Dirty Necessary Money

Up at Cornell, Tom Bruce has a post about the problem of funding open access to legal materials. This brings to mind a conversation I had with a doctor friend recently about AltLaw. My friend, accustomed to the open-access requirements of NIH grants, was frankly shocked that there are no comparable rules for legal decisions.

NIH Public Access Policy
Screenshot: PubMed home page

A related problem is how to make people aware of what free services are available. AltLaw has been around for two years, and while traffic has grown steadily, it has not gotten as much attention as commercial startups operating similar services. Admittedly, we have done no advertising at all, and that’s our fault. “If you build it they will come” we thought, naͯvely. But how would we advertise? I’m a programmer; the people I work with are law professors. None of us know the first thing about marketing, and quite frankly, none of us care. Seen in that light, Cornell’s recent partnership with Justia.com is a smart move that will benefit everyone working on open-access law, since it will expose more lawyers to the idea.