Harvard is renowned for an almost pathological level of copyright maximalism over the precious precious Bluebook. Rightly so, because forcing law students everywhere to buy that monstrosity nets them seven figures per year. However, it looks like they’ve decided to be a little less tight-fisted about their collection of case law, which is apparently enormous.
Home to the country’s most comprehensive collection of U.S. case law, second only to the Library of Congress, Harvard is partnering with technology startup Ravel Law to digitize its legal library — more than 200 years’ worth of cases — making it fully and freely searchable.
The digitization effort involves slicing up books and feeding them into a 12-foot-high scanner, which is a thing I didn’t know existed but now I really want. After everything is digitized, Ravel will get to work and make it all searchable and do all their cool data-mapping tricks with it, although only the searchability part of that will be free.
Ravel aims to offer up the massive store of legal information to the public but also to provide greater value to small firms with limited resources and large firms looking for a competitive edge. While Ravel’s search function will be free to use, it charges for subscriptions to its suite of analytical tools, which will soon be augmented by data from Harvard’s library.
Better still: Ravel will fling open the archives, cool tools intact, for scholars and researchers right away and make the database free for commercial entities after eight years.
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