Free Access to Law Movement
The Free Access to Law Movement is a collective of legal projects from various countries that aim to provide free online access to legal information such as case law and legislation.
The movement began in 1992 with the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. There are 40 members of the movement and 2 inactive members.
Short name Full name Coverage Member Since
Asian Legal Information Institute
Australasian Legal Information Institute
British & Irish Legal Information Institute
UK and Ireland
Botswana e-Laws Botswana e-Laws
Canadian Legal Information Institute
Cardiff Index Cardiff Index
Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations
Commonwealth Legal Information Institute
Institut Francais d’information Juridique
Global Legal Information Network
Hong Kong Legal Information Institute
Hong Kong SAR
IALS IALS Information Projects
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Information Projects
Institute of Law & Technology
Instituto de Investigaciones Juràdicas
Irish Legal Information Initiative
Institute of Legal Information Theory & Techniques
Jersey Legal Information Board
Juristisches Internetprojekt Saarbrücken
Kenya Law Reports
Korean Legislation Research Institute
Kathmandu School of Law
The LawPhil Project
Liberia Legal Information Institute
LII (Cornell) LII (Cornell)
Legal Information Institute
LIIofIndia LII of India
Legal Information Institute of India
Legal Information System of the Federated States of Micronesia
Federated States of Micronesia
Malawi Legal Information Institute
Namibia Legal Information Institute
New Zealand Legal Information Institute
Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute
Southern African Legal Information Institute
Swaziland Legal Information Institute
Taiwan Legal Information Institute
Thai Law Reform Commission
Ugandan Legal Information Institute
World Legal Information Institute
The World Legal Information Institute is the umbrella project for the other LII projects.
The majority use one of two open source search engines: the Sino search engine developed by AustLII (previously shared, but only open source since 2006), and the Lucene search engine utilised by LexUM in the development of various LIIs.
According to the article “Legal Information Institutes and the Free Access to Law Movement”, by Professor Graham Greenleaf, the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) was started by two Law Schools in Sydney, Australia, in 1995. It borrowed the ‘LII’ suffix from Cornell, as others have done since. By 1999 it had developed databases from all 9 Australian jurisdictions covering key providers of case law, legislation, Treaties and some other content. AustLII’s initial significance was that it was the first attempt world-wide to build a comprehensive national free access legal information system rivaling that of commercial publishers. From 1999 AustLII started to use its search engine (Sino) and other software to assist organisations in other countries, usually with academic roots, to establish LIIs with similar functionality. AustLII initially established between 2000-04 servers and databases for five LIIs (BAILII, PacLII, HKLII, SAFLII and NZLII), then ran them from Sydney for a period on behalf of its local partners. The aim of assisting partners to achieve full local take-over as quickly as possible has been successful, with only NZLII’s server still being operated by AustLII.
According to the Professor, the long-established LexUM team at the University of Montreal built in 2000 the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). It quickly became a very large national LII comprehensively covering Canada’s federal system, matching AustLII in size and usage. LexUM initially used the Sino search engine but then adopting the open-source Lucene search engine and other development tools. Using these, they have developed Droit Francophone (2003), and with local partners developed Juri Burkina (2003) and JuriNiger (2007). AustLII and LexUM both continue to assist development of LIIs in other countries (working on systems yet to be announced), and although their approaches have been somewhat different, both have been effective.
Their “Declaration on Free Access to Law”include the following:
Publicly funded secondary (interpretative) legal materials should be accessible for free but permission to republish is not always appropriate or possible. In particular free access to legal scholarship may be provided by legal scholarship repositories, legal information institutes or other means.
Legal information institutes:
Publish via the internet public legal information originating from more than one public body;
Provide free and anonymous public access to that information;
Do not impede others from obtaining public legal information from its sources and publishing it; and
Support the objectives set out in this Declaration.
All legal information institutes are encouraged to participate in regional or global free access to law networks.
Therefore, the legal information institutes agree:
To promote and support free access to public legal information throughout the world, principally via the Internet;
To recognise the primary role of local initiatives in free access publishing of their own national legal information;
To cooperate in order to achieve these goals and, in particular, to assist organisations in developing countries to achieve these goals, recognising the reciprocal advantages that all obtain from access to each other’s law;
To help each other and to support, within their means, other organisations that share these goals with respect to:
Promotion, to governments and other organisations, of public policy conducive to the accessibility of public legal information;
Technical assistance, advice and training;
Development of open technical standards;
Academic exchange of research results.
To meet at least annually, and to invite other organisations who are legal information institutes to Subscribe to this declaration and join those meetings, according to procedures to be established by the parties to this Declaration;
To provide to the end users of public legal information clear information concerning any conditions of re-use of that information, where this is feasible.
References and Further Reading
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- Article Name: Free Access to Law Movement
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This entry was last modified: September 3, 2012