts of California attorney Carl Malamud to make court decisions and other legal material generated by the government freely available online. Running a site called www.public.resource.org, Atty Malamud is a frequent user of Public Records laws which he uses to force government offices to release reams of records. He then digitizes the records and adds them to the public domain. Such an effort poses a major threat to the $5 billion per year legal publishing market which is dominated by just two companies – West (now owned by the Canadian publishing conglomerate Thomson) and LexisNexis (a division of London-based Reed Elsevier). With that much money in play, Mr. Malamud is certainly fighting an uphill battle. But besides inventorying the obstacles faced by Malamud, the Times article also paints an encouraging picture of the work of a number of American legal scholars who hope to transform the way legal information is maintained.

The unifying vision of all of the challengers to the current system is a Wikipedia-like effort to make the nation’s laws freely searchable y Internet search engines. They believe this will lead to a public system of annotation of the laws by legal scholars as well as bloggers, giving the American public much richer access to the nation’s laws.

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