The Shifted Librarian, an RSS maven if ever there was one, has a short post on the use of broadcatching for library archives (RSS Feeds for Internet Archive Collections). This reminded me of a concept that I worked on several years ago ... a distributed database of legal information, decisions, journals, etc.
The basic idea was that every law library in the country would have locally stashed copies of every court decision. Court decisions would have been published into a network of massively redundant distributed databases with nodes at every law library. The system was actually a bit complex (but cool, using Jini and stuff). The Shifted Librarian's post reminded me of this concept and I thought, "why not use broadcatching to send full decisions (or articles) to everyone who wanted copies of court decisions (or law journals)?"
RSS is already used by some of the smarter courts to keep lawyers, clerks and assorted legal professionals current on court decisions, rules changes and related matters. The highly innovative Rory Perry, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, was the first to recognize this potential and has been providing RSS feeds for his court since May 2002 (Syndication and Weblogs: Publish and Distribute Your Court Information to the Web).
The feeds that Rory provides are great, but they don't include the full decisions - only summaries. You could use RSS enclosures, but providing full decisions to hundreds or thousands of recipients might tax bandwidth. BitTorrent to the rescue, of course. Why shouldn't every law library, law firm or other interested party broadcatch copies of every court decision published?
Of course, this only solves the problem of distribution. For law to truly be free, you'll need open standards for court decisions and nearly complete databases among other things, but this could be a major step forward. The potential uses for this technology continue to grow.
For more information on Broadcatching, see also:
BitTorrent + RSS = The New Broadcast
Broadcatching - Not Broadcasting
Broadcatching - The Early Days
RSS + BitTorrent Announcement Soon?
BitTorrent, RSS and Broadcatching, Catching On
First Broadcatching App Available! (And Related News)