August 23, 2007 – Aiming to make federal case law fast and easy to search, more accessible to the public – and free – Columbia Law School and the University of Colorado Law School have launched a new Web site called AltLaw.org which has the potential to dramatically change the national landscape of case law resources.
AltLaw.org contains nearly 170,000 decisions dating back to the early 1990s from the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Appellate courts. The site’s creators, Columbia Law School’s Timothy Wu and Stuart Sierra, and University of Colorado Law School’s Paul Ohm, said the site’s database will grow over time.
Wu said he started to build AltLaw.org because he wanted a way to quickly search through court decisions the same way that the public now can search a wide array of information through such Internet search engines as Google and Yahoo!
``It’s been more than 10 years since the start of the Internet revolution, and case law is one area that has not budged. Somebody has to take the initiative,’’ Wu said. ``We want to open the law to the public.’’
Wu is available today to discuss AltLaw.org with reporters. He can be reached at 212-854-2322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wu said he envisions AltLaw.org being used by many groups – journalists, the public, lawyers who want to avoid the hundreds of dollars per hour in fees for proprietary law databases, and legal scholars who need quick and searchable access to cases at home or on the road. One of the assets to AltLaw.org’s design is that it is fast and simple to use, Wu said.
Ohm wrote the thousands of lines of code that download cases to AltLaw.org from more than a dozen court websites each night. He said the data comes from the courts themselves, and AltLaw.org is designed as an extremely open platform so that others can take the raw material and use it in various ways.
``This is what we call the `law commons’ part of the design,’’ Ohm said.``The touchstone of AltLaw.org is openness, and this means that not only will users be able to search cases, but they'll also be able to make copies of all of the cases in our database to reuse or remix in any way that they'd like.”
Timothy Wu specializes in telecommunications law, copyright, and international trade. He is the co-author of ``Who Controls the Internet?’’ (Oxford U. Press 2006), and is a regular contributor to Slate Magazine. He previously worked in the telecommunications industry in Silicon Valley. He earned a bachelor’s degree from McGill University and law degree from Harvard Law School, and has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Chicago, and Stanford Law School.
Wu’s influential 2007 paper, “Wireless Net Neutrality,’’ argued that the government should prod wireless phone carriers to let customers use whatever cellphone equipment they have – even when switching carriers. The influence of Wu’s paper, as well as his testimony before a House Telecommunications Subcommittee, has been cited in blogs and media reports on the ongoing wireless debate. Read more about Wu’s testimony here.
Paul Ohm joined the faculty of the University of Colorado Law School in Spring of 2006. He specializes in the emerging field of computer crime law, as well as criminal procedure, intellectual property, and information privacy. Prior to joining CU he worked as an Honors Program trial attorney in the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and his J.D. from UCLA School of Law.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School graduates have provided leadership worldwide in a broad range of fields – government, diplomacy, the judiciary, business, non-profit, advocacy, entertainment, academia, science and the arts. Led by Dean David Schizer, Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law.
The University of Colorado Law School, founded in 1892, is a top 25 public law school located at the base of the inspiring Rocky Mountains. Colorado Law’s 500 students, selected from among the statistically best applicants in the nation, represent 100 undergraduate institutions and diverse backgrounds. The school’s 8 clinics and 3 centers focus on areas of strength, including natural resources and environmental, American Indian, juvenile and family, telecommunications policy, and sustainable energy law.