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First Round Table: The Juridical Internet: New Means, New Inequalities. Graham GREENLEAF

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 Graham Greenleaf

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

Professor Graham Greenleaf, Law Professor, Co-Director of AustLII, University of New South Wales Faculty of Law, Australia

Graham Greenleaf is a Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, where he specialises in the relationships between information technology and law. He teaches and researches in the areas of cyberspace law, privacy, computerisation of law and intellectual property. In 2001-02 he was a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong.

He is a co-founder and Co-Director of the Australasian Legal
Information Institute (AustLII), and of the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII). He is also the founder and Co-Director of the Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre. From 1997-2003 he was the International Consultant for the Asian Development Bank’s Project DIAL (’Development of the Internet for Asian Law’)’.

He has published over 200 articles in his areas of research, is
co-author of books on legal research and IT in complex criminal
trials, and since 1994 has been General Editor of the monthly
Privacy Law and Policy Reporter. In 2002 he and his AustLII
colleagues were finalists in the Law section of the World Technology Awards.

Title: Full free access to law: Global policy aspects of law’s digital commons

The importance and value of free access to both our own national law and to the law of other countries is first outlined. What is the best strategy to achieve this goal on a global basis, particularly in developing countries ?

I outline a strategy which has been advocated by AustLII for a
decade, based on governments recognising and facilitating the right of third parties to republish a country’s essential legal information: a model of competitive republication. A corollary is that free access government legal web sites are not enough: We need free speech, not just free beer, in relation to legal information.

The strategies advocated by three other theorists (each of whom has wide practical experience) are examined to locate similarities to and differences from those we advocate:
- Prof Jon Bing (NRCCL, Oslo), who advocates what may be regarded as a more ’statist’ solution;
- Mr Tom Bruce (LII, Cornell), who advocates a model of distributed self-publication of law by its sources;
- Prof Daniel Poulin (LexUM, Montreal), whose views are closest to our own, but who adds emphasis on decentralisation and open source tools.

These models are compared with three other developments with which they resonate, and which may contribute new elements to the model:

- (i) The Declaration on Free Access to Law adopted since 2002 by the Legal Information Institutes involved in the free access to law movement;
- (ii) The European Directive of 2003 on the re-use of public sector information;
- (iii) The new theories of the public domain, particularly as
expressed in the Creative Commons / iCommons movement.

In conclusion, I identify the implications of the approach we
advocate for the growing global network of free access to law

Any message or comments?


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