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Supreme Court appeal
[2019-02-07] Today we sent the final document in our appeal to the Norwegian Supreme Court. "We" is rettspraksis.no, a volunteer project launched to make Supreme Court decisions available to all. Immediately after opening the website last year, two of the people in the project were sued by Lovdata, a semi-governmental foundation which sells access to court decisions to the tune of $1,600 per person. Annually.
The first round in court in May was shocking: we were not allowed to appear, our website was closed, and we were ordered to pay Lovdata's legal costs of $10k. Since then, things have improved. In August, Lovdata dropped most of their claims. This allowed us to reopen our website with 166 years of court decisions. Still, we were ordererd to pay Lovdata's legal costs, which by now had increased to $40k. After another appeal, the court lowered the costs to $6k but granted Lovdata a 15 year monopoly to Supreme Court decisions.
So, in December 2018 we could have concluded that we had essentially won the case as 166 is much bigger than 15. We could choose to get on with our lives, which for me now includes a pipe organ workshop. However, we decided to appeal the case to the Supreme Court itself.
There are two main reasons for this. First, our project is based on a fundamental belief in the Supreme Court – this is why we published their decisions in the first place. It seems reasonable to ask them to make a fair judgement, even if it may be weird for Supreme Court judges to ponder whether it should be legal to give access to Supreme Court decisions. Second, the rettspraksis.no website is an incomplete reference unless we have a complete set of court decisions.
Our indefatigable lawyer, Halvor Manshaus of Schjødt, has written a short and readable final document, albeit in Norwegian.
A key argument in our appeal is that the Supreme Court's agreement with Lovdata in no way grants Lovdata exclusivity, as such preferential treatment would be illegal. Unfortunately, this is a bit hard to check as the agreement is oral and not written down anywhere. However, one must presume that the choice of providing Lovdata with the court decisions comes with an implicit mandate to facilitate further distributions of said decisions.
At this stage we rest our case, and head out for some skiing. Oslo has plenty of snow this year. Not justice.