Westlaw has had a lock on the reporting of case law for as long as I can remember. Along with LexisNexis, Thomson West is making billions selling back to the public that which the public owned to begin with – judicial opinions.

public.resource.org free case law fastcase

But an announcement today that Public.Resource.Org and Fastcase, Inc. will make 1.8 million pages of federal case law freely available is a loud message to Toronto and London that selling US law may no longer be a multi-billion dollar business.

In releasing all Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 to the present and all Supreme Court decisions since 1754, Carl Malamud, CEO of Public.Resource.Org and a leading force in getting government data online, had this to say:

The U.S. judiciary has allowed their entire work product to be locked up behind a cash register. Law is the operating system of our society and today’s agreement means anybody can read the source for a substantial amount of case law that was previously unavailable.

Fastcase, the leading developer of next-generation American legal research, unlike Thomson and LexisNexis with expensive subscription fees, is making this law available to Public.Resource.Org for free.

For eight years, Fastcase has been ahead of the market curve, working to democratize access to the law,’ said Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase, Inc. ‘At the same time, we have been advancing the science of search, combining the precision of traditional legal research with the simplicity of Web-based searches.

Fastcase is no Johnny-come-lately to the law. They’re already contracting directly with 11 state bar associations to make the national law library free for lawyers in their states.

The free case law will start being available early 2008 under a new Creative Commons mark