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Judges approve online sales of court recordings

Audio recordings of federal court hearings may soon be available from a court near you, but you can forget about that eight-cent price tag used in a recent pilot project. Downloading a digital audio file from a court session will cost $2.40 through the PACER system under the plan approved today by the U.S. Judicial Council.

Availability of court audio recordings will not be universal, either. Putting audio files online is up to the presiding judge of the court in question, according to the council’s news release. Still, downloading an audio file for $2.40 beats paying $26 for a CD version, as now available at some courts.

There is good news for casual users of PACER – they can access four times as much data without incurring fees. Previously, a PACER user was not charged unless the bill exceeded $10 for a year. Now, the Judicial Council will waive billing for charges up to $10 per quarter.

For 2009, nearly half of PACER users were not billed because their use was below the $10-a-year level. That figure would have been 75 percent if the quarterly measure were in effect, the council reports.

In another step for increased public access to court data, a pilot project will publish district court and bankruptcy opinions on the free FDsys Web page.

By Peter Vieth

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