Millions of documents from over 350k federal court cases now freely available

Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy, working with the Internet Archive and volunteers has launched RECAP, a project to make US Federal Court Documents available for no cost to the public.

RECAP is a Firefox Internet browser extension that allows users of the PACER to get free copies of documents they would normally pay for when the Archive has a copy, and if it is not available to then automatically donate the documents after they purchase them from PACER for future users. Therefore the repository on the Internet Archive grows as people use the PACER system with this plug-in. We are currently getting more than one document a minute and some large holdings are being uploaded. We hope that the government will eventually put all of these documents in an open archive, but until then this repository will grow with use.

We find this an exciting project in that it is taking public information and automatically making a second archive of these materials as they are used. This may be a first for doing this kind of automatic archiving system, and hope this could become a model for preserving public domain collections. Technically, the Archive is using its new S3-like interface to make automated uploads easy.

PACER, (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) provides on-line access to U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records and documents. Although it is available to the general public, it is difficult for non-lawyers to use, and users must pay significant fees for the documents they request. RECAP enhances Pacer user experience and simultaneously contributes these documents to Internet Archive to make available to the public. RECAP users are also alerted when a document they are searching for is already available from this repository. Since its August launch, RECAP continues to prompt interest from the legal profession and to use the capabilities of the web to increase government transparency.