The Guardian's Free Our Data campaign has notched up a victory in its quest to ensure the consolidated law of the land is available for every citizen free of charge.
The Statute Law Database has been an ongoing government project for the past decade, eating up hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money. In spite of this, officials at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) had said the database would be run using a commercial strategy that would charge users for accessing the laws of the land....
The change of position came via an email, seen by the Guardian, sent by Clare Allison, the enquiry system project manager at the Statute Publication Office to testers of the Statute Law Database.
In it she says: "We are also pleased to announce that the website as it stands will be launched free to the public once piloting has been completed. A commercial strategy will still be developed next year, but will be looking at options that concern the commercial reuse of the data and the development of functionality that will serve the needs of the specialist user."
The UK is unusual in keeping secret and exercising strict copyright control over the consolidated law. Canada, Australia and the US all provide free access to the raw statute law data and there is either no copyright, or it is waived.
Roger Cook, chairman of the British and Irish Law Librarians Association welcomed the news of free access, albeit cautiously. "It's great that the database will now be free of charge but we need to keep an eye on it. The way this is worded it still leaves them the option to charge for it." ...
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.