Home > 6th Conference on Computerisation of Law via the Internet > The papers > 2- Thursday, November 4th : The Creation, Evolution and Dissemination of (...) > First Round Table: The Juridical Internet: New Means, New Inequalities. (...)

First Round Table: The Juridical Internet: New Means, New Inequalities. Ginevra PERUGINELLI

The Free Access to Law via the Internet - A New Guarantee for Democracy within a New Sphere in the Struggle for Influence

Thursday 4 November 2004, by Ginevra Peruginelli

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Mrs Ginevra Peruginelli, Institute of Legal Information Theory and Techniques (ITTIG - CNR) Florence, Italy

Je suis ici pour représenter l’Institut d’information Juridique du Centre National de la recherche italienne. Je travaille comme chercheur dans l’Institut, je m’occupe de la gestion d’une base de données bibliographiques d’informations juridiques. Le directeur de mon Institut, Prof Palazzolo regrette et s’excuse de ne pas être ici aussi que Monsieur Ragona que je remplace dans cette table ronde. Nous avons été invités pour exposer la situation italienne dans le domaine du droit sur Internet. Ma présentation sera en anglais et je m’excuse pour ça.

La situation en Italie


First of all I will give you a very brief overview of what is the Institute and its goals. Then I will analyze the situation of online legal information in Italy distinguishing among statutes, case law, legal literature and administrative regulations. At the end I will focus on a big public project called NIR Norme in Rete which is a very important initiative in accessing legislative information


The Institute of Legal Information Theory and Techniques belongs to the Italian National Research Council and was born in nineteen eighty six in Florence
The Institute’s activities include research, specialized training, consultancy and technical-scientific transferral in the field of information and communications technology applied to law and public administration. The Institute produces and distributes data bases of national and international importance and makes specialized tools and software available for the searching of legal information on the Web.
The mission of the institute is to research and applies information and communication technology to the areas of law and legal language, legislative technique, legal decision-making, and the training of lawyers. We try to carry out our work in partnership with other key actors as other academic institutions, governmental bodies, law firms, bar associations, commercial publishers and so on


The specific areas the Institute is interested in are:
Methods and techniques of legal documentation this means Tools for the searching of legal resources on the web;
Legimatics: computing for legislation which studies new Tools for the analysis, drafting and linguistic and structural checking of legislative acts.
New methods for the analysis and treatment of legal data and Knowledge representation, artificial legal reasoning, information management
Informatics and teaching of law Creation of electronic support tools for the law training.
Law and e-government policies
History of legal language and lexicography Methods and tools for the linguistic analysis of historical-legal documents


But lets see now the Italian situation of legal information available on line which has started in 1995. The 4 legal information sources: statutes, cases, legal literature and public administration regulations were present only on University and research institutes web sites. So only few websites offered online information. However at that time information was of high quality.

Only in 1998 legal information started to be available on institutional web sites of the major producers of legal information sources such as Parliament, Ministries, publishers and so on. Of course the legal resources have different level of accessibility and availability: There are in fact different levels of information because materials are available in full text or there are only abstracts of simply references. And of course the access to these material can be free of charge or on charge.
My presentation focuses on legal resources and services which are free accessible on the web.

Lets start to have a look to legislative information. Italian public bodies offer full text of statutes free of charge through web sites of Parliament, ministries and the Instituto poligrafico della Zecca. This body which is the main source of legislative information gives access to the full text of statutes published in the last sixty days.
A particular mention must be made of NIR Norme in Rete. This project coordinated by the Minister of Justice in collaboration with ITTIG is a very interesting initiative and a challenge of Italian government. It is an e.government project whose aim is to improve accessibility to legislation by providing a unique point of access to Italian and EU documents published on different web sites. The main characteristic is the definition of standards to represent data and metadata meaningful in the legal domain. But I will speak about the project in more details later on.


As regards the access to case law we can distinguish among administrative accounts and constitutional jurisprudence which is free of charge through the different web sites of Courts. Whereas full text and maxims of ordinary jurisprudence produced by civil and criminal courts are on charge.
Access to case law is mainly through the Italgiure legal documentation system of the Supreme Court of Cassation which offers to users forty databases available on charge in Telnet or the new Web modalities. Only employees of central administrations and judges can have free access to case law.


Legal literature is an other important source of legal information. Unfortunately the access of this source is the monopoly of publishers who still mainly rely on print material. Legal e.book are not at the moment available in the publishing market. Periodicals only on line are scarce and not under quality control and mainly on charge. Periodicals which have online version which reflects the print one are usually both on charge.
There are bibliographic database and guides too which are prepared by libraries and documentation centres. However they give access only to reference information. They offer table of contents, abstracts or only links to legal web resources. But some efforts are made towards electronic publishing. A few publishers have adopted the strategy of download credit to sell single online articles. However users have to subscribe for a year to the periodicals they want to have access to.


Un example of legal literature Italian database is DoGi which is a repository of abstracts of articles published in the most important Italian legal periodicals. It is produced and distributed by ITTIG and it is free of charge.
For each indexed article the database offers table of contents, abstract, a very depth classification containing a systematic and several descriptors and normative and jurisprudential references quoted in the article which point to full text of the legal source. In that way users are able to retrieve the full text of the quoted statutes and some of the jurisprudential sources.


This is an example of the highly structure record of DoGi and the different functionalities. By clicking on classification notations, in the selected record is it possible to navigate in the whole database. By clicking on the Title of a periodical in the selected records users can have access to information on: a) bibliographic record of the periodical; b) availability in Italian libraries (through link to ACNP Catalogue)


As concerns administrative activity Italian government since long provides administrative acts free of charge through central and local administrative institutions’ web sites. But only with the appearance of Internet the documentation of the various phases of the administrative process has been made possible. This allows transparency towards citizens and administrative simplification. Un important example of an access point to all central and local administrative activity is Italia dot Gove dot it.

This is the final topic I want to address. The NIR Project is one of the major initiative of the last few years. Coordinated by the Italian Authority for Information Technology in the public Administration in conjunctions with Ministry of Justice and my Institute it was started with a feasibility study in 1999 and it is operative since 2002. The project is based on a federative approach in order to create a cooperation among the producers of legislative information. Just a look to figures:
One hundred eighty thousand documents. Up to fifty participants in the field of public administration and up to one hundred thousand search sessions par month.


But lets see the main features of the project. First of all access is free of charge. Providers of statutes work tighter having adopted specific national standards. The URN for cross-references and the DTDs for legislative texts.

There are surely different benefits according to the various users:
For example the project supports public administration in managing legislative documentation life cycle and law consolidation in order to realize simplification and interoperability.

The purposes of the project are first of all a construction of a specialised portal equipped with a search engine for retrieving legal documents. Then the definition of standards to represent data and metadata which are specific to law material. And development and distribution of open source software to support legislative document management and publishing to public administration.

What I want to underline is the importance of the adoption of two national standards produced by two specific national working group
There are two standards: STANDARD:
Uniform Resource Name (URN) based on Internet engineering task force which:

- identifies each document regardless of its physical address (URL)

- allows automatic hyperlink through a resolution system. The URN in fact is a persistent location independent resource identification mechanism
and the second standard for legal document description is the Document Type Definition (DTD) for Italian legislative and regulatory acts (based on doublethreeC) to represent documents structure, semantics and metadata


The adoption of a scheme based on URN allows to build an automated distributed hypertext.

- the URN is built by combining data always included in the reference. The specific grammar is basically: name of the promulgating authority, type of norm, date, number and a set of more detailed specifications when needed;

There two tools for implementing the standard. A Parser available on-line, automatically detects references within laws and a Resolution service which is A resolution mechanism from uniform name to on-line location of the corresponding resources.


A new challenge born in the framework of the NIR Project is NIR EDITOR which is an editing system developed in order to make the adoption of such standards easier. The production of new documents, as well as the transformation of legacy contents according to the NIR standards, can be a hard problem to face. Nir Editor is a specific visual XML editor which is able to handle legacy legislative documents and to produce new legislative documents according to NIR standards I showed you just now


After all the future plans of NIR are to extend the strategies used for handling and making accessible legislative information to jurisprudence and legal literature and at the moment a feasibility study is in progress.
There is also a plan to create a legal text which is the result of assembling modifications integrations and abrogation of previous provisions in order that judges lawyers and all legal professionals can rely on a sort of virtual text instead of many legal texts.


Thank you for your attention. This is my email if you need clarifications I hope to help you


Here are indicated some links which perhaps are interesting for your work.


In NIR environment legislative documents are in fact described by the XML standard;
URN •Each law contains several references to other laws: the whole legislative corpus can be seen as a net, laws being nodes connected through references;
URNs can be built regardless the availability of corresponding documents on-line.

PDF - 356.2 kb
La situation en Italie
PowerPoint - 446 kb
La situation en Italie

Any message or comments?


This forum is moderated before publication: your contribution will only appear after being validated by an administrator.

Who are you?
Your post
  • To create paragraphs, just leave blank lines.