Public data is at the heart of developing legal analytics, and without meaningful access to public data like court records, many of the innovations derived from analytics in the legal industry would not be possible. UniCourt CEO, Josh Blandi’s newest article in Above the Law, “hiQ v. LinkedIn – Why It Matters for Legal Analytics,” details the importance of the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling in hiQ v. LinkedIn and how it squarely affirmed the public’s right to access and mine public data to develop innovative commercial products.
Josh’s article also discusses how hiQ should be read in the context of the larger push towards more open access to legal information, the pending SCOTUS case that may determine once and for all whether private companies can copyright the law, and existing efforts by court technology providers to inhibit competitive innovation.
Here below is an excerpt from the introduction of Josh’s article:
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling in hiQ v. LinkedIn, granting hiQ’s injunction against LinkedIn and its review of the tortious interference with contract alleged against LinkedIn, is a huge win for the data mining industry, and an overwhelming affirmation that the public has the right to access public data. This landmark ruling is also a massive win for legal tech companies aggregating public data to build legal analytics, as well as their clients who rely on those analytics for business development, competitive intelligence, and many other innovative uses.
On the facts, LinkedIn could not have been more egregious in the way it specifically blocked hiQ from mining publicly available data that it also expressly does not claim an ownership interest over. LinkedIn studied the business model of hiQ, sent senior representatives to presentations on hiQ’s products for large enterprise clients like eBay, and then turned off hiQ’s access to data right as they released a competing product offering.
But the larger picture is not about what LinkedIn did in this particular instance – it’s about how similar attempts to circumvent and prevent data mining by large court technology providers, contracted by states to provide access to court records, are also having a chilling effect on innovation in legal analytics.
Without being able to aggregate millions upon millions of data points from court records, certain litigation analytics products would not be possible without paying exorbitant costs for bulk access to data (that most courts do not offer), and innovation will continue to languish where restrictive costs and practices preclude all but a handful of incumbents to obtain meaningful access to public data.
Putting hiQ in Perspective
hiQ vs. LinkedIn matters just as much as Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org matters for legal data aggregation. We know that if past is prologue, a handful of incumbents will continue to assert copyright in the law; they will divvy up shares of the legal analytics market, just as they did for decades with legal research to prevent others from entering the market.
Public means public, and public data is no different. For better or for worse, the United States has one of the most free and open information societies across the globe. We respect the public’s Right to Know and we weigh the public’s interest in our law, just as the Ninth Circuit in hiQ, and the Eleventh Circuit in Public Resource, measured how allowing copyrighting of the law would be detrimental to the public interest.
If larger players can corner off the market by preventing data mining or by copyrighting the law, access to meaningful analytics will be at stake, and there will be legal technology deserts in certain states and locales.
You can read the full article here on Above the Law.