12/20/17

Alan Sugarman's Review of Challenging Westlaw's Copyright Claims in the 1990s

We take a break from Casey's BS series and point you to a historical review of the "cutthroat" legal research industry as it moved from print, hardbound reporter sets, to the online legal research systems which we know today. Whenever an industry is disrupted by a new technology, the players within the industry can play hardball with each other, and that typically leads to litigation as everyone scrambles to protect their stake in that industry. Legal publishing was completely disrupted in the 1990s, and Alan Sugarman from HyperLaw was on the front lines of this battle. Sugarman tells his story to Sam Glover, over at The Lawyerist, and it is definitely worth a listen.

Sugarman describes the history of his battle with Westlaw and their claim to copyright on a number of issues, but primarily Sugarman's discusses his suit against Westlaw's claims of copyright on the text and the citation of court opinions. It's a fascinating listen on how the legal research industry shifted to online research and the different issues surrounding the transformation.

It reminds me of my days with the Oklahoma State Court Network (OSCN.net) and when we adopted the vendor-neutral citation system we adopted and made official in the 90s. Sugarman talks about the vendor-neutral system and his stress on including the docket number of the court decisions within the vendor-neutral cites.

Hat's off to Alan Sugarman for his rebellion in the 1990s. Take a listen to "The Lawyerist Podcast #151: How Westlaw Lost its Copyright, with Alan Sugarman." Without the likes of Sugarman and others who challenged the behemoths of the legal publishing world, we wouldn't have products like Google Scholar, Fastcase, and other legal research resources today.

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