[Open-Legislation] openlaws.eu EU Project starting today

James McKinney james at opennorth.ca
Thu Apr 3 15:13:42 UTC 2014

> As I mentioned before BAILII is an absolutely dreadful block on any forward progress in the UK for core case law. It is a block because it is able to obtain preferential access to data at no cost from the government but is unwilling to permit that data to be used by others in any really useful way except by browsing their website. That makes it essentially useless for all kinds of development work. Eg I can't write something that alerts me when particular legislation is cited, roll my own search engine that is superior to their utterly appallingly bad one etc etc. I don't need to draw a picture.
> CanLII's funding model is much like that of BAILII - essentially a small tax on all lawyers. Not something everyone can pull off. I would much rather my practising fees were being spent on a truly open project.

Yes, CanLII specifically is lucky to be fully funded by the Canadian law societies. It is universally praised by lawyers, which is why they continue to pay for it. CanLII is as open as we can get in Canada. The major barrier to increased openness are the courts and the governments who hold the copyright. CanLII does what it can to push them forward, but CanLII is not paid to be a lobby group with public campaigns, etc. Other organizations must publicly lobby for changes to laws that will make greater openness possible. We have those, too, in Canada.

CanLII has taken steps to open up its data via an API, which currently only contains metadata due to the above-cited copyright restrictions. However, the metadata makes it possible to track citations which you mention, among other things. For what it’s worth, CanLII’s search engine is quite good. They invest a lot in their technology, because there are competitors like Quicklaw, LexisNexis, etc. who offer paid services. To retain the backing of the law societies, they need to be as good or better than the competition.

I don’t think anyone thinks CanLII is a barrier to openness. Its users would look at you strangely and explain that CanLII is the organization that *promotes* openness. I can’t comment on BAILII as I don’t know them.

Anyway, looking at the many LIIs is instructional, and shows how different organizations in different contexts have found a way to be sustainable and open. I don’t know the business plans of most of them, sorry. But, yes, many will be at least partly publicly funded. So is openlaws.eu right now - and maybe it will secure consistent public funding, find a home in an educational institution, etc. (This is also to answer Stef’s question below).

On Apr 3, 2014, at 10:44 AM, stef <s at ctrlc.hu> wrote:

> On Thu, Apr 03, 2014 at 10:30:55AM -0400, James McKinney wrote:
>> Hmm, that’s strange, I thought there was a self-sustainable alternative that is compatible with ethical licensing, that does not require a monopoly or selling services exclusive to lobby groups, and that maintains free access for all… Oh, right, the Free Access to Law Movement! Wow, look at that! Since the Legal Information Institute was founded in 1992 at Cornell, these have sprung up all over the world: http://www.fatlm.org/ In Canada, CanLII is great.
> i presume these are publicly funded? or departments in universities it seems,
> whatever the funding schemes (like research grants etc) in the various
> countries? can you elaborate on their sources, that makes these departments
> self-sustainable?
>>> If you're not entering the data into the public domain
>> Not all countries have a legal concept of “public domain.” You cannot assign works to the public domain in Canada, and you can’t remove someone else’s copyright, just like that. All laws in Canada have copyright protection, automatically, with no option to waive copyright. It would require a change to a federal statute to change that. In Canada, we find other ways of making data available for free to the public - without entering data into public domain, because that’s impossible / doesn’t even make sense in Canadian law.
> i am aware of the results of the us-based overzealous intellectual
> monopolization campaign, yes. luckily the openlaws project is a EU one, and
> thus not restrained by canadian constraints, and indeed by setting strong
> signals over here in europe we can positively influence global policy-making
> and perhaps slowly reverse the corruption. ;)

Canada inherited its copyright laws from the UK, which still has crown copyright. It did not get its law from the US (we would have public domain if that were the case). The EU does not have an entirely consistent copyright regime.


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