ISP Speaker Series October 6 on Freeing Government Records

picture-213The October 6 ISP Speaker Series, co-sponsored with Yale Law School's chapter of the American Constitution Society (ACS), will feature  Stephen Schultze and Harlan Yu discussing "RECAPture the Law: The Growing Movement to Free the Electronic Record."  The event will take place at 4:10 p.m. in Room 121 of Yale Law School. Refreshments will be provided.

Abstract:  In recent years, there has been growing energy around using the internet to foster greater government transparency.  However, this has focused almost exclusively on just two of the three branches of government: the executive and legislative. The RECAP project takes this movement to the third branch—the judiciary. Today, government puts federal court records online in a system called PACER: Public Access to Electronic Court Records. Created by the courts in the late 1980s, the system was ahead of the curve when it first appeared. But today, PACER is a relic of an earlier era. It keeps documents behind a pay-wall and suffers many usability shortcomings.  The pay-to-play model severely hinders widespread access to the law by activists, academics, the media and other concerned citizens with an interest in the judicial process. Fortunately, these public documents are not eligible for copyright, so once a document has been retrieved from PACER, it may be freely shared and reproduced. RECAP enables citizens to easily share federal court documents. The goal of this project, over time, is to publish an extensive archive to the public for free (as in beer). This will not only help people who are interested in a particular case, but will also pave the way for others to build more and better tools.

In our talk, we plan discuss both the technical workings of RECAP, as well as the policy implications of our project. In particular, we will report on the current status of our collection, legal issues we have encountered and the larger policy context for our work.
Harlan Yu is a graduate student in Computer Science and the Center for
Information Technology Policy at Princeton University.  His technical
research interests are in the area of information security and
privacy, with a particular focus on malicious software and botnets.
On the policy side, his recent work in open government includes
co-authoring "Government Data and the Invisible Hand," which was
published in 2008 by the Yale Journal of Law and Technology, and
developing RECAP, a tool that helps the public liberate federal court
documents from PACER.  He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering
and Computer Science (EECS) from UC Berkeley in 2004 and has
previously held internships at Google and the Electronic Frontier
Foundation (EFF).

Steve Schultz is Associate Director at the Center for Information Technology Policy. He comes most recently from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.  His research focuses on government transparency, telecoms policy, and open source.  He holds an M.S. from MIT's Comparative Media Studies program and a B.A. in Computer Science.