December 4, 2012
The Coming Second Citation War
Thomson Reuters "has not given permission to LexisNexis for the use of Westlaw citations to unpublished decisions on the Lexis Advance research service." -- Bruce Knudson, VP Large Law Business, Thomson Reuters.
The above quote is from a letter republished on 3 Geeks in Mark Gediman's post Citation Wars...or Mine! Mine! The post also publishes a response by LexisNexis. Quoting from Mark's highly recommended post:
Although I am sure that Westlaw feels that this response [to a LexisNexis advertising campaign] is justified, I think that to respond to what is really a common industry practice indicates a surprising degree of desperation.
Indeed it is for the moment. However my hunch is Thomson Reuters is preparing the stage for an anticipated new normal when West is not the official publisher of federal and state court opinions. Then all decisions may be "unpublished" as defined by the outcome of the First Citation War and vendor database file citations (i.e., WEXIS file number cites) may require permission to be used by a competitor.
Clearly the coming new normal will be court opinions which are officially published in electronic format at the court level that will be vendor neutral. Vendor specific database file citations may very well be proprietary. Just imagine the consequences for citation indexing and the practice of parallel citations provided in commercial research platforms.
We are in the very early stage of official electronic distribution of primary legal materials like court opinions. UELMA is just the start. If a uniform system of official neutral citation format is not adopted by federal and state courts, will commercial vendors just provide their own and arguably proprietary database file cites? Could you blame our commercial vendors if they do? [JH]