Statement on Internet Archive Offer to Deliver Free and Perpetual Public Access to PACER

STATEMENT FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

February 14, 2017

CONTACT: Mary Kate Mezzetti, marykate@opengovfoundation.org | +1-508-776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (February 14, 2017) — The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the Internet Archive’s offer to “archive and host— for free, forever and without restriction on access to the public— all records contained in [the Public Access to Court Electronic Records platform],” commonly known as PACER.  Right now, PACER charges the public per-page fees to access online these critical public judicial records, which undercuts PACER’s stated mission to deliver the best possible public access.  Public information freedom-fighter Aaron Swartz fought to liberate public court records from behind the problematic PACER paywall before his tragic passing:

“The vital public information in PACER is the property of the American people.  Public information, from laws to court records, should never be locked away behind paywalls, never be stashed behind arbitrary barriers and never be covered in artificial restrictions.  Forcing Americans to pay hard-earned money to access public court records is no better than forcing them to pay a poll tax.

“The Internet Archive’s offer to archive and deliver unrestricted public access to PACER for free and forever is the best possible Valentine’s Day gift to the American people.  The Internet Archive is proposing a cost-effective and innovative public-private partnership that will finally fix a clear injustice.  There is no reason to do anything but accept this offer in a heartbeat.”

PACER is hosted and maintained by the Administrative office of the U.S. Courts and is the main public access program for all federal appellate, district and bankruptcy court case and docket information.  The offer to host PACER at no cost to American taxpayers was made by Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle in a February 10, 2017 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which is today hosting a hearing on the issue.

 

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