Joint Venture Disclosure
At its core, PlainSite is a private effort to fill in a gap left by inefficient public legislation and government operations.
In 2000, Aaron incorporated a separate Ohio non-profit organization, Think Computer Foundation, as a senior project at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Think Computer Foundation was granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status shortly thereafter by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While the Foundation began by collecting used computer equipment in the Cleveland area and sending it to developing countries such as Jamaica and Brazil, it eventually added other goals as well: helping disabled individuals, and in response to the 2008 financial crisis, providing much-needed transparency in the judicial system. Most years, Think Computer Foundation has not received significant financial contributions, and it typically files a Form 990-N postcard with the IRS accordingly.
In financial terms, Think Computer Corporation is the leading force behind PlainSite. It owns the servers that the site runs on and the intellectual property rights to the software code that makes the site work, as well as some patents that PlainSite's infrastructure makes use of. The PlainSite Twitter account, @PlainSite, is also run by Think Computer Corporation, though material shared through the account frequently involves public interest topics and initiatives involving Think Computer Foundation.
PlainSite Pro and Pro Se subscriptions are paid exclusively to Think Computer Corporartion and are not tax-deductible. However, since PlainSite differs from many legal research services in that it makes public domain documents public free of charge once they are obtained or requested by customers, there is a clear public interest aspect to its business model.
This is where Think Computer Foundation plays a supporting role. Think Computer Foundation uses its funds to pay for the vast majority of document and research fees (such as PACER fees, court fees, and labor fees for National Archives requests) that daily operation of PlainSite incurs. Think Computer Foundation is reimbursed by Think Computer Corporation for legal research fees on cases that directly involve Think Computer Corporation but not Think Computer Foundation. Due to PlainSite's high traffic, Think Computer Foundation has also historically reimbursed Think Computer Corporation for a portion of the bandwidth and hosting costs that Think Computer Corporation has incurred for data center usage. Since 2011, this has amounted to $5,964.12, representing about 21% of Think Computer Corporation's data center costs on average.
Historically, through this arrangement, Think Computer Foundation has paid for over $25,000 worth of documents from courts across the United States, representing over 200,000 pages of materials that would otherwise not be freely accessible in the public domain. The breakdown is as follows:
The vast majority of these documents were also contributed to the RECAP archive, now maintained by the Free Law Project. In 2013, Think Computer Foundation donated $10,000.00 to sponsor the Aaron Swartz Memorial Grant contest, which sought to improve RECAP. (These funds were matched by Princeton University; ultimately, two contest winners each earned $10,000.00 for their contributions.) In addition, Think Computer Foundation donated $5,000.00 to the Free Law Project in June 2014. Unfortunately, the Free Law Project no longer allows PlainSite to access RECAP metadata.
PlainSite Reality Check reports are products of Think Computer Corporation but may also involve public interest topics that overlap with Think Computer Foundation's goals.
Think Computer Foundation's principals do not earn and never have earned salaries from Think Computer Foundation.
If there are any questions regarding these disclosures, please contact us.