Other worldliis a modestly decentralised proposal for global free access
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Other WorldLIIs - A modestly decentralised proposal for global free access. Graham Greenleaf Co-Director AustLII / WorldLII / HKLII. Need for ‘global free access’. Who needs free access to global law? Developing countries

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Other worldliis a modestly decentralised proposal for global free access

Other WorldLIIs - A modestly decentralised proposal for global free access

Graham Greenleaf


AustLII / WorldLII / HKLII

Need for global free access
Need for ‘global free access’

  • Who needs free access to global law?

    • Developing countries

      • Comparative law research is essential to development of legal infrastructure

      • Law libraries and fee services are impossible

    • Developed countries

      • Law librarians, students, international trade lawyers etc

      • To ‘raise the bar’ for what commercial services must offer

      • For countries and subjects beyond commercial services

    • Law as part of the cyberspace commons

      • Essential law / ‘public legal information’ can be cooperatively provided as part of a global commons


  • LIIs and levels of access to free law

  • Relationships between LIIs

  • LIIs and government services

  • LIIs and commercial publishers

Levels of access to free law
Levels of access to free law

How to provide global access to free law?

  • Cooperating high quality law sites

    • Standards-based shared search results

  • Distributed searches (search brokering)

    • Sites excluding spiders but accepting searches

  • ‘Websearch’ - web-spider-based searches

    • Dedicated ‘law only’ search engines

    • Extracting law from generic search engines

  • Sites / data only accessible via catalogs

    • Sites excluding web spiders

    • Dynamically generated pages with no fixed URLs

    • Page formats / files types resistant to web spiders

Connecting liis by searches
Connecting LIIs by searches

  • Aims: consolidated and ranked search results from participating LIIs

    • + Limited scope searching across LIIs

  • Methods of achieving this

    • Centralised primary location of databases

    • Replication of databases or of concordances only

      • File syncronisation or web spider methods

  • Distributed real-time searches

    • Model proposed at Cornell LII Conference 2000

  • Multi-location of databases/concordances

    • Model proposed by AustLII 2002

Worldlii involves all of these
WorldLII involves all of these

  • Centralised primary location of databases

    • Databases hosted on WorldLII

  • Centralised replication of databases

    • AustLII, currently BAILII and HKLII, some LII

    • PacLII, likely to continue due to access speeds

  • Centralised replication of concordances only

    • Possibly BAILII or HKLII if no multi-location

  • Distributed real-time searches

    • CanLII

Inter lii hypertext links
Inter-LII hypertext links

  • Aim - Citations to cases or statutes on any one participating LII will link to any other LII

  • (I) A central ‘Distributed Citation Resolver’

    • Proposed at Cornell LII Conference, 2000

    • Dynamically generated links and multiple citations

  • (II) Shared data structures and markup

    • Partly implemented by WorldLII participants

    • Embedded links to single citation

  • Both approaches benefit from shared comparative case citation tables

    • LIIs cooperating to build these citators

What is worldlii
What is WorldLII?

  • Access to a cooperating set of LII databases

    • 250+ from AustLII, CanLII, BAILII, PacLII, HKLII, the LII

    • English language and common law emphasis as yet

  • A growing LII in its own right - part of the set

    • Databases of international courts and tribunals

    • Databases from Asian developing countries

  • An ‘incubator’ of independent LIIs

    • South African and East Timor potential

  • A global law catalog and websearch facility

    • WorldLII Catalog - 15,000+ law sites

  • One interface to this data set

    • Interfaces in languages other than English needed

Other worldliis
Other WorldLIIs?

  • Hypothesis:

    • WorldLII is a hub of one set of LIIs

    • EqualLII is another (FrancLII?? MondialLII??)

    • Both WorldLII and EqualLII are interfaces to all the data, and ‘hubs’ for some of it

    • Other-worldLII’s can exist ….

      … but may not need to

Modestly decentralised
Modestly decentralised? …

  • A small number of interconnected ‘hubs’ with a regional / linguistic / national basis

    • Hubs coordinate groups of participating LIIs

    • Attention to interface etc needs of those participants and their user communities

    • Very distributed data maintenance responsibilities

  • More decentralised over time as more LIIs emerge

  • Global load balancing and redundancy reduces the de/centralisation distinction

  • LIIs still only cover a modest part of the free law universe …

Free law beyond the liis
Free law beyond the LIIs

  • Search brokering (to non-LIIs)

    • No serious efforts yet. Impossible?

  • Dedicated (law only) websearches

    • Google etc rank differently, reach differently

    • Commercial websearches can be compromised - an alternative is needed

    • Ability to limit scope of searches eg to legislation

  • Catalogs / indexes of law sites

    • Collaborative development is the only future

    • Multi-lingual development is necessary

    • Not ODP amateurism, but LII professionalism

Liis and government services
LIIs and government services

  • ‘Official’ systems are good but not enough

    • State systems often fail, are sold, or are 3rd rate

      • Even when they are excellent, they do not do everything

    • Independent systems give different value-adding

    • Universities are most likely free-access alternative

    • Full free access requires choice of providers

  • Two simultaneous approaches for LIIs

    • Keep insisting on independent access to source data

    • Government services as WorldLII participants?

      • an interim measure?

Free v commercial publishers
Free ‘v’ commercial publishers

  • What are commercial legal publishers?

  • Are LII’s here to stay?

  • Relationships between LIIs and publishers?

What are commercial legal publishers
What are commercial legal publishers?

  • No such thing as a local legal publisher

  • Kluwer / Reed-Elsevier / Thomson oligopoly

  • The occupying foreign powers of Australian law

    • Only owners of many primary material backsets

  • The status quo results from “unequal treaties”

    • 10 years of CLIRS monopoly in Australia (82-92)

    • West’s relationship with US Courts

    • Courts everywhere surrendered citation control

    • NZ government had to buy back its own legislation

Are liis here to stay
Are LIIs here to stay?

  • Australian law-related Internet traffic

    • Lexis Legal Insider, 2001 -

      • AustLII 31%

      • All legal publishers 25% (Lexis, CCH, Law Book Co etc)

      • Other free law 43% (Govt, courts, law firms etc)

    • Hitwise, 2002

      • AustLII 30%; All Publishers 25%; Other free law 45%

  • ‘Stakeholder’ funding is sustainable

    • Publishers do not satisfy the ‘latent legal market’

    • LII publishing is efficient: < 0.5¢(US) per case etc

    • Both source and user organisations will fund

  • LIIs are not just a bad dream

    • Cohabitation is the future …

Relationships between liis and publishers
Relationships between LIIs and publishers

  • ‘Friendly’ self-interest on both sides

  • “Keep the b******* honest” (Don Chipp)

  • Raising the bar for value-adding

    • ‘If we can automate it, you can’t sell it’ (AustLII)

  • Leveraging LII market share

    • CCH $80K p/a for ‘Publishers search’

  • Finding justifiable balances of interest

    • Thomsons and the High Court’s centenary

  • ‘For free’ and ‘for fee’ are complementary

    • Legal publishers have invented and preserved the law

    • New audiences and new technology require a new balance

Does legal information really want to be free
“Does legal information really want to be free?”

  • Q - Was supposed to be the opening Q of this Conference - let’s close with it

  • A -

    • Yes, essential/public legal information is part of the common heritage of mankind - it should be in the digital commons

    • No, it will not be free of its own volition, we must work to free the law and keep it free