Free access to Law via Internet : a global vision ?
Reports of the IX° international Conference "Law via the Internet" in Florence
(30 and 31 October 2008)
Ginevra Peruginelli (ITTIG-CNR)
Free access to legal information has been greatly facilitated by the explosion of the World Wide Web which has provided the technical platform and the appropriate environment where a relevant number of data providers have had the opportunity to deliver legal information worldwide. It is mainly the low cost distribution mechanism that has allowed free (or almost free) public access to law information resources, while beforehand both government and online legal publishers mainly charged for access.
Since early nineties a number of Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) have taken the initiative to provide free access of legal information by collecting it from different sources (not only their own information). In 2002 they have created and adhered to the “Free Access to Law Movement” (FALM) and the Declaration on Free Access to Law has been signed by its members.
Most of these legal institutions are independent of government, they are based in academic settings although some are of a specific nature as, for example, GLIN (Global Legal Information Network, US Library of Congress) and the Kenya Law Reports (a semi-government body). Government-based members, as stated in the Declaration, must not “impede others from obtaining public legal information from its sources and publishing it”.
All LIIs share the commitment to collaborate politically and technically to ensure worldwide open access to law. It is by joining FALM that new organisations which plan to provide free access to law receive advice and assistance. FALM also serves its ordinary members in their activity of collecting and distributing legal information and mutual support is ensured. The Declaration recognises “the primary role of local initiatives in free access publishing of their own national legal information”. The Declaration also states that “All legal information institutes are encouraged to participate in regional or global free access to law networks”. The focus is on supporting organisations in developing countries to achieve these goals, recognising the reciprocal advantages that all obtain from access to each other’s law. Key issues tackled within the FALM concern cooperation in software development and maintenance for free access to law applications, as well as strategic issues like copyright problems.
IX International Conference “Law via Internet Conference : free access, quality of information and effectiveness of rights”, Florence, October 2008
The “Law via Internet” Conferences have been the principal means by which cooperation between LIIs has been established and developed. The first was hosted by AustLII in 1997, followed by annual conference meetings. The last was held in Florence last October.
The 9th Law via Internet Conference in Florence has been organized by the Institute of Legal Information Theory and Techniques of the Italian National Research Council (ITTIG-CNR), acting as a member of the Legal Information Institutes network (LIIs). About 300 participants have attended the Conference, coming from 39 countries of the 5 continents.
Evolution in the use of information and data transmission technologies in the field of law has played an important role for the development of methods for legal data creation and access.
Taken this as a well-established basis, the Conference held in Florence intended to focus on “digital legal information”, analyzing its aspects in the light of a free digital legal culture and knowledge and of the actual technological development that is shaping law. The Conference explicitly addressed the topics of quality of legal data as an essential requirement ensuring completeness and reliability of information and of access to law as a fundamental right. Full knowledge of quality legal information enables citizens to exercise their rights in a conscious and effective way. In this context the use of new technologies becomes an essential tool of democracy for the citizens of the e-society.
The following major themes were tackled in the Conference :
Right to access legal information
Free access to law : information systems and institutions in Europe
Legal framework for open access to legal information
Global scope of free access to law
ICTs and quality of legal information
Strategic solutions and sustainability models for the distribution and sharing of legal knowledge
Members of LIIs
AsianLII - Asian Legal Information Institute
AustLII - Australasian Legal Information Institute
BAILII - British and Irish Legal Information Institute
CanLII - Canadian Legal Information Institute
CommonLII - Commonwealth Legal Information Institute
GLIN - Global Legal Information Network
HKLII - Hong Kong Legal Information Institute
IRLII - Irish Legal Information Initiative
ITTIG - Institute of Legal Information Theory and Techniques, Italy
JuriBurkina, Burkina Faso
Juristisches Internetprojekt Saarbrücken, Germany
KenyaLaw - Kenya Law Reports
Legal Information Institute (Cornell Law School), USA
LexUM - Law Faculty - University of Montreal, Canada
NZLII - New Zealand Legal Information Institute
PacLII - Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute
SAFLII - Southern African Legal Information Institute
WorldLII - World Legal Information Institute
New members following the “Law via the Internet Conference 2008” in Florence
Jersey Legal Information Board
Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas UNAM (IIJ-UNAM), Mexico
Institute of Law and Technology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain
Ugandan Legal Information Institute (ULII)