We use Bailii a lot here on Nearly Legal. If there is a freely available copy of a judgment, we will link to it as a matter of course and Bailii is the only source of those free copies, at least for the High Court and Court of Appeal.
The service Bailii provides is invaluable. It is remains astonishing that without Bailii, there would be no free public access to the higher court judgments which form the law, save for the Supreme Court.
Bailii is run on a shoestring and they need money. In particular, they need to have secure year on year funding in place. As they put it in an email sent to users:
If BAILII is to survive, it is essential that we find sufficient sets of Chambers, firms of solicitors, associations of lawyers and/or related professionals, publishers and other companies to give informal commitments to make donations to BAILII year on year on an ongoing basis, in order to put BAILII onto a secure financial footing before its existing funds run out. We need much more support, partly in order to replace existing sponsorship which is not being continued, and to make up for the fact that in any event BAILII’s expenditure has in recent years been exceeding its income from sponsorship.
We at NL would urge anyone who would be in a position to make a commitment on regular donations to do so. Bailii is too important to lose and needs to grow.
That said, it would be fair to say that as users of Bailii, we have some frustrations. For providers of free text of judgments, they seem to take a rather proprietorial approach to the data.
As an instance, there is a RSS feed provided by Bailii that automatically updates when new judgments are added. This is the source of the lists of Admin Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court recent judgments in the column to the right. But the Bailii feed doesn’t have the full text of the judgments, just the case name and reference (which is what I run a filter on for those lists). To read the text of the judgment, one has to click through to the Bailii site.
What this means is that people can’t actually do things (or ‘add value’ in the rather dreadful parlance) with the data. If there was a full RSS feed with the text of the judgments, it would be very easy for NL to set up automatic triggers to identify and flag up housing related cases, for example. (That would save us having to check through all the family, PI, employment etc. cases to find the ones we are interested in). That is just one, very straightforward, example. There would be many other possibilities and uses not even thought of yet.
There is no technical reason why a full feed couldn’t be provided, it is an active choice not to. Bailii seem rather to adhere to a free as in beer rather than free as in speech model, which is a pity when there is so much more that users could do to make the data actively useful and valuable for people. In turn that would make Bailii even more of a key resource than it currently is. And that could only help with seeking funds in the future.