H.R.6714 – Electronic Court Records Reform Act of 2018 seeks to eliminate fees after they became a slush fund.
It was discovered that PACER raked in approximately 150 Million dollars in 2016, according to article posted on ARS Technica. That’s a lot of money for a PDF server with a paywall. With so much money flushing into the coffers, the fund became a slush fund.
Rep. Doug Collins (R) apparently took notice; Collins sponsored a bill in the 2018 legislative session as a clapback in favor of truly free public access: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6714
Meanwhile, a plug-in / extension was developed for use with internet browsers, designed to thwart repeated expenditure of access fees for documents via sharing already-paid-for documents: ReCAP the Law.
ReCAP the law can be found and used here: https://free.law/recap/
An interesting new discovery came about earlier today, on Jan 16, 2019; several attempts to legally access docket items on a case failed. Further testing revealed (so far) that the PACER system code may possibly be blocking access to documents to browsers with an active and enabled ReCAP extension.
Specifically, SlimJet, FireFox, and Brave browsers were tested with the extension not installed and then installed and then disabled. The browser sessions with the not-installed extension produced document access success, and the same success was garnered with an installed but disabled (via settings, so the plug-in/extension does not show in the toolbar). Any presence of the extension, and the post-authorization document viewing page showed up as a blank web page.
ReCAP staff are aware of this finding and further testing is ongoing to verify if ReCAP is indeed targeted for denial of access discrimination.
As for now, the bill is still sitting on the hopper after initial filing / intro. If you want to reach out to encourage Rep. Collins for his efforts, the easiest way to do so is via Twitter, here: https://twitter.com/RepDougCollins
This Jan 16, 2019.