ICALIRDA Conference 2012 – Legal Information in India

International Conference on Access to Legal Information & Research in the Digital Age (ICALIRDA 2012)
February 29 – March 2, 2012

National Law University, Delhi
Mohan Law House

Auditorium, National Law University, Delhi
Sector-14, Dwarka, New Delhi-110078 India

Main Theme:
International Conference on Access to Legal Information & Research in the Digital Age
(29 Feb-02 March 2012)

Sub Themes:
*   Legal Education and Research: Current Development in Digital Age
*   Role of ICT in Development of Comparative Jurisprudence
*   International Law and Globalization in Digital Age
*   Current Trends in Legal Publishing :IPR Issues & Challenges
*   Licensing for Digital Resources
*   Best Practices of Information & Knowledge Management in Libraries
*   Open Access Initiatives and Scholarly Publishing
*   Free Access to Law Movement: National & International Perspective
*   Access, Authorization and Authentication of Digital Web Information
*   Role, Relevancy and Research: Online Legal Databases

For additional information contact the Conference Convener, Priya Rai:
Ms. Priya Rai
Deputy Librarian,
Justice T.P.S.Chawla Library,
National Law University Delhi,
Sec-14 Dwarka, New Delhi-110078
Tel: 011-24533441,09811260504


hat tip to Aru Satkalmi.

Keeping up with the federal courts with CourtListener

The CourtListener.com

From the website:

The goal of the site is to create a free and competitive real time alert tool for the U.S. judicial system.

At present, the site has daily information regarding all precedential opinions issued by the 13 federal circuit courts and the Supreme Court of the United States. Each day, we also have the non-precedential opinions from all of the Circuit courts except the D.C. Circuit. This means that by 5:10pm PST, the database will be updated with the opinions of the day, with custom alerts going out shortly thereafter.

This [open source] site was created by Michael Lissner as part of a masters thesis at the University of California, Berkeley School of Information.

Law.Gov: America’s Operating System, Open Source

Carl Malamud (public.resource.org) just posted on Radar O’Reilly about Law.Gov: America’s Operating System.  Carl writes:

Public.Resource.Org is very pleased to announce that we’re going to be working with a distinguished group of colleagues from across the country to create a solid business plan, technical specs, and enabling legislation for the federal government to create Law.Gov. We envision Law.Gov as a distributed, open source, authenticated registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States. More details on the effort are available on our Law.Gov page.

To kickstart this amazing effort, Carl and his co-conveners will be hosting a series of workshops.  After these workshops, he plans to submit a report to the law makers in DC, and Carl also welcomes others to contribute reports, findings, etc.  Collaboration between the legal and open source world should shed new light and hopefully help answer how to best serve and provide this content.

The Law.gov site features supportive responses from both Andrew McLaughlin (Deputy CTO) and Senator Lieberman.   Also available on the Law.gov site is Carl’s call to action at the Gov 2.0 Summit (September 2009) hosted by Tim O’Reilly.

The co-conveners include legal and technology all-stars (such as Pamela Samuelson, Jonathan Zittrain, Larry Lessig, Tim Wu, Ed Felten, Tim O’Reilly and John Podesta, to name just a few).    This should be an interesting and exciting year.

Legal Ontologies Spin a Semantic Web

Legal Ontologies Spin a Semantic Web
By Dr. Adam Z. Wyner
Special to Law.com
June 8, 2009

“The Semantic Web, an extension of the current www, promises to make documents meaningful to people and computers by changing how legal knowledge is represented and managed. Dr. Adam Z. Wyner explains how legal ontologies will help complete the new Web’s design.”

From the article:


Consider an example ontology for case law. There are various approaches to find relevant case law — using text-mining software, search tools, proprietary indices or legal research summaries. These approaches can extract some latent linguistic information from the text but often require researchers to craft the results; indeed, successful information extraction depends on an ontology, and as there is not yet a rich ontology of the case law domain, much information in cases cannot be easily extracted or reasoned with. Moreover, none of these approaches apply inference rules.

Reading a case such as Manhattan Loft v. Mercury Liquors, there are elementary questions that can be answered by any legal professional, but not by a computer:

Where was the case decided?
Who were the participants and what roles did they play?
Was it a case of first instance or on appeal?
What was the basis of the appeal?
What were the legal issues at stake?
What were the facts?
What factors were relevant in making the decision?
What was the decision?
What legislation or case law was cited?

Legal information service providers such as LexisNexis index some of the information and provide it in headnotes, but many of the details, which may be crucial, can only be found by reading the case itself. Current text-mining technologies cannot answer the questions because the information is embedded in the complexities of the language of the case, which computers cannot yet fully parse and understand. Finally, there are relationships among the pieces of information which no current automated system can represent, such as the relationships among case factors or precedential relationships among cases.

In conclusion, the author remarks:

Legal ontologies are one of the central elements of managing and automating legal knowledge. With ontologies, the means are available to realize significant portions of the Semantic Web for legal professionals, particularly if an open-source, collaborative approach is taken.


About the author:

Dr. Adam Zachary Wyner is affiliated with the department of computer science at University College London, London, United Kingdom. He has a Ph.D. in linguistics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in computer science from King’s College London. He has published on topics in the syntax and semantics of natural language, as well as artificial intelligence and law concerning legal systems, language, logic and argumentation. For further information, see Dr. Wyner’s blog LanguageLogicLawSoftware.

Source: Law.com – Daily Newswire

The Wayback Machine and More From Brewster Kahle

Really nice 2-page spread on Brewster Kahle, “The internet’s librarian,”  in this week’s issue of The Economist.

The Economist

March 7th – 13th 2009

Technology Quarterly insert

Brain scan

The internet’s librarian

Brewster Kahle wants to create a free, online collection of human knowledge.  It sounds impossibly idealistic — but he is making progress

It is easy to dismiss Mr. Kahle as an idealist, but he has an impressive record of getting things done.

I have used the Wayback machine — i.e., The Internet Archive — to find needed documents that were not otherwise available online anymore.  And apparently I’m not the only one:

The most famous part of the archive is the Wayback Machine (its name inspired by the WABAC machine in the 50-year-old television cartoon featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle). This online attic of digital memorabilia stores copies of internet sites . . . Paul Courant, the dean of libraries at the University of Michigan, equates what the archive does for the internet with what the British Museum did for the British empire. . . . The Wayback Machine “gives us access to what people were producing at different points in time,” he says.  Evidentially this is of more than just academic interest: the site gets 500 page requests per second.

The article also discusses “Mr. Kahle’s wider goal:

to build the world’s largest digital library.  He has recruited 135 libraries worldwide to openlibrary.org, the aim of which is to create a catalogue of every book ever published, with links to its full text where available. . . .

The article notes that “this activist for online privacy is also a staunch supporter of openness” and details efforts and litigation Mr. Kahle has been involved with.

Towards an Open Source Legal Operating System

Here’s an article by Katie Fortney, who was an intern at our library.

An informed democratic society needs open access to the law, but states’ attempts to protect copyright interests in their laws are a major roadblock. This article urges broader access, analyzes the implications and legal arguments for and against copyright in the law, and considers strategies for access advocacy.

Fortney, Katie,Towards an Open Source Legal Operating System(February 20, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1347158

Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliothek – Electronic Journals Library

A consortium of German university libraries, led by the University Library of Regensburg, maintains the Electromic Journals Library (Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliothek ). This Web site provides links to online journals organized by topic, one of which is law. The law category contains hundreds of  journals in dozens of languages. The site conveniently indicates which journals provide free content and those that charge per article. Vielen dank to our German colleagues for this useful journal resource.

Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliothek (German Interface)


Electronic Journals Library (English interface)


Learning for Free: Open Access to College Texts

The Los Angeles Times has a nice piece on the open-source movement as it relates to online college text books.

“Free Digital Texts Begin to Challenge Costly College Textbooks in California,” discusses recent developments in allowing access to scholarly texts.

Decoding Liberation and the goodness of FOSS

The library just received a new book called Decoding Liberation: The Promise of Free and Open Source Software, by Samir Chopra and Scott D. Dexter (catalog record below).

From the back cover:

Decoding Liberation provides a synoptic perspective on the relationships between free software and freedom.  Focusing on five main themes — the emancipatory potential of technology, social liberties, the facilitation of creativity, the objectivity of computing as a scientific practice, and the role of software in a cyborg world — the authors ask: What are the freedoms of free software, and how are they manifested? . . .

From the nicely written introduction:

In the past few decades, most commercial software has been distributed in binary form only, thereby providing users with usable programs but concealing the techniques by which these programs achieve their purposes.  Source code for such proprietary programs is regarded as a trade secret, the revelation of which supposedly has disastrous economic effects for its corporate creator.

But there is an alternative: to distribute software with its source code.  This is the guiding principle of free and open source software (FOSS).  At various points in the history of software development, in particular communities of programmers and enthusiasts, and among some modern software corporations, distribution of source code has been and continues to be a fundamental practice.  This distribution creates several potentials for users: to inspect the code of the software they use, to modify it if they are so inclined, and to send the modifications back to the originator for incorporation in future versions of the software.  The core distinction between FOSS and proprietary software is that FOSS makes available to its users the knowledge and innovation contributed by the creator(s) of the software, in the form of the created source code.  This permits, even encourages, interested programmers to become involved with the ongoing development of the software, disseminates knowledge about the inner workings of computing artifacts, and sustains autonomy among the community of software users.  Allowing this form of user participation in the evolution of software has created vast adn sophisticated networks of programmers, software of amazingly high quality, and an eructation of new business practices.

. . .

With this book, the investigation of free software becomes broader than those conducted by lawyers, economists, businessmen, and cultural theorists: FOSS carries many philosophical implications that must be carefully explored and explicated.  FOSS, most important, focuses attention on that often-misunderstood creature: software.  To understand it as mere machine instructions, to ignore its creative potential and its power to enforce political and social control, is to indulge in a problematic blindness.


Author: Chopra, Samir.

Title: Decoding liberation : the promise of free and open source software / Samir Chopra and Scott D. Dexter.
Electronic version: Table of contents only
Related e-resource: Publisher description
               Imprint: New York : Routledge, c2008.
Physical Description: xviii, 211 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Series: (Routledge studies in new media and cyberculture)
Notes: Includes bibliographical references ( p. 181-198 ) and index.
Contents: Free software and political economy — The ethics of free software — Free software and the aesthetics of code — Free software and the scientific practice of computer science — Free software and the political philosophy of the cyborg world.
          Subject (LC): Open source software.
          Subject (LC): Computer software–Development–Social aspects.
          Added author: Dexter, Scott.
                  ISBN: 0415978939 (alk. paper)
                  ISBN: 9780415978934 (alk. paper)

Article on Open Source as the “Dark Horse of Software”

For a recent, thoughtful article on Open Source Software and the major issues related to evaluating and implementing it — plus some practical tips — see Phillip A. LaPlante’s “Open Source: The Dark Horse of Software?” in Computing Reviews (July 15, 2008).