There is a good piece on the latest in the Pacer litigation on Quartz. Several non-profits claim that fees charged by Pacer, an online database of papers filed by litigants in the US federal courts, exceed the cost of providing the records.
While the 10 cents a page that most people are charged to view documents doesn’t sound like much, critics say that the very existence of the paywall has stifled the development of tools to meaningfully search and analyze the data.
“You should be able to say, for example, ‘Give me everything that has the word motion in its description and that talks about copyright,’” says Mike Lissner, executive director of the nonprofit Free Law Project. “That’s not possible.”
Lissner, whose group provides free online access to primary legal materials, says the system’s shortcomings are a direct result of the fees attached to Pacer documents. “If the data were free,” he says, “you’d see an ecosystem cropping up with competitive services improving it.”