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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