My favorite case law site, AltLaw.org, is closing up any day now. This makes me a a little sad. I have blogged a few times about how people should Remove your Links from FindLaw and use Altlaw.org as an alternative. The main reason Columbia Law, who runs Alt Law, gives for shutting down is Google does what we do but better.
This both warms my heart and scares me a bit. I am excited to see Goggle competing with the evil duopoly of West Law and Lexis that have held the keys to case law for too long, but deep in my heart of hearts I know that case law is too important a public asset to leave entirely to one company to make sure it is free and open. What would happen to case law if Google was split up or started top loss money… Case law is the life blood of a civil law system and should be held in an open public format for everyone to have access to. So I applaud Google for making a great product, but also wish the government would make its own open repository for the people to ensure that case law is never locked away by contracts and copyright claims again.
November 19, 2009
Everything we have done or planned to do with AltLaw, Google has does better. What else would you expect? Search is their core business; they have hundreds of brilliant engineers, a vast computing infrastructure, and billions of dollars invested in it.
While we could see this as the 800-pound gorilla stomping on our pet project, the truth is that we — a small academic group within Columbia Law School — were never really equipped to handle the challenges of building and maintaining a state-of-the-art search engine. When we started out, three years ago, our goal was to make primary legal research freely available to the public. In that, we have succeeded: primary legal research is freely available to the public, not only from Google, but from several start-ups and non-profits.
Therefore, we are happy to announce that Project AltLaw (Phase One) is complete. We will continue to maintain the web site and search service for a few months, but we will not be adding new features or new content. AltLaw.org, in its current form, will shut down in early 2010.
We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to everyone who helped make AltLaw happen. Special thanks go to our co-founder Paul Ohm, Tom Bruce at the Cornell Legal Information Institute, Carl Malamud at public.resource.org, and Tim Stanley at Justia.com.
The next question is, what will Project AltLaw (Phase Two) be? To be honest, we don’t know … yet. But we’ve got some cool ideas that have been sitting on the back burner for a while. Now that Google has taken over the hard work of collecting and indexing all the case law on the web, we can turn our attention to those other projects.
If you’re interested in following what we are doing, keep an eye on this page — we will make sure to post notice of new projects here. News about Columbia-sponsored projects will also be published on the Columbia Law School web site. You can also keep up with two of AltLaw’s founders, Tim Wu and Stuart Sierra, on their personal blogs. As always, we welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistant Director, Program on Law & Technology, Columbia Law School