Wednesday, 3 September 2014

More on the PACER brouhaha

There has been a fair bit of negative commentary about the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts recent announcement that a whole bunch of case dockets have been removed from PACER in preparation for their move to a new, updated system.  Jim Jacobs of FreeGovInfo has pointed out that "Neither PACER nor the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which runs PACER, claims that the removal of court cases from PACER was accidental. There are always reasons and excuses and these are usually used to make it sound as if the agency responsible for the removal had no choice (or intention), but that is rarely the case. So far, we have heard two excuses from PACER: The "backwards compatibility" excuse and the "reason" that "the cases that were removed were closed and that many had not been accessed in several years.""
He also provides a link to an interesting article in Tech Dirt titled "PACER Officials Give Weak, Nonsensical Excuse For Why PACER Deleted Tons Of Public Court Records With No Notice" .  He closes by saying
Although digital preservation certainly does require attention and resources and skills, it is not *only* a question of skills or technologies. It is a question of who wants to save information and who does not. This is often a question of who will use the information. Agencies may have a different perspective on who their users are (or who their users might be) than libraries do. For me, and I hope for all of us, there should be one simple lesson from the removal of the PACER court case files: If a library wants to ensure preservation and access for digital information it can do so (can *only* do so) by getting that information and preserving it. Relying on the government to provide perpetual, free access to everything our users want is always going to fail at some point. The question is not "when" or "if" it will fail. The questions are "how much?" and "how soon?" and "who will be hurt by the loss?"

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