Linked Data Principles to Legal Information

Note: see the Encyclopedia´ Linked Data project at Lawi Metadata

Bob DuCharme discussed the value of linked data in United States law. DuCharme notes, “At a recent W3C Government Linked Data Working Group working group meeting, I started thinking more about the role in linked data of laws that are published online. To summarize, you don’t want to publish the laws themselves as triples, because they’re a bad fit for the triples data model, but as online resources relevant to a lot of issues out there, they make an excellent set of resources to point to, although you may not always get the granularity you want.”

He continues, “I’m discussing U.S. Federal law here, but similar principles should apply both in individual states and in other countries. The main sets of laws here are legislation, code, regulations, and court decisions. (‘Code’ refers to laws passed by legislation, arranged by topic; for example, laws passed about taxes are gathered into the Internal Revenue Code.) If you really want to learn about the various forms of legal material and their relationship, I highly recommend the book Finding the Law, which I found indispensable when I worked at LexisNexis.”

DuCharme goes on, “Most law consists of narrative sentences arranged as paragraphs, often with metadata assigned to certain blocks of it. It’s such a good fit for XML that legal publishers were among the first users of XML’s predecessor, SGML… So, while you wouldn’t get much benefit splitting these sentences and paragraphs into subjects, predicates, and objects and publishing them as triples, plenty of government data references laws and related materials, and it’s more helpful if they can reference them with URLs that lead to the actual laws. To add these URLs with any kind of scalability, you need to find out the common format for citing a document (or, if possible, a point within a document) and an online source of those legal documents whose URLs can be built from that citation format with a regular expression or some other automated tool.”

Linked data version of the Law schedule of the Library of Congress Classification

A linked data version of the Law schedule of the Library of Congress Classification system, Class K, would be useful. Class K lays out a very nice hierarchy for classifying legal materials, but the detailed scheme can do double duty functioning as a reference tool as well as a cataloging tool.

For we can see potential use for Class K as a way to browse content, allowing users to explore the hierarchy and see the larger picture of how materials in the system are grouped together. For example, we are researching the possibility of enabling users to dive into the hierarchy at any point and launch a query to potentially retrieve all items related to that level of classification with the click of a single link. By incorporating a linked data version of the Law Classification into, we might also create queries to generate relationships between concepts automatically on any given page, perhaps demonstrating relationships between concepts across different jurisdictions, geographic areas, and languages, or showing broader and narrower concepts not easily discovered during a search.

The law classifications, particularly the newer ones, are a particularly interesting place to start, in part because they present some important challenges. For instance, could the schedules that consist of number ranges for particular regions and countries plus tables for detail within that range be expanded so that the specific numbers could be exposed and used without the necessity of adding up numbers? It seems to me that if the classification is intended to be used as an aid to browsing within a corpus of cataloged items, and as a way to support all kinds of innovation (for instance in figuring out how to applyi the classifications retrospectively), they would need to be expanded and not just published separately as digital analogs to their physical printed versions. I could probably come up with dozens of questions like this (I was a law librarian during the introduction of most of the later schedules) and I’m particularly excited by the thought of bringing classification up front in the conversation about topical access


Example of Linked Data Service from the Library of Congress

us: Law

Here are entered general works on law or legal systems as well as collections of statutes not limited to a specific topic. Works on the science of law are entered [Jurisprudence.] Works on legislative enactments as a source of law, as distinct from constitutional law or from the law arising from judicial or administrative decisions are entered under [Statutes.] Works on the legislative process are entered under [Legislation.] Works on the interpretation of statutes and other laws are entered under [Law–Interpretation and construction.]

Instance Of
MADS/RDF Authority
SKOS Concept Offsite link
Scheme Membership(s)
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Collection Membership(s)
LCSH Collection – Authorized Headings
LCSH Collection – General Collection
LCSH Collection – May Subdivide Geographically
us: Acts, Legislative
us: Enactments, Legislative
us: Laws (Statutes)
us: Legislative acts
us: Legislative enactments
Narrower Terms
us: Bahai law
us: Bible and law
us: Buddhism and law
us: Canon law
us: Christianity and law
us: Commercial law
us: Compensation (Law)
us: Conflict of laws
us: Confucianism and law
us: Constitutions
us: Courts
us: Culture and law
us: Dead bodies (Law)
us: Environmental law
us: Formalities (Law)
us: Illegality
us: International law
us: Jurisdiction
us: Justice
us: Justice, Administration of
us: Law, Primitive
us: Legal polycentricity
us: Natural law
us: Practice of law
us: Procedure (Law)
us: Proportionality in law
us: Public law
us: Public relations and law
us: Publicity (Law)
us: Religion and law
us: Science and law
us: Semantics (Law)
us: Semiotics (Law)
us: Signature (Law)
us: Statutes
us: Technology and law
us: Violence (Law)
Related Terms
us: Jurisprudence
us: Legislation
Exact Matching Concepts from Other Schemes Offsite link Offsite link Offsite link
General Notes
Here are entered general works on law or legal systems as well as collections of statutes not limited to a specific topic. Works on the science of law are entered [Jurisprudence.] Works on legislative enactments as a source of law, as distinct from constitutional law or from the law arising from judicial or administrative decisions are entered under [Statutes.] Works on the legislative process are entered under [Legislation.] Works on the interpretation of statutes and other laws are entered under [Law–Interpretation and construction.]
Example Notes
Notes under [Jurisprudence; Law–Interpretation and construction; Legislation; Statutes]
Change Notes
2001-08-23: new
2011-04-29: revised
Alternate Formats
N-Triples (MADS and SKOS)
MADS – N-Triples
SKOS – N-Triples

Linked Data and Law in the United Kingdom

Note: from

We were also keen that the UK’s Statute Book make a contribution to the growing Web of Linked Data. The UK government is working hard to publish government data using Linked Data standards as part of work on The idea of the Web of Linked Data is to connect related information across the Web based on its meaning. In practice this means creating names for things (by ‘thing’ I mean anything: people, places, ideas) using HTTP, and when someone requests some information about that thing, returning data about it, ideally using

Legislation can make an important contribution to the Web of Linked Data. First, many important concepts and ideas are formally defined by statute. For example, there are 27 types of school in the UK and each one has a statutory definition. (See, e.g., here and here.) What it means to be a private limited company is again defined by statute, as are the UK’s eight data protection principles. One of our objectives with is to enable people creating vocabularies and ontologies to exploit these definitions. This can be done, for example, by using the skos:definition property, to link terms in a vocabulary to the statute. The idea is to ease the process of rooting the Semantic Web in legally defined concepts. Part of the value of this linking is that it enables automatic checking to determine whether a part of the Statute Book has been repealed, in which case the related concept no longer exists. Crucially, gives accurate information about when a section is repealed, by what piece of legislation, and when that repeal comes into force.

At the moment, the RDF from is limited to largely bibliographic information. We have made use of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) and the MetaLex vocabularies, primarily to relate the different types of resource we are making available. FRBR has the notion of a work, expressions of that work, manifestations of those expressions, and items. Similarly, MetaLex has the concepts of a BibliographicWork and BibliographicExpression. In the context of, the identifier URIs relate to the work. Different versions of the legislation (current, original, different points in time, or prospective) relate to different expressions. The different formats (HTML, HTML Snippets, XML, and PDF) relate to the different manifestations. We have also made extensive use of Dublin Core Terms, for example to reflect that different versions apply to geographic extents. This is important as, for example, the same section of a statute may have been amended in one way as it applies in Scotland and in another way for England and Wales. We think FRBR, MetaLex, and Dublin Core Terms have all worked well, individually and in combination, for relating the different types of resource that we are making available.

One challenge we have is with changes to legislation that have yet to be applied to the data by the editorial team. Since we know what these effects are, we have also tried to represent this in RDF. We have used the MetaLex vocabulary to do this, but the result is complicated to interpret, and thus we suspect difficult for users of the data. MetaLex does not aid the elegant expression of amendment information (such as: statute A is changed by statute B, but only when commencement order C brings that change into force). We will be developing our own light-weight ontology for expressing some of these relationships, with the primary focus on ease of querying our data, rather than creating an ontology with the expressive power to be a cross-jurisdictional model.

It should then be possible to align this ontology with others post hoc. Our current use of RDF — and the potential to do more — is another issue where we would welcome feedback from the community.

Semantic Enhancement

This is from the post of Nuria Casellas:

also include the Web of Data (or Linked Data), which relies on the existence of standard formats (URIs, HTTP and RDF) to allow the access and query of interrelated datasets, which may be granted through a SPARQL endpoint (e.g.,, US census data, etc.). Sharing and connecting data on the Web in compliance with the Linked Data principles enables the exploitation of content from different Web data sources with the development of search, browse, and other mashup applications. (See the Linking Open Data cloud diagram by Cyganiak and Jentzsch below.) [Editor’s Note: also applies Linked Data principles to legal information, as John Sheridan explains in his recent post.]

Moreover, a specification to support the conversion of existing thesauri, taxonomies or subject headings into RDF triples has recently been published: the SKOS, Simple Knowledge Organization System standard. These specifications may be exploited in Linked Data efforts, such as the New York Times vocabularies. Also, EuroVoc, the multilingual Thesaurus for activities of the EU is, for example, now available in this format.

“the legal domain offers a perfect area for conceptual modeling and knowledge representation to be used in different types of intelligent applications and legal reasoning systems, not only due to its complexity as a knowledge intensive domain, but also because of the large amount of data that it generates.”



See Also

List of top 10 legal articles in Shapiro’s citation data (11)
Legal Information Institute resources (9.4)
Legal Information Institute (LII) (9.3)
Legal Thesaurus (9.1)
International legal sources of information (8.9)
Archives and data (8.3)
Free legal information (8.2)
Principles for Allocating Loss (7.7)
Topic Maps in the Encyclopedia of Law (7.4)
Lawyers and Principles of Economics (6.7)

About the Author/s and Reviewer/s

Author: international

Mentioned in these Entries

Archives and data, Commercial law, Constitutions, Free legal information, International legal sources of information, Law Classification, Lawyers and Principles of Economics, Legal Information Institute resources, Legal Thesaurus, List of top 10 legal articles in Shapiro’s citation data, Principles for Allocating Loss, Statute Book, Thesaurus, Topic Maps in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Law is our Passion

This entry about Linked Data Principles to Legal Information has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0) licence, which permits unrestricted use and reproduction, provided the author or authors of the Linked Data Principles to Legal Information entry and the Encyclopedia of Law are in each case credited as the source of the Linked Data Principles to Legal Information entry. Please note this CC BY licence applies to some textual content of Linked Data Principles to Legal Information, and that some images and other textual or non-textual elements may be covered by special copyright arrangements. For guidance on citing Linked Data Principles to Legal Information (giving attribution as required by the CC BY licence), please see below our recommendation of "Cite this Entry".

Cite this entry

Legal Citations Generator
(2013, 03). Linked Data Principles to Legal Information Retrieved 10, 2015, from
"Linked Data Principles to Legal Information" 03 2013. 10 2015 <>
"Linked Data Principles to Legal Information", 03 2013. Web. 10 2015. <>
"Linked Data Principles to Legal Information" 03, 2013. Accesed 10 2015.
international, 'Linked Data Principles to Legal Information' ( 2013) <> accesed 2015 October 7

Oxford Scholar: Search for Related Content


Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Linked Data Principles to Legal Information
  • Author: international
  • Description: ContentsLinked Data and Law (Legal Information)Linked data version of the Law schedule of the Library of Congress [...]

This entry was last modified: March 11, 2013

Co-Authors of this Entry:
This entry of the legal Encyclopedia was posted in L, Legal Resources and tagged , , on by You can follow any added content to this entry through the RSS feed. You may skip to the end and expand the entry.

More about Legal Research Instruction

  • Estrella Project
  • International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law

  • About international

    The Encyclopedia of Law was created to be a central, one-stop resource for everything related to law. Our primary goal is to provide a steady stream of current, informative, and credible information about law and related fields to enhance the professional and creative lives of legal practitioners and those exploring law, including the general public. Our content is driven and created by an impressive roster of experienced professionals who work in all areas of the law and cover the field from diverse angles and perspectives.

    One thought on “International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law

    1. Pingback: Encarta Encyclopedia |Legal Magazine

    Help us expand this entry

    You can add text, modify any part of the entry or suggest subject matters that the entry should cover. Send your modifications to our editors for review.

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *