Carl Malamud is my hero

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

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

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Peter Pitorri says:

    I would like to make an observation regarding copyright on U.S. Government documents. I worked over twenty years for the Feds, and can tell you that if a document is created by a Government office, it is de facto in the public domain, with notable exceptions. The exceptions would include classified documents, unclassified but sensitive documents, portions of documents containing protectable information, including, but not limited to social security number, date and place (yes, “place”) of birth, gender, and race, proceedings under Title 18, proceedings by a court martial, and those by an inspector general.
    Documents created by a court of record are documents of the people, and yes, should be available to the people. However, there are certain costs associated with gathering, storing, searching, and producing those documents, whether paper or online. Information retrieval is not a pro bono business.

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