Free access to the laws that bind us?

By Nick Holmes on August 17, 2006
Comments Off on Free access to the laws that bind us?
Filed under Information rights, Law publishing, Legislation

Heather Brooke who blogs on FoI issues on Your Right to Know writes today in Technology Guardian about the Statute Law Databaseas part of its Free Our Data campaign under the headline “Access denied to the laws that govern us”.

It’s true the publiccontinues to bedenied access to the SLD which has been some 10 years in the making.That will change with the public release, likely in December. But the DCA is reserving its position on rights to access and re-use the SLD which it regards as a “value added product” for which it must, according to the Treasury, attempt to recoup its outlay.

We’ll have to wait and see what is the “commercial model” it is hatching. It’simpossible to see how it will be able to charge foraccess without incurring the wrath of us all.

What of re-use then? There’s any number of ways theDCAcould charge for commercial re-use. But if the SLD comes up to scratch – ie, as advertised, isthe definitive,reliable, up-to-daterepositary of consolidated primary and unconsolidated secondary legislation – commercial publishers will think twice about substantial re-use and repurposing ofthe data. Instead they will link extensively to the SLD and/or frame SLD provisions alongside their own annotations and commentary. That will be lead to extensive access by end-users via requests from the publishers’ servers.