Law.Gov Workshop

The Law Is “America’s Operating System”:
Should It Be Open Source?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

“” is a proposed system that would provide open access to all primary legal materials in the US (“America’s operating system”). This includes materials from all three branches of government: court opinions, briefs, statutes, regulations, hearings, and more. Currently, there is no equivalent of Google for these documents — in fact, many of them are accessible only through expensive, password protected portals such as Westlaw, LexisNexis, and PACER. would open legal materials to the public through a distributed registry and repository. Not only would this provide citizens with invaluable information and promote the goals of transparency and democratic participation, but some have estimated that it could save the federal government $1 billion. At the same time, however, the scale and technological complexity of building such a registry are daunting, and there are serious concerns about privacy, authentication, preservation, and accuracy that must be addressed if it is to succeed.

Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, in collaboration with Public.Resource.Org, held this workshop to examine both the promise and the challenges of this ambitious project.



Registration and Continental Breakfast: 9:30am


James Boyle
William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law
Duke University School of Law
Does publicly generated information want to be free? And what would we get if it were?

Richard Danner
Rufty Research Professor of Law and
Senior Associate Dean for Information Services
Duke University School of Law
A history of efforts to provide digital access to scholarly and legal materials; lessons for the future

David Levi
Dean and Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law
former Chief United States District Judge for the Eastern District of California
Judicial concerns about public accessibility of judicial records

Carl Malamud
President and Founder
"Law.Gov": a proposed registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the US

LUNCH: Noon–1:30pm
Discussion of presentations from the morning panel


AFTERNOON PANEL: 1:30pm-3:30pm

Jennifer Jenkins
Director, Center for the Study of the Public Domain and Senior Lecturing Fellow
Duke University School of Law
Can states copyright the law?

Erika Wayne
Deputy Director of the Law Library and Lecturer in Law
Stanford Law School
The "National Inventory of Legal Materials" project

David Ferriero
Archivist of the United States
National Archives and Records Administration
A view from the Archivist of the United States

Andrew McLaughlin
Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States
A view from government

Audience discussion and Q&A

CONCLUSIONS: 3:30pm–4pm
Plenary panel

Reception to follow


Boyle discusses open source law

"It really feels as though the legal system — of all things, legal materials — has yet to enter the digital age," Faculty Co-Director Professor James Boyle told WUNC's The State of Things. » WUNC

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