One of the many perks of being at the Berkman Center this year has been to learn about all sorts of interesting and important legal matters that otherwise would either not make it on my radar or would be hard for me to understand without background and context. The New York Times now reports on an issue that Berkman fellow Steve Schultze first introduced me to last Fall: the complexity involved in accessing unclassified government documents online that are theoretically free to the public, but in reality can be quite hard to access. The article identifies some major problems with PACER (the government-run Public Access to Court Electronic Records system) and also discusses some important efforts to make the material more accessible to the public. Included is work by (and an interesting photo of:) Crooked Timber commenter Aaron Swartz.
Steveâ€™s blog points us to Show Us the Data whose purpose is to â€œidentify the 10 Most Wanted Government Documentsâ€, that is, â€œunclassified documents or data that .. existâ€“on paper or in government computers and databasesâ€“that would be of value to the public if posted and regularly updated on an agency’s Web site.â€ Check out Steveâ€™s blog and that voting site for more on truly freeing up free government documents.