This morning, William Knott, a spokesman for the US Supreme Court, made a surprise announcement that the US Supreme Court will phase out releasing court opinions in PDF format and will begin releasing all Court materials to fit Apple’s new iPad format. The multi-million dollar agreement between SCOTUS and Apple launches a new approach for the Court to push information to the public and at the same time generating much needed revenue to support the Federal Court System. Knott justified the move by saying, “With the downturn in the economy, and the legislature’s refusal to adequately fund the Federal Courts, we’ve decided to look for additional funding through corporate sponsorships.”
Back in January, the Court handed down the Citizen United decision (Knott apologized that the decision is currently only available in the Court’s old PDF format), which ruled that corporations and labor unions could contribute to political campaigns. Apparently, the Court has interpreted that decision not only for campaigns, but also for other governmental contributions, including itself. “Hey, why should some schmoe congressman from New Jersey be able to take money from corporations or unions and the highest court in the land cannot?” asks William Knott. “We’d be hypocrites if we said it was okay to contribute to politicians, and then tell those same corporations and unions that their ‘free speech rights’ end at the steps of this courthouse.”
In addition to the agreement with Apple, Knott also hinted that for the right price, the Court would be willing to sell ad space within the opinions themselves. “My God, look at all the white-space that will be available in the iPad format,” Knott adds. “I’m not saying it’s a done deal, but we are looking into the option of monetizing the Court’s opinions. We’re just keeping our options open at this time.” Knott assured us that the ads would be “tasteful” and would have absolutely no influence on the Court should any of the advertisers have matters brought before them. The ads, tentatively referred to as “CourtSense”, will be similar to the Google Adsense model in order to sell contextual ads within the opinions based not only on keywords within the opinions but the user’s own browsing habits and email content.
When I asked William Knott why the Court thought that the public would not find the idea of the US Supreme Court taking money directly from corporations and unions as a “payoff”, Knott stood up and poked me in the chest and screamed, “Google does the same thing with its new Scholar website, and they don’t need to take taxpayer money to support their operations, do they?? Americans should be happy that their justice system doesn’t need to ask them anymore to shell out their hard-earned tax dollars to support the Courts. By opening the Court to corporate money, tax dollars can be reallocated to building what Americans really want, and that’s more prisons! So for America, it is a tremendous win-win.”
The new format should be rolled to Apple Retail Stores or decisions can be downloaded directly from iTunes at about the time we release our April Fool’s Day post in 2011.
[note: April Fools!]