Project deliverable Open Access

openlaws.eu: Case study 2: United Kingdom

Marsden, Chris

The second case study is a case study of the United Kingdom's provision of free access to law, in terms of cases, legislation, regulatory instruments and academic­expert analysis. Note that as it is produced at Months 9­12 of the project, it is contingent in its first full draft, and will be continually revised. The analysis explains how and whether the environment (institutions, policies and the legal community) is finally developing in which open access models such as openlaws.eu can take root and flourish. The key functionalities of the existing legal publishing system are summarized and described.

This activity involves a review of the existing information systems and legal databases already in use and will produce a specification of the requirements of the system on the basis of the analysis of social, legal and market requirements. The case studies represent the key socio­economic and legal aspects of the services and illustrate the main functionalities, structure and operation of the proposed services. The findings are informed by key informant interviews and form a working assumption. The interviews are supported by the literature review, and the insights of workshops (including the Society for Computers and Law workshop of May 2014, and London workshop of January 2015, as well as the Open Data Institute seminar of March 2015) following which the version was edited.

In conclusion, it may be argued that UK legal data is generally open to reuse and access with the exception of case law restrictions – where a virtuous open data circle has been hampered by legacies of closed and restrictively licensed underfunded systems belonging to legal educational charities BAILII and Incorporated Council of Law Reporters (ICLR). Reforms to case law release would enable the UK to be seen as a ‘best of breed’ open legal data example.

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