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AustLII - Libs Paper
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Graham Greenleaf, Andrew Mowbray, Geoffrey King and Peter van Dijk
Graham Greenleaf, Associate Professor in Law and Co-Director of AustLII,
University of New South Wales (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Andrew Mowbray, Senior Lecturer in Law and Co-Director of AustLII,
University of Technology, Sydney (email@example.com)
Geoffrey King, Manager of AustLII (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Peter van Dijk, Lecturer in Law (P/T), University of Technology, Sydney,
and Consultant to AustLII (email@example.com)
The Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), a legal research facility on the internet (http://austlii.law.uts.edu.au), aims to provide access to Australasian legal materials via the internet. AustLII has been jointly established by the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology, Sydney with 1995 funding from DEET's Research Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities Program. It is intended to be a research facility operated with input from all interested Australasian Law Faculties.
AustLII is part of the expanding international network of public legal information servers - facilities providing public domain and freely licensable legal materials via the internet. AustLII's principal purpose is to provide to legal researchers, via the internet, effective access to Australasian legal materials that are in the public domain or for which licences can be obtained at minimal charge. It already includes the hypertext and searchable versions of the full text of over 1500 Commonwealth statutes and regulations, and a variety of law reform reports.
AustLII's public policy agenda is to maximise the free availability of legal information via the internet. To this end it seeks to convince governments, courts, government agencies and other public bodies to make legal data available on a cost recovery basis to those who wish to add value to it and publish it, whether on a non-profit or a commercial basis.
AustLII's technical agenda includes the provision of legislation in rich hypertext form, with cross-referencing between various primary and secondary sources of data, and the integration of free text retrieval and hypertext so as to provide various forms of stored automated searches. Examples of how these goals are being achieved are already provided on AustLII. Other technical goals are sketched. The importance of developing standards for node-referencing schemes between public legal information servers, and other forms of standards, is explained.
The Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), a legal research facility on the internet (http://austlii.law.uts.edu.au), aims to provide access to Australasian legal materials via the internet. This paper explains AustLII's establishment, and the technical and policy agendas that it is developing.
AustLII's principal purpose will be to provide to legal researchers, via the internet, effective access to Australasian legal materials that are in the public domain or for which licences can be obtained at minimal charge. As a publicly-funded information utility, AustLII will not charge for access to the materials it provides. Access will be via standard internet tools such as world-wide-web, various search engines, telnet, ftp and list servers.
A prototype AustLII www site (http://austlii.law.uts.edu.au) has been developed for demonstration purposes since January 1995, in conjunction with the tasks of obtaining and installing hardware and organising staff and accommodation. At the time of writing (30 May 1995) the prototype contains the following contents:
AustLII's Commonwealth legislation already demonstrates that we can provide very large quantities of legal information with a high degree of value-added functions. The other content is not very substantial as yet, but gives an indication of the structure and approach to hypertext presentation that is being developed for AustLII.
Access to other Australian legal materials are being negotiated at present. An agreement for AustLII to provide internet access to the decisions of a major Court is in the process of finalisation. This will provide us with opportunities to demonstrate integration between legislation and case law.
These contents are accessible at present from the AustLII main menu via classifications under 'Sources' (eg 'Commonwealth Statutes', 'NSW Law Reform Commission', 'E-law'). At a later stage, text content will also be accessible via a 'Subjects' classification (eg 'Intellectual Property', 'Evidence and Procedure'), as will relevant e-mail lists, news groups and other sources. The main menu will also provide additional items under 'Services' (eg Austpac/internet gateways to commercial Australian legal services) and 'International' (www links to international sources of law).
Other services of AustLII will include the provision of expertise in data conversion to assist other legal research bodies to develop internet facilities (for example, our collaboration with Murdoch to do the HTML mark-up for E-law), and the operation of e-mail lists concerning specific subject areas of Australasian-oriented legal research.
In addition to the co-directors and Manager, the Management Committee also comprises Joe Ury (Deputy Law Librarian at UNSW), Robert Watt (Senior Lecturer in Law at UTS) and Alan Tyree (Landerer Professor of Law & Information Technology, University of Sydney). It is envisaged that the Management Committee will be expanded in due course. AustLII's management will be advised on policy matters by an Advisory Committee to be established comprising two nominees by each University Law Faculty that wishes to be involved, plus invitees. The Committee will communicate with AustLII's management principally via an internet list.
As a matter of policy, AustLII will also be willing to provide technical assistance in developing internet resources to any PNG or NZ law school on the same basis as to Australian law schools, if so requested. PNG and NZ legal academics will be invited to join AustLII's Advisory Committee if they wish. If we received any requests to locate available PNG or NZ legal materials on the AustLII server, we would do so. However, it is more likely that local servers will provide such materials. There are already well established Law School servers at Waikato (http://www2.waikato.ac.nz/law/homepage.html), one of the earliest on the web, and Auckland (http://220.127.116.11/), and it seems logical that such law school servers will develop to include substantive NZ law as has occurred elsewhere. If AustLII can provide assistance in such developments, it will do so.
Whatever role develops, the focus of our Institute will be broader than solely 'Australian', whether or not 'Australasian' remain the best description or name.
There are also an increasing number of such servers provided by public bodies themselves[*], including the Australian Parliament (http://www.aph.gov.au/), and the Law Reform Committee of the Victorian Parliament (http://www.vicnet.net.au/vicnet/vicgov/parl/lawref/lawrefhome.html). Some examples of legislation being provided by government agencies in a very plain text form are VicNet's provision of the Constitution Act 1975 (Vic) (http://www.vicnet.net.au/vicnet/vicgov/exec/const1a.htm) and the Tertiary Education Act 1993 (Vic) (http://www.vicnet.net.au/vicnet/A018.htm). Other than these isolated examples, the Australian Governments' Entry Point (http://www.nla.gov.au/oz/gov/ozgov.html), which attempts to list all governmental servers in Australia, includes no material related directly to law as yet. The New Zealand Government Web Pages (http://www.govt.nz/) also provide a selection of legal materials, including the Treaty of Waitangi (http://www.govt.nz/tow/) and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (http://www.govt.nz/bor/). An important journal, the Maori Law Review (http://www.wcc.govt.nz/extern/bennion/mlr_home.htm), is provided privately.
Overseas examples of government agency servers include the Library of Congress' THOMAS: Legislative Information on the Internet (http://thomas.loc.gov/), the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia (http://bbs.qp.gov.bc.ca/lrc/lrchome.htm), legislatures in California, New York, Washington and Minnesota, and many more US agencies listed at Villanova's Center for Information Law and Policy (http://www.law.vill.edu/). There are also some international organisations attempting to be involved, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (http://www.uspto.gov/wipo.html).
Most of the University-based internet servers providing law-related information are somewhat different from the type illustrated above, in that they provide combinations of the following: (i) 'Faculty' information, including course and staff details; (ii) a law school's own Journal in electronic form; and (iii) catalogues of resources available in a law library; and (iv) various forms of indexes of legal materials available elsewhere on the internet. These servers sometimes overlap with the public legal information servers listed above.
The international development of public legal information servers is part of the more general movement to create publicly available (or 'free to air') resources on the internet, similar in some respects to the creation of public libraries in the nineteenth century. The internet is fast becoming home to commercial providers of information, and effective means of charging for even occasional uses of resources are being developed. The countervailing movement, of which AustLII is a part, aims to ensure that some part of cyberspace is public space, where no one is denied use of resources because of financial considerations. Unless this is achieved, the internet will become '500,000 nodes and a toll booth on every one'.
Probably the most important aspect of standardisation that is needed to maximise the potential of legal data via www is to develop consistent, transparent and publicised node naming schemes (also called 'link naming schemes'). As discussed below under our 'technical agenda', extensive hypertext can only be created by automated means. For the potential of the publicly available resources on www servers (whether AustLII, or a server elsewhere in the world) to be realised fully, it needs to be possible for developers of legal documents in HTML format to know exactly how to create links to (say) any Australian legislation that a Journal article, law reform report or case report on their server might refer to. If they have to access another server each time in order to use their browser's 'source' function (in Netscape) to see what idiosyncratic mark-up was used this time, rich hypertext between servers on the www will never be built. HTML developers must be able to know without looking how the 'public legal servers' around the world label their nodes.
[Bruce, 1995] points out that authors of legal commentary in print can rely on their readers having access to print copies of the primary materials they cite, whereas authors of legal hypertexts cannot yet rely on being able to create links to such primary materials. The needs of such authors must be kept in mind as public hypertext collections of legal materials are developed. Similarly, Bruce points out that authors of legal hypertexts need to create their own works on the assumption that others will wish to provide multiple points of access to those works, and structure them accordingly.
Cornell's LII has published its own Evolving Standards for WWW Legal Document Preparation (1993) (http://www.law.cornell.edu:80/lii.standards.html), which elaborates on link naming schemes:
File and internal tags should be derived from standard citation references so that someone other than the builder can create a link to any point in the collection, knowing simply the print reference and the chunking and naming scheme employed by the author/editor/publisher. For example, knowing the WWW address of the UCC material and a particular section or subsection citation (e.g., UCC 2-403), another WWW author/editor/publisher can construct a link from a document discussing the situation of a good faith purchaser of goods to the text of that section:
AustLII's role will be to participate in the evolving international development of such standards, contributing a perspective based on the needs of Australasian legal materials.
The secondary importance of the technical legal question of copyright is also shown by the fact (discussed below) that unless governments and agencies positively co-operate with non-commercial bodies which wish to provide information via the internet by providing them with raw data in computerised form, non-commercial bodies are unlikely ever to be able to publish the data in any form. It is therefore primarily a question of public policy, not a question of copyright.
There are a number of complex public policy issues involved here, and considerable commercial interests. The debate on these issues in the United States, Canada and elsewhere is very considerable and often litigious (see [Love, 1995] for a summary of US developments), and no doubt it will become more intense in Australasia.
The 'AustLII policy agenda' sketched below is in an early stage of development, but is put forward for discussion. One of the most comprehensive attempts to develop such a public policy agenda is Perritt's Report to the US government on electronic dissemination of public information by US Federal agencies ([Perritt, 1994]), which argues for many of the same points as are sketched below.
(i) It should be in a completed form, including such additional information as is best provided by the source. The additional information should include catchwords nominated by the judge (as recommended by the AIJA: [Olsson, 1992]), and the consolidation of amending legislation by Parliamentary Counsel (as implemented in NSW, the Commonwealth and some other Australian jurisdictions). Other parties (such as publishers) should not have any role in assisting Courts 'tidy up' their judgments prior to the official release, because of the risk of copyright claims being asserted by them.
(ii) It should be in an authoritative form, in the sense that includes citations and numbering such that it can be cited to any court in an acceptable way. This means that Courts should assign their own sequential numbering systems to cases decided (eg HC 95/43), and should number paragraphs so as to make the medium of reproduction irrelevant. Each publisher of case law would be free to use its own numbering system, but would probably need to develop a correlator to the Court's own numbering system.
The demand for such 'vendor neutral citation systems' is very contentious in the United States, where it has become one of the main weapons being used by opponents to West Publishing's de-facto monopoly on case law in some jurisdictions (see [Love, 1995]). [Perritt, 1994] recommends US development of 'a national legal document citation system that is nonproprietory and is as suited for electronic as paper formats'. In an important test case, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin has deferred any decision on a petition by the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Judicial Council of Wisconsin seeking the creation of a rule requiring the Court Clerk to keep an authoritative electronic archive of judgments, and creating a new 'medium neutral' and 'vendor neutral' citation form, until it can test such an approach for at least a year (In the Matter of the Amendment of Supreme Court Rules: Electronic Archive of Appellate Opinions, Rules and Orders; Citation of Wisconsin Appellate Opinions - Order #95-01, 24 May 1995). A Bill has also been introduced into the US Congress providing that Federal or State Courts and agencies may not require legal citations in which copyright subsists, where alternatives exist (104th Congress, Bill HR 1584, introduced May 9, 1995).
(iii) It should be provided in a form facilitating dissemination, which means that it should at least be available on disk in ASCII (and preferably a choice of other formats and delivery media if possible). Where official bodies have created a created this data in computerised form as a by-product of their normal work, it is in the public interest that it should be available in that form.
(iv) It should be provided on a cost-recovery basis equally to anyone who wishes to obtain it (including other government agencies and commercial publishers). Public policy should support maximising public access to the law. Its dissemination should not be regarded as a 'profit centre' supporting other aspects of the operation of the judicial system.
(v) There should be no restriction on the re-use of it for any purpose including the creation of value-added products for resale. Public policy should support the maximum dissemination of the law, and in the forms to make it most understandable. The methods by which legal data is best disseminated are still unsettled and changing rapidly, and there are markets for the same source information with different features and at different prices. The fostering of maximum competition in the provision of different types of legal products seems to be the only way to meet the public interest.
The NSW Government's approach to the dissemination of legislation is a model implementation of all of these elements.
This policy agenda does not require any preferential treatment for organisations like AustLII that are publicly funded - though their could be arguments for that - but instead promotes effective access to the sources of law by all who wish to create value-added legal products, whether on a commercial basis or a publicly-funded basis.
[Perritt, 1994] argues that 'agencies must not cut off potentially competing resellers from "upstream" access to more basic elements, including raw content. It is reasonably clear that agencies should price their information products at levels no greater than the marginal costs of dissemination...'. The US Congress recently enacted legislation (Paperwork Reduction Act (1995), Public Law 104-13) prohibiting all federal agencies 'from charging prices for information which exceed the cost of dissemination. Government royalties or fees on the redissemination of information are prohibited. Agencies are also required to disseminate underlying records of information products, and prohibited from entering into exclusive distribution arrangements that interfere with "timely and equitable availability of public information to the public".' ([Love, 1995b]).
One of the most important general conclusions reached in [Perritt, 1994] is that '[a]gencies should concentrate on making their information resources available through the Internet rather than on making major investments in user interfaces'.
AustLII's agenda here is simply to encourage as many such public bodies as possible to make their information available free via the internet, to assist them to do so, and to provide a host for their data where appropriate.
Creation and maintenance of hypertext links in large and complex bodies of text is very difficult. This is particularly so where text undergoes regular change, as is the case to some extent with statutes and regulations. If hypertext links are inserted in source documents manually, large or complex hypertext systems become impractical.
Most legal materials available via www at present (whether legislation, cases, law journals, law reform reports or whatever) have only what we would regard as a 'basic' level of hypertext functionality, consisting primarily of 'hierarchical' links (eg tables of contents, footnotes) and (if needed) sequencing links (eg 'next', 'previous'). It is often relatively easy to create such standard hypertext in a largely automated way, at lease if standardised source data is available, by relying on heading levels and numbering in the source documents. Many legal documents available via www are created in this way, though some (eg law journals) are marked-up by hand.
AustLII intends to focus on developing and providing 'rich' hypertext, by which we mean the addition of numerous 'lateral' or 'internal' hypertext link. These include links within sections to definitions, links to cross-references between sections or between cases, or to references to sections in cases, and not only hierarchical or sequential links. The creation of such 'lateral' links is complex as the link text must usually be recognised in the body of the anchor node, and will often occur in non-standard forms. By and large, few lateral links exist within the legal documents available via www at present (Cornell's intellectual property statutes are an exception - see http://www.law.cornell.edu/statutes.html).
AustLII's approach is developing out of the 'DataLex' research and development work of the last ten years, documented in [Greenleaf, Mowbray and van Dijk, 1995] and (in an much earlier version) [Greenleaf, Mowbray and Tyree, 1991]. The 'DataLex WorkStations' involve the automated creation of many thousands of hypertext links (over 50,000 links in the current Intellectual Property WorkStation), the majority of which are 'lateral' links. To eliminate manual marking up, the DataLex mark-up language involves the writing of automated marking-up scripts for each category of document which has a reasonably regular form (statutes, regulations, cases, commentary etc). These standard `templates' can be used to create useful hypertext automatically with almost all of the desired functionality. The details of these automation techniques are as yet unpublished, but will be documented in future work. There is relatively little published work on the automated creation of legal hypertexts: see [Choquette, Poulin and Bratley, 1995] and work cited therein.
For the purpose of AustLII's development, a converter has been written to convert the DataLex markup language to HTML. The legislation on the AustLII prototype, which contains 'rich' hypertext to a reasonably high level, is the result of the automated conversion of raw legislation using these tools.
Separate scripts have now been developed for the automated conversion of NSW Law Reform Commission documents, AIJA reports, and issues of E-Law. These scripts provide standard hypertext features at present, but we intend to develop them over time to provide 'rich' links from those secondary sources to the primary source documents to which they refer (sections of Acts, cases etc) as such primary sources become available on AustLII or on other www servers in Australasia or overseas.
Guidelines relating to tax file number information 17. (1) The Commissioner shall, by notice in writing, issue guidelines concerning the collection, storage, use and security of tax file number information. (2) A guideline issued under subsection (1) is a disallowable instrument for the purposes of s46A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. (3) In its application under subsection (2) of this section, s48 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 applies to guidelines issued under subsection (1) as if paragraph (1) (b) of s48 were omitted and the following paragraph substituted: "(b) shall, subject to this section, take effect: (i) on the first day on which the guidelines are no longer liable to be disallowed, or to be deemed to be disallowed, under this section; or (ii) if the guidelines make provision for their commencement after the day referred to in subparagraph (i), in accordance with that provision; and". (4) Until the first guidelines take effect for the purposes of subsection (1), the interim guidelines set out in Schedule 2 have effect, for the purposes of any provision of this Act other than subsection (1), (2) or (3), as if they were guidelines issued under subsection (1).
From the heading, hierarchical links are provided to the index of all legislation [Up to index] and to the Table of Contents of the Privacy Act [Table]. Sequential links are provided to the next section [Next] and the previous section [Previous]. Associative links are provided to the date the Act was last consolidated [Currency] and to its legislative history [History].
In the text of the section, associative links are provided to internal definitions ('Commissioner', 'use', 'tax file number information'), to internal cross-references ('Schedule 2'), and to external cross references (sections of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901).
This approach has now been re-developed for the internet environment by AustLII. For example, when a user is viewing the hypertext of any section of a Commonwealth Act or Regulation, the heading of the section appears as follows (for the same example as used above):
Guidelines relating to tax file number information
The four links indicated in bold in the above example are the four types of standard searches provided. Selection of [Search all] allows the user to search all Commonwealth legislation using the SINO search engine, using phrases, boolean searches, wildcards etc.
The [Search in this Act] option automatically limits the scope of the user-specified search to the Act currently being browsed.
The [Noteup in this Act] option automates a search for all references to s17 in the Act being browsed at present. It retrieves six other sections of the Privacy Act in this example.
The [Noteup all] option automates the same search but searches over the whole body of Commonwealth legislation. In this example, it finds 10 sections in five different Acts which refer to s17 of the Privacy Act. This option will become even more useful when case law and commentary is added to AustLII, so that cases and comment referring to a section can be found without users having to master search syntax.
The inclusion of such automated contextual searching is the distinguishing aspect of AustLII's implementation of free text retrieval at present.
The same approach will be taken to empirical data relevant to legal research. We have not yet added any data sets to support empirical legal research. An excellent example of what can be done is Eisenberg and Clermont's US Federal Judicial Statistics service (http://teddy.law.cornell.edu:8090/questata.htm) provided via Cornell's Legal Information Institute. It shows how data which an agency usually provides in a 'one size fits all' fashion can be delivered over the internet in customised user-specified selections that are far more useful.
It may also be possible to extend the DataLex research on the integration of inferencing systems (see [Greenleaf, Mowbray and van Dijk, 1995] parts 4 and 5) into the internet context via AustLII.
To conclude, it is worth speculating briefly on the possible effects of a 'new entrant' such as AustLII on the previously established relationships between legal information providers, interpreters and consumers - in other words, legal publishers, law librarians and users of legal information. 'Established' relationships they may be in some sense, but, as [Martin, 1995] makes clear, the provision of legal information, and the technologies to provide it, have been anything but stable over the centuries.
Commercial publishers of computerised legal products should be able to do better than that. Their role is to add value, not merely to repackage public materials. The headnotes, statutory annotations, indexes and other editorial enhancements added by legal publishers add value to their print products, and equivalent value-adding to computerised products is unlikely to be able to be matched by non-commercial internet publishers like AustLII. Second, the legal commentaries that they publish will provide them with further opportunities to add value to their electronic legal products that go far beyond what can be achieved with limited secondary materials such as law reform reports.
In summary, one function of AustLII is to provide a benchmark or basic standard of computerised legal resource which does not require payment for use. Legal publishers will have to add value beyond that standard if they are to convince the market to pay for their products. For some users, the resources provided by public servers such as AustLII will be all that they need or can afford. For others, the added value provided by commercial publishers will be well worth the cost.
One of the challenges for AustLII is to develop a close relationship with law librarians as a profession, to have them intimately involved in AustLII's development and collection policies (from inception, one of five members of the Management Committee is a Law Librarian), and to use the expertise of law librarians to better organise the material AustLII provides.
Bruce,T, Martin, P and Sadler, W `A WWW Manifesto', CALI/LEAP Conference, Chicago-Kent Law School, May 1994
Choquette, M, Poulin, D and Bratley, P 'Compiling legal hypertexts', unpublished, Centre de recherche en droit public, Université de Montréal, 1995
Greenleaf, G, Mowbray, A and van Dijk, P 1994a DataLex WorkStations User Manual DataLex Pty Ltd, 40pgs
Greenleaf, G., Mowbray, A. and van Dijk, P. 1994b DataLex WorkStations Developers Manual (2nd Ed) DataLex Pty Ltd, 105 pgs
Greenleaf, G., Mowbray, A. and van Dijk, P. 1995 'Representing and using legal knowledge in integrated decision support systems: DataLex WorkStations' Artificial Intelligence and Law, Kluwer Academic Publishers; in publication - accepted April 1995; 50 pgs.
Greenleaf, G, Mowbray, A and Tyree, A 1991 `The DataLex Legal Workstation', Proc. 3rd ICAIL ACM Press (reprinted in Vol 3 No 2 Journal of Law and Information Science 1992, 219 -240)
Love, J 'Four years of struggle to free the law' Proc. 5th Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy, 194-199, Stanford Law and Technology Policy Center
Love, J 1995b 'New Federal law limits agency prices for government information', TAP-INFO, 31 May 1995 (available at http://firstname.lastname@example.org)
Martin, P 'Pre-digital law - How prior information technologies have shaped access to and the nature of law' Crown Copyright in Cyberspace (Conference), Centre de recherche en droit public, University Of Montreal, 12 May 1995 (available at http://www.droit.umontreal.ca/english.html)
Olsson, Justice Trevor Guide to Uniform Production of Judgments, AIJA, 1992
Perritt, H Public Information in the National Information Infrastructure (Report to the Regulatory Information Service Center, General Services Administration, and to the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget), 1994 (available at http://www.law.vill.edu/Fed-Agency/OMB/pub.info.NII/ombtoc.htm)