Library Stuff and Tim O’Reilly have beaten me to the punch with this story, but I did want to comment.

The basics are that, according to a NY Times article, available from the Star Tribune, an internet activist is attempting to make all court decisions available for free online at his website.

The real value in Lexis and Westlaw come from the added value those services provide. One commenter on O’Reilly’s post mentioned the value of key numbers and headnotes. But it goes beyond that. Westlaw and Lexis simply offer complex searching capabilities and services that are not available elsewhere. Alerts, keycites, 50-state surveys, these are the real tools that make Lexis and Westlaw worthwhile.

I would rather see projects like this provide some more advanced searching technology or some other added-value features the big vendors haven’t figure out yet. For example, Justia’s docket search which allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds for specific-searches in federal district courts is an example at a project that offers services Lexis and Westlaw don’t.

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