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Nov 14

Peter Brantley

Peter Brantley

Going Legal on CC-0

CC-0 is a brand new Creative Commons license, whose official launch is expected in December, that signals the absence of any copyright or related rights associated with a work.

The creation of CC-0 is heralded by the release into the public domain of a free archive of federal case law, including all Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 to the present and all Supreme Court decisions since 1754, through Carl Malamud's Public.Resource.Org.

The data is being provided by Fastcase, a provider of next-generation American legal research, which has agreed to provide Public.Resource.Org with 1.8 million pages of federal case law. This is a marked departure for the online legal research industry, much of which charges libraries, institutions, legal firms, and courts very expensive subscription fees to access this information.

The transaction represents a one-time purchase of the data; the corpus will be integrated into on-going services provided by AltLaw and the Legal Information Institute, ensuring continuity into the future. Further releases of data, including Federal District and pre-1949 Appellate decisions, may be forthcoming.

More information at Public.Resource.Org.

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Comments: 6

Gordon Mohr [11.14.07 02:20 PM]

From the referenced links, it seems that "CC-∅" is better described as a mark than a license, signifying disavowal of all proprietary rights and licensing terms.

Advice Network [11.14.07 05:23 PM]

The link to the Creative Commons license goes to the Lessig blog. Amy good links to learn more about cc-0?

Peter Brantley [11.14.07 05:29 PM]

CC-0 hasn't been formally released yet, and may even be renamed. There is as yet no page on CC that describes it, as it is not available. Lessig's mention is the closest (semi) "official" thing that is on the web right now.

Thomas Lord [11.14.07 08:16 PM]

Hey, Peter:

How about a project to create "open source Form Books?" (And what does Lessig think of this idea?)


(For those unfamiliar, "Form Books" are templates for just about every kind of court filing you could imagine, where every blank in the template is documented with references to and discussion of all of the applicable laws. So, for example, if you want to file to have a suit against you dismissed because you were never properly served papers in the suit, the form book will give you boilerplate that explains why the court has jurisdiction over your motion, what laws justify your motion, and a fill-in-the-blank way to assert the facts behind your motion and how they relate to those laws. A hell of a lot of the routine work that law offices get paid for could be described as filling out forms from form books. Yet, anyone who can read at a college level can do the same job (much more slowly) if they take sufficient care and, in my experience ( :-) this is an important feature of democracry.

The problem is that form books are expensive and closed source. If you don't put out lots of $s, your only chance to see them is if you have access to a library that has them (such as a prison library or the law library of a public university). Yet, without form books, preparing a filing on the basis of "open sources" is just about impossible to do well -- you'll lose your case by procedural errors long before you can figure out all the right facts you need to present to the court in just the right way. You can look at the legal code and absolutely know that you are in the right, but without using a form book you'll have a very hard time expressing your argument in a way that the (typically badly overloaded) court can recognize. If you don't use the forms, a Judge's first reaction is "What the heck is this person talking about?" and it's a total crap shoot (with very bad odds) whether or not you'll just be ignored as "incomprehensible".

Moreover, the law is so big and so complicated that, for most things, even the professionals can't get by without form books. In other words, the legal code is all but useless without access to form books.

So, the code itself is public domain and that's all swell: but you can't actually defend yourself or pursue much of any matter in court without a form book -- and that's a problem for freedom loving people everywhere. Just as the free software movement seeks to increase freedom by liberating source code, a free law movement should seek to increase freedom by liberating (and organizing the public production of) form books.


thacker [11.15.07 08:59 AM]


That is an excellent suggestion and idea.

bueromoebel addicted [11.17.07 06:47 AM]

Is the cc-0 legal all over the world or is it only a term usable for the US? i think of for example the definition public domain and rights of use for US resources but not allways legal usable in the rest of the world... but anyway a good step on the right way.

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