Thursday, August 7, 2014

LexisNexis Rage

We said it's a free society, not a free society

I graduated from my Master of Laws degree earlier this year, and since then, I've been somewhat disconnected from being able to continue my studies. I mean disconnected in the literal sense.

Monash University, where I did my study (though I assume all other institutions are the same), give access to lots of online research tools for the duration of studies. Many of those tools are made by the likes of LexisNexis or ThomsonReuters. However, since graduation, I can no longer access any of these services.

In particular, LexisNexis makes a terrible database front-end for looking up reported cases and journal articles, called CaseBase. While the rest of the world has moved on to web 3.11, or some other such buzzword, CaseBase has remained true to its origins, firmly rooted in web 0.98beta.

They have no reason to spend money on improving their horrible front-end or adding features to their search "technology", because, as I'm sure you could guess, all their content is licensed either from journal companies, or some government department or government-approved monopoly. That means, for example, that you have to go through CaseBase, or some system just like it, in order to find out what was said in the decisions of the courts, for most court decisions. In Australia, which is a common law country, that means that without paying for a subscription, you cannot feasibly find out enough of the law to know what your responsibilities are, as a citizen.

You shouldn't need to pay for this stuff, but let's forget all that idealistic crap about citizens being able to read the laws of the land. I'm not cheap, so I'll just pay for a subscription. It can't be too much can it?

Try to find out on the website. I couldn't. I tried to LiveChat with them, but it took them somewhere north of an hour to respond, from my estimate, and I'd left my computer. I left a message on the phone and finally got a call back the next day. So this is an efficient company, huh?

So, now, back to how much it costs. I guess on an annual subscription, for this important information, $700 isn't too much is it? Oh, you think it is? Well, on an annual subscription, that's the monthly cost.

CaseBase costs $8,400 per year

Stripping out various journals and paring it back to just access to cases still cost about $5,000 per year, and when I still balked at that, the sales rep offered it to me for $3,400 per year, because I wouldn't be using it commercially.

Yeah, no.

This is what happens when information that should be public domain is locked up behind paywalls; we're left with sub-standard systems that cost a fortune.

It's a rort, and it needs to be fixed.

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