HyperLaw is back in the New York Times in an article "A Quest to Get More Court Rulings Online, and Free" dated August 20, 2007 by John Markoff noting HyperLaw's successful challenge to the West copyright claims in 1997 and 1998. The Times article describes an initiative by Carl Malamud to persuade West to give up its database of federal court opinions. Malamud seems to be seeking to accomplish what Jurisline and David Boies were unable to accomplish in Jurisline's attempt at seizing the Lexis database in 2000. Malamud had sent a letter to West and West has responded to Malamud's letter on August 28, 2007.
The Markoff article refers also to a new encouraging site Altaw.org, which is compiling Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions for the last ten to fifteen years and quotes Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu. AltLaw is a project of Columbia Law School and the University of Colorado Law School. AltLaw notes: "As of yet, no state law or district court cases." As the HyperLaw Report noted in 1995, that was the gaping hole then: this remains the gaping hole today.
This same gap that has existed for over 12 years - the omission of District Court and Bankruptcy Court decisions in a comprehensive organized database, because, these courts do not make access easy and no one has pioneered the way. In the finaly analysis, the responsibility for this state of affairs rests on the courts.
HyperLaw founder Alan Sugarman was quoted in a May 1994 article by Gary Wolf in Wired "Who Owns the Law".
"To the anti-Westites, the court system's failure to promulgate a simple, standard, public-domain citation system for US case law indicates a condition of advanced backbone-enfeeblement. "The courts have lost their moral compass," says Alan Sugarman, whose company, Hyperlaw, produces CD-ROMs of legal data. Sugarman points out that the US Courts have only two jobs: They resolve individual disputes and they publish their decisions as guidance for everybody else to follow. The fact that these decisions lack citable page numbers puts Sugarman into a state of voluble outrage. "We are talking about the law, here!" he says. "We're not talking about a by-product. Publishing cases for people to cite is one of their primary jobs. So, why don't they take some of their budget and spend it to get their materials into an authoritative form?"
The 2007 Markoff article notes that Malamud has begun publishing West Federal Reporter cases at http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/. Malamud has scanned a single ultra fiche of an 1888 West volume - this is a 3923 MB file so you may not want to access the file. A single page is 3.7 mb.
It turns out that Google is also scanning in the same set of volumes as part of its Google Books project. For example, here is a link to a search in a 1925 Federal Reporter volume. Google states that: "If the book is in the public domain and therefore out of copyright, you can page through the entire book and even download it and read it offline." Although the 1925 volume is not under copyright, Google has not made the text available for download.
Malamud's t a letter dated August 14, 2007 to West-Thomson asking for clarification of copyright claims - however, HyperLaw feels that the answers to all the questions as to West copyright claims were settled in its successful litigation against West. In 1991, HyperLaw sent a similar letter to West Publishing requesting clarification of West's copyright claims. See Exhibit 10 to HyperLaw Complaint, January 3, 1994.
HyperLaw continues in existence today and has committed to ending the West and Lexis lock-up of United States District and Bankruptcy Court decisions on the Internet.