For years now the federal judiciary has made documents filed in federal court litigation available through a search platform known as PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records.) While the documents available through PACER are in the public domain, access to the documents requires registration as the documents are not indexed by commercial search engines. Moreover, a government fee of eight cents a page is charged for reading, printing, or downloading the documents.
The registration and fee requirements arguably have the effect of limiting public access to these records. Accordingly, an individual named Carl Malamud has been asking paying users of PACER to send him their documents and has begun publishing these for free on his website.
Given the nature of the documents involved, its unlikely that Malamud’s actions could be said to run afoul of any intellectual property laws or that PACER will be altered to make this, or similar projects, less feasible. Nevertheless, even if Malamud’s project is here to stay, PACER is unlikely to go away given its superior search mechanism and the fact that PACER is “both revolutionary and cheap when compared to the state and local courts that have no electronic records at all.”
More details on Malamud’s project are available here.