In the last 20 years, large scale electronic collections of legal documents are increasing their dissemination in the public administrations, especially in those entitled to provide official and legal publication of the legal resources. In most countries, there is a purpose to produce a digital counterpart of their traditional representation on paper. But some countries increase such original purpose, covering not only support legal drafting, law-making workflow and consolidated versions of the law, but also long-term preservation, semantic analysis or ontological characterization of the legislative documentation.

LexDania in Denmark

LexDania is a systematic approach that Hugh Tucker? developed to apply structured sets of XML schemas for the juridical text specifications. It has been applied as a national Danish system for the creation and interchange of legislative documentation. In fact, LexDania is the XML format behind the Danish ministerial regulations portal. LexDania was initiated by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation then continued by the Retsinformation (Ministry of Justice) and the Folketinget (Danish Parliament). The work was “conducted in two phases. In a first phase, a research on international activities and an investigation in other national standards and projects was done. In second phase, the development followed using the basic data model / methodology of the General
Danish Public Information Online (OIO) XML strategy. This strategy consists in choosing a set of central types and elements (standards if possible), creating sets of “building blocks” for national use, (re-)using building blocks to create specific legislative schemas.

The project is focusing on developing a system of schemas for the systematic creation and maintenance of document type and application schemas. The system has an unique approach to building schemas. A structure of stratified layers is used to incrementally construct the schemas from functional features – rather than document characteristics. The structure is accompanied by a methodology explaining ways of constructing schemas to assure consistent and compatible schemas.”(1)

XML Schema, System and Functional Features

LexDania project uses extensively the XML Schema Definition Language (XSD)(2) (3). “XSD has been chosen because it is considered an ideal language for constructing schemas in a systematic way due to its ability to declare data types and to modify them in subsequent schemas (providing a controllable yet flexible environment). The choice of XSD has been also compared with its compatibility (interchange) with international law/ projects, and the common goals/ tools/ discussions/ experience in XSD.”(4)

“The standards (XML, XSD, RDF, and DC) are general tools and include facilities for almost every need. Therefore, LexDania has discipline and restrictions to achieve a robust and maintainable system. The framework is accompanied by a methodology … that imposes rules for writing schemas (XSD constraints) but without limiting functionality. The methodology supports the creation, management, and maintenance of many schemas for both domains and applications.”(5)

“Having a common and consistent functional approach provides several advantages. The meta-schema provides syntactic details for all schemas, thus these numerous and repeated details only need to be designed once but can be re-used many times. This approach also positively influences maintenance, documentation and the “learning-curve” . All meta-schema components have a common syntax, congruent linking, addressing, container structures, etc. that enables exciting possibilities for future developments, such as automated information fragment interchange. The intermediary level of schemas, provide functionality for individual domain specific needs, and thereby supporting the re-use of a common syntax by separating out the physical implementation details.”(6)

Contributions of the LexDania Schema
“The most significative contribution of the LexDania schema definition seems to be its modularity which allows to derive specific schemas for particular kind of documents from the same common root.

This characteristic of extensibility follows a well-grounded inheritance mechanisms of elements and data types according to an object-oriented development philosophy.

The inheritance mechanism allows to increment the semantics and the details of the data types for each layer in LexDania schema system.

During the design and implementation phases of the project, LexDania reached consensus on some XML “best practices” .”(7) These best practices are described in one of the Tucker’s Works (8).

But, “Including restrictions as regards data types increases control over document contents
but, as a drawback, it can represent a burden for the drafting and validation activities.”(9)

Other Features

Schema Layers

The LexDania schema system offers three layers “of functional schemas. The project’s data model and methodology encourage and control the incremental development. Further layers build upon the data types and declarations gradually refining and enhancing them with environmental, domain,
and application semantics. The end result is the layer of semantically-rich explicit application/ document-type schemas.”(10)

They contribute a “specific “functionality” . The system functionality is divided so that the basic level defines the syntax; the intermediary layers define domain specifics; and the outer layer defines the document and application specific features and functions.

In the LexDania implementation, the fundamental syntactic details are defined in a single schema LexDania.xsd – sometimes referred as the meta-schema. The intention is that the data types of the LexDania meta-schema will be used as the basis for defining specific legislative document schemas (using the XSL inheritance constructions). In other words, the schema LexDania.xsd defines data types that are used as templates for (i) the content (ii) the structure of all legislative documentation
(iii) addressing and (iv) referencing scheme. (The metadata section is supported by a separate RDF schema for importing and defining vocabularies.)”(11)

Miscellaneous about LexDenia:

1. LexDania does not use namespaces; this choice is motivated by the fact that it makes the definitions and declarations of the schemas and data types easier to read and to work with.
2. There is no mixed content (elements that contains elements and texts), because
it is considered to make programming easier.
3. LexDania uses attributes for Common (global) modifiers, otherwise elements are used.
4. In general, Types, attributes, elements are in Latin, documentation is usually in English and examples are in Danish.
5. LexDania uses URN to identify documents (12), (13).

General meta-information

“Metadata have been designed starting with the top-down considerations imposed by the internationally accepted standards and practices but weight is also put on the bottom-up issues – the existing (legacy) systems and documentation. The design approach from both the top and bottom aims to be internationally compatible but also to assure a sensible, down-to-earth, end-user format.”(14) There are five levels of refinement for metadata (15) [Tucker, 2004d]:

Level 1: “This level is the international level of specifications. For LexDania, the most important actors in the metadata arena are the activities of RDF (at the definition level) and Dublin Core (at the vocabulary level). All definitions, vocabulary and metadata, should directly use or be based as much as possible on these two activities. Adhering to these accepted trends will enable a robust and generally understood set of metadata terms as well as a migration path that a significant number of others will also be implementing.

Level 2 This level refers to the meta-schema. A specific schema concerning metadata has been created. According the documentation, the definitions from RDF and Dublin Core should have been imported in this schema. And, any new basic vocabulary should have been defined in RDF.

Level 3 This level refers to the Omni-schema. This level is recommended to be used to map from RDF to XML (XSL). According the documentation, this should be accomplished by defining the LexDania vocabulary terms in RDF but providing an implementation in XSL.

Level 4 This level refers to the document-type, i.e. specific application factors. Document-type level schemas should import the data types an elements defined at the Omni-schema level. It is the intention that definitions from the Omnischema level will completely satisfy the needs of the document-type schema. If new metadata terms are needed then it is recommended that the Omni-schema level be used to define them.

Level 5 At the end-user level, where the instance documents are produced, managed, and disseminated the use of XML format for metadata is recommended. There are several grounds for this recommendation, but practically the documentation tools and formats that are used today (and in the foreseeable future) are all XML (and XSL) oriented. If an RDF metadata solution were recommended then a new set of tools would be needed as well as maintenance, updating, training, etc. As well, this would introduce a new file format type and extra management of RDF schemas. However, restrictions that will allow us to convert the metadata to RDF are recommended, e.g., no nested logical structures. This approach will also assure legacy application compatibility and allow to remain within a time and economic budget (relevant to implementation).”(16)


Notes and References

  1. General XML format(s) for legal Sources, Estrella Deliverable 3.1, Caterina Lupo et al. (2007)
  2. Tucker, H. LexDania – Documentation. Guidelines for Writing Omni- and DocType and Application Schemas.
  3. Tucker, H. Lex Dania – White Paper. A System of XML Schemas for Danish Legislative Documentation.
  4. Idem 1
  5. Idem 1
  6. Idem 1
  7. Idem 1
  8. Tucker, H. (2004). LexDania – Documentation. XML and XSL Best Practices for Writing Schemas.
  9. Idem 1
  10. Idem 1
  11. Idem 1
  12. Tucker, H. (2004). LexDania – Documentation. Introduction to Concepts and Status of XML Linking.
  13. Tucker, H. (2004). LexDania Documentation. Universal addresses.
  14. Idem 1
  15. Tucker, H. (2004). LexDania – Documentation. Metadata.
  16. Idem 1

See Also

  • Semantic Web and Law
  • Semantic Indexing and Law
  • XML Standards for Legislation
  • MetaLex
  • LegalXML
  • Linked Data Principles to Legal Information
  • NormeinRete
  • CHLexML
  • 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

  • Arnold-Moore, T. (1997). Automatic generation of amendment legislation. In Proceedings of the International Conference of Artificial Intelligence and Law.
  • 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,
  • Alexander Boer, Rinke Hoekstra, Radboud Winkels, Tom van Engers, Frederik Willaert Pages: 142-149, EGOV ’02 Proceedings of the First International Conference on Electronic Government 2002
  • 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
  • Estrella Project user report. Deliverable4.5,EuropeanCommission, 2008.
  • Tucker, H. (2004). LexDania – Documentation. Guidelines for Writing Omni- and DocType and Application Schemas.
  • Tucker, H. (2004). Lex Dania – White Paper. A System of XML Schemas for Danish Legislative Documentation.
  • Data models for version management of legislative documents, Marà­a Hallo Carrasco,
    Journal of Information Science.
  • T. Bench-Capon and F. Coenen. Isomorphism and legal knowledge based systems. Artificial
    Intelligence and Law, 1(1):65-86, 1992.
  • 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.
  • R. Rubino, A. Rotolo, and G. Sartor. An OWL ontology of fundamental legal concepts. In
    Proc. JURIX 2006, pages 101-110, 2006.
  • S. Sadiq, M. Orlowska, andW. Sadiq. Specification and validation of process constraints for
    flexible workflows. Information Systems, 30(5):349-378, 2005.
  • G. Wagner, G. Antoniou, S. Tabet, and H. Boley. The abstract syntax of RuleML towards
    a general web rule language framework. In Proc. Web Intelligence 2004, pages 628-631.
    IEEE, 2004.
  • Sébastien Ros, Mapping objet-relationnel, Couches d’accès aux données et Frameworks de persistance, Février 2003
  • Guillaume ZUNINO, «Outils de transformation de données XML», Université de Caen, Master 2005-2006
  • Yannick PRIE, «Modélisation de documents audiovisuels en Strates Interconnectées par les Annotations pour l’exploitation contextuelle», thèse, INSA lyon, 99 ISAL 0112, 1999
  • 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



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