Legifrance is the official French online legislation database. It is an in depth resource for French, European and International laws, norms and regulations

Legifrance was created in 1998 and completed in 2002, when also changed its name, becoming “the Public Service of Dissemination of the French Law on the Internet”(1). In january 2008 a new version of the site was implemented.

Legifrance provides, as a public service, the electronic dissemination, free of charge, of both Community and national law, plus other legal information online. It offers access to the fundamental legal texts of the French Republic: 1958 Constitution, Declaration of the rights of man and citizen. General texts published in the Official Journal from 1 January 1990 onwards and all the codes, laws, updated by-laws, treaties and international agreements can also be consulted. French case law is now available in full text: Constitutional Council decisions from 1958 onwards, State Council decisions from 1965 onwards, the “grands arrêts”since they came into being and the decisions rendered by the French supreme court of judicature from 1960 onwards. Légifrance also provides access to national websites (publishers, universities, research), European websites, international organizations and countries outside of the European Union.

Legal Texts available in Legifrance

Legifrance is the French government entity responsible for publishing legal texts online. It provides access, in French, to laws and decrees published in the Journal officiel, important court rulings, collective labour agreements, standards issued by European institutions, and international treaties and agreements to which France is a party. In particular, the content of the site comprises:

• Normative texts:
– the current constitution, including previous versions and with links to the constitutional court decisions useful for clarifications;
– 60 official codes as ratified by Parliament
– Primary and secondary legislation: Full text searchable database of norms enacted since 1990. Fac-simile of Official Gazette texts from 1978 to 1990, searchable on title and metadata, including texts repealed in the meantime, Fac-simile of all legislation still in application since the origin (first text 1537).
– Legislation applying international commitments: treaties and agreements signed by France, selected international conventions (example: UN Charter) ;
– EU law: links to databases of directives and regulations on the Commission site,and searchable database of transposition measures.
• Collective conventions (negotiated between social partners and ratified by the Government), including past versions, searchable on key-words;
• Case-law : All case-law decisions are amended to delete any names and private details, as instructed by the National Commission “Informatique et Libertés” (CNIL)
– Constitutional Council: full text of the decisions, actions since the origin (1958) and notices of the Government since 1995.
– Decisions and judgments rendered by the Constitutional Council, State Council, Court of Cassation and Court of jurisdictional issues ;
– Judgments rendered by the Audit office;
– Judgments rendered by other judicial and administrative jurisdictions, that were selected according to certain criteria;
– Judgments rendered by the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission of European Rights;
– Decisions rendered by the European Court of Justice and the European Court of First Instance.
• Official publications:
– Primary and secondary legislation, as published daily in electronically certified format in the official gazette;
– Ministerial Official Bulletins which include internal, non prescriptive texts;
– The Official Journal of the European Union.

Therefore, in the site is available all the legal texts “en vigueur”from 1539. In the case of case-law, it is only available the more important decisions from 1875, plus the “juridictions de cassation”from 1988 and a selection of “cours d’appel”.

Legal research of French Law and Case Law

For an international researcher, translated texts of legal materials are no substitute for the original documents.

The section “Translations of French legal texts” is for reference purposes only. The texts accessible there have no legal force. Three types of documents can be freely consulted: translations done specifically to be published on Legifrance, called “Legifrance translations” , translations accessible on other French institutional websites, other translations, referenced per agreement with their authors.

To the extent possible, each translation is shown in two-column format, with the original version in one column facing the French translation in the other. An indication is given if the original text has subsequently been modified and the modifications have not yet been translated.

For reference purposes, Legifrance also provides a number of useful links (to parliamentary assemblies, jurisdictions, independent administrative authorities…).

Leading Free Site of Legal Information

Like the BOE in Spain and DFR (Deutschsprachiges Fallrecht) for German materials, Legifrance is a leading free site for legal information and was the model for the European Union Community site Eur- Lex, created by the European Commission.The texts of Eur_Lex are in the form of collections: treaties, international agreements, legislation in force, preparatory acts, case-law, and parliamentary questions. But navigation around the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) area of the site is very difficult, because there is no key words search engine. The search engine of Legifrance is also one of its most important drawbacks.

In 2011, “though 16 out of the 27 European member states have set up similar databases, only Belgium and Spain have developed such sophisticated applications and rich data repositories.”(2)

It received 23.5 million visits in 2004 and 32.1 million in 2006. In 2010, it received 72 million unique visitors, with 600 million pages consulted.

“Legal Force”

“The legal value of online documentation has been a subject of concern since the origin.
Legifrance was from the inception conceived as a formally recognised communication tool for
the public authorities, and provided with the necessary legal basis. The most recent text
covering the issue is the décret n° 2002-1064 of 7 August 2002 which consolidates previous texts
and lists the types of legal normative documents that are to be made available at no cost to
the public. Detailed rules of operation were set out successively by two ministerial decisions ( February 19982 and 9 October 2002, principally to cater for handling of nominative
information, with special focus on case law.)”(3)

“In France, a 2004 ordinance,(4) which is well explained by an introductory report (5), introduces
the principle that certain categories of legal acts may, or may not be published online. For
certain categories of texts, “owing to their nature, their importance and the persons to whom
they apply, the publication in the official Journal in an electronic form suffices in order to
ensure their entry into force” , i.e. there is no need to print a paper copy. An implementation
décret (6) listed five such categories, which include internal rules applying to the organisation
and staffing of the administration, decisions concerning budgetary appropriations, and HR

This scheme was challenged in court as to its compliance with higher texts. The Conseil d’Etat
ruled that (7) « the substitution of the electronic version to the paper version of the official Journal
made by the ordinance of 20 February 2004 is not likely to infringe on either Article 10 of the
European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by virtue
of which every person is guaranteed the right to the freedom of expression and the one to
receive or communicate information or ideas without any interference from the authorities, nor
the non-discrimination clause mentioned by Article 14 of the same convention » (unofficial
translation.) Confronted with a similar claim, the Belgian Court of Arbitrage (8) ruled differently:
« If it is not accompanied by sufficient measures capable to guarantee the equal access to
official texts, the contested measure (the publication of the Moniteur belge exclusively on the
Internet) has disproportionate effects at the expense of certain categories of persons. It is not
therefore compatible with Articles 10 and 11 of the (Belgian) Constitution » (9). This ruling
however did not lead to any significant change to the reform.”(10)

Like the translations of French legal texts available on the Legifrance site, which have no legal force (are provided for informational purposes only), the texts accesible or distributed on the site are not original or copies with legal value, save some cases. Only the French versions of texts appearing in the Journal officiel de la République française have legal force.

EU Directive on the reuse of public sector information

The Directive 2003/98/EC on the reuse of public sector information ( by default all public information can be re-used for commercial or noncommercial purposes) was transposed
into the French legal system by an ordinance of 2005 (the Ordinance n° 2005650 of 6 June 2005 on the free access to administrative documents and to on the reuse of public information) and its implementing decree (décret or decree n° 20051755 of 30 December 2005 on the free access to administrative documents and the reuse of public information, in application of the Act n° 78753
of 17 July 1978).

While Legifrance comply with the Directive as a result of the 2002 decree, the 2005 decree regulates the problem of the dissemination of legal texts produced by public persons (or holders of public power prerogatives) and which are not integrated in the first decree of 2002 (in the public service of dissemination of law by Internet).

Versions of French Acts

“The quality of the legal consolidation of texts, though criticized by some legal expert is a key feature: it is possible to track all amendments of a given article from its initial state to current version, and even reconstitute the state of a piece of legislation at any time in the past; consolidation concerns embodied by Legifrance are now anticipated at the stage where the new text is drafted”(11)

“One of its most interesting futures is the possibility to easily access different versions of the same act. For each legal act displayed, the user has the possibility to directly access a future version of the
act, i.e. a version with modifications that will come into force later on. For each such version
available, the date of the entry into force of the version is displayed.

Moreover, the user has the possibility to display the version valid at a freely chosen date. This
functionality allows the user to view a future or a past version of a given act. The past versions,
however, are only provided from 2007 and later on.”


Together with non advanced features present usually in a search engine, Legisfrance has several bugs. For example, all the 2007 sentences of the administrative jurisdictions disappear.


Notes and References

  1. Decree nº 20021064 of 7 August 2002)
  2. Managing the Stock of Legislation Experiences, Opportunities and Challenges. The online publication of legislation The example of France’s official legal portal: Legifrance, Charles-Henri Montin.
  3. Idem
  4. legifrance.gouv.fr/WAspad/UnTexteDeJorf?numjo=JUSX0300196R
  5. legifrance.gouv.fr/WAspad/UnTexteDeJorf?numjo=JUSX0400033R
  6. legifrance.gouv.fr/WAspad/UnTexteDeJorf?numjo=PRMX0400087D
  7. Conseil d’Etat, 9 November 2005, case n°271713
  8. Belgian Court of Arbitrage, case n° 106/2004 of 16 June 2004
  9. A full analysis of this episode is provided on :
  10. Idem
  11. Idem

See Also

  • LexFind
  • French Legal System
  • Reproduction of law in Government sites
  • List of International periodicals
  • Legal Gateways Resources
  • CHLexML
  • Semantic Web and Law
  • Semantic Indexing and Law
  • XML Standards for Legislation
  • MetaLex
  • LegalXML
  • Linked Data Principles to Legal Information
  • LexDania
  • NormeinRete
  • EnAct
  • Legal RDF
  • eLaw
  • LAMS
  • JSMS
  • UKMF
  • Estrella Project
  • Legal Ontologies
  • Artificial Intelligence and Law
  • Free Access to Law Movement
  • Legal Information Institute resources

Further Reading

  • S. Cottin (SGG, France) “The public service of dissemination of French law on the internet” (servicedoc.info/spip.php?page=article&id_article=1833);
  • E. Donelan (SIGMA): “European approaches to improving the access to and managing the stock of legislation: 2002, 4th International Conference Law via the Internet, Montréal, “Dematerialized Procedures
  • Without a Cyberjudge : A French Perspective on the Application of Information and Communication Technologies to Justice”(French), Bertrand du Marais, Presentation : PDF <lexum.umontreal.ca/conf/conf2002/actes/dumarais.pdf>
  • 2004, 6th International Conference Law via the Internet, Paris, “La dématérialisation des procédures d’élaboration des textes à publier au Journal Officiel de la République Française”, (French), Philippe Belin,< frlii.org/spip.php ?article62 >
  • Marchetti A., Megale F., Seta E., Vitali F., “Using XML as a means to access legislative documents: Italian and foreign experiences” , ACM SIGAPP Applied Computing Review, 10, n. 1, pp. 54-62 (2002)
  • Vitali F., Di Iorio A., Gubellini D., Design patterns for document substructures, Extreme Markup 2005 Conference, Montreal, 1-5 August 2005, mulberrytech.com/Extreme/Proceedings/xslfo-pdf/2005/ Vitali01/EML2005Vitali01.pdf
  • Gordon, T.F.: Constructing Legal Arguments with Rules in the Legal Knowledge Interchange Format (LKIF). Computable Models of the Law: Languages, Dialogues, Games, Ontologies pp. 162 184 (2008)
  • IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Functional requirements for bibliographic records: nal report. K . G. Saur (1998)
  • de Oliveira Lima, A., Palmirani, M., Vitali, F.: Moving in the Time: An Ontology for Identifying Legal Resources. Computable Models of the Law, Languages, Dialogues, Games, Ontologies pp. 71 85 (2008)
  • Palmirani, M., Benigni, F.: Norma-System: A Legal Information System for Managing Time. In: V Legislative XML Workshop. pp. 205 224 (2007)
  • Presutti, V., Gangemi, A.: Content ontology design patterns as practical building blocks for web ontologies. In: ER2008. Barcelona, Spain. (2008)
  • Valentina Presutti et al.: A Library of Ontology Design Patterns. NeOn project deliverable D2.5.1. (2008)
  • Biagioli, C. and Francesconi, E. (2005). A semantics-based visual framework for planning a new bill. In Proceedings of the Jurix Conference: Legal Knowledge and Information Systems.
  • Jérôme Fuselier et Boris Chidlovskii, Traitements Automatiques pour la Migration de Documents Numériques vers XML, in Document Numérique, vol 9/1 -2006.
  • Ovidiu Vasutiu, David Jouve, Youssef Amghar, Jean-Marie Pinon, XML based Legal Document Drafting Information System, 20th Aniversary Annual JURIX Conference, Workshop on Legislative XML, LIRIS, 12/2007
  • Data models for version management of legislative documents, Marà­a Hallo Carrasco,
    Journal of Information Science.
  • V. R. Benjamins, P. Casanovas, J. Breuker, and A. Gangemi, editors. Law and the Semantic
    Web: Legal Ontologies, Methodologies, Legal Information Retrieval and Applications.
    Springer-Verlag, 2005.
  • C. Lupo and C. Batini. A federative approach to laws access by citizens: The Normeinrete system. In R. Traunmuller, editor, Proc. Second International Conference on Electronic
    Government, Berlin, 2003. Springer.
  • Thomas F. Gordon, Guido Governatori, and Antonino Rotolo. Rules and norms: Requirements for rule interchange languages in the legal domain. In Guido Governatori, John Hall, and Adrian Paschke, editors, Rule Representation, Interchange and Reasoning on the Web, LNCS 5858, pages 282-296. Springer, 2009.
  • Long-term preservation of legal resources, Gioele Barabucci et al.
  • Electronic Government and the Information Systems Perspective, Kim Normann Andersen, Enrico Francesconi, Ake Grünlund
  • Legislative xml: principles and technical tools (commissioned by the inter-american development bank), Monica Palmirani