The laws of any nation are, by definition, open source. The developers–courts and legislators–release their source code regularly so that users of the legal system can use it, test it, and report bugs.

None of this works, however, if users of the legal system do not have access to law and court decisions. Carl Malamud styles himself a virtual Robin Hood of the internet, and has started scanning cases from the 1880s stored on old West microfiche, and plans to keep going through contemporary cases because he believes the public should have access to the law. Revolutionary! He hopes to bring free access to court decisions to all. Why the courts are not doing this themselves is a mystery, but bravo to Malamud for forcing openness on the (relatively) closed system.

You can find Malamud’s archive at http://public.resource.org/.

(His letter to Thompson-West (PDF link) is very good, as well. It’s too bad there is no reply.)