Recap (software)

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Recap[1] is software which allows users to automatically search for free copies during a search in the fee-based online U.S. federal court document database PACER, and to help build up a free alternative database at the Internet Archive.[2] It was created in 2009 by a team from Princeton University and Harvard University's Berkman Center.[1] The name "RECAP" derives from "PACER", spelled backward.[3]

Recap is available as a Mozilla Firefox add-on and Google Chrome extension. For each PACER document, the software will first checks if it has already been uploaded by another user to the Internet Archive. If no free version exists and the user purchases the document from PACER, it will automatically upload a copy to the Internet Archive, thereby building the database.[2]

PACER continued charging per page fees after the introduction of RECAP.[4]

After the introduction of Recap, activist Aaron Swartz set up an automatic download from an official library entry point to PACER. Swartz downloaded 2.7 million documents, all public domain, representing less than 1 percent of the documents in PACER.[5] These public domain documents were later uploaded to Recap and made available to the public for free. However, the automated downloading triggered a government investigation. No criminal charges were filed, because PACER had provided lawful access and the documents copied were in the public domain, and the case was closed.

Some courts have acknowledged RECAP's free distribution of documents. A small handful of PACER users receive fee-exempt access (fee waivers are granted on a district-by-district basis), and a condition of the fee waiver generally requires that fee exempt users not further distribute documents they receive under the waiver, pursuant to Judicial Conference policy[6]. Some courts such as the District Court for the District of Massachusetts display a prominent reminder on the ECF home page: "fee exempt PACER users must refrain from the use of RECAP".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Center for Information Technology Policy (2013). "Home". RECAP The Law. Retrieved 2013-05-31. 
  2. ^ a b Johnson, Bobbie (11 November 2009). "Recap: cracking open US courtrooms". The Guardian. London. 
  3. ^ McCullagh, Declan (August 14, 2009). "Plug-in opens up federal courts, with your help". CNET. Retrieved May 16, 2017. 
  4. ^ Singel, Ryan (October 5, 2009). "FBI Investigated Coder for Liberating Paywalled Court Records". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved January 12, 2013. 
  5. ^ Lee, Timothy B. (2013-02-08). "The inside story of Aaron Swartz’s campaign to liberate court filings". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2013-05-31. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "CM/ECF - USDC Massachusetts - Version 5.1.1 as of 12/5/2011-United States District Court". 

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