Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, November 30, 2007

Improving delivery of free online legal info

Andrew Mowbary and three co-authors, Improving stability and performance of an international network of free access legal information systems, Journal of Law and Technology, November 2007.

Abstract:   High quality legal research must increasingly be global and comparative. This is hindered by the limited range of countries’ laws covered by the centralized systems of the multinational commercial legal publishers and by the costs of accessing their materials. Networking of online legal information by commercial legal publishers goes back to the 1970s. Over the last decade a global decentralised network of Legal Information Institutes (or LIIs) has emerged, providing free access to legal information which is comparable with and sometimes better than the commercial providers. Australia’s LII - AustLII, has been a lead player, and created and runs the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII), the principal interface into the shared LII legal data.

The ad-hoc nature of the technical networking between the dozen existing LIIs means that the effective utilisation of this shared infrastructure has previously been sub-optimal and increasingly fragile. This has been exacerbated by the network’s constant expansion. This paper outlines an initiative funded by the Australian Research Council’s E-Research programme to address these problems by building a flexible generic set of tools to support and enhance access to WorldLII and more generally, any network of geographically distributed set of web-based systems.