Legal & Legislative Content Management using Open Standards
Submitted by Ashok Hariharan (@kohsah) on Friday, 15 September 2017
Section: Crisp talk Technical level: Intermediate
Legal and Legislative content poses unique problems in the digital space, and traditional content management systems or tools are not the best fit. This talk is about the specific challenges posed by such data and how newly available open standards can be combined with technology to bring legal & legislative information closer to citizens.
What is Legal and Legislative Data
How is Legal and Legislative Data different from commonly encountered content
LONG TERM readability, some old laws in current use:
- e.g. Statute of Marlborough (52 Hen 3) from 1267, 4 articles are still in force
- Magna Carta 1215 parts of it were applicable until 1969
- Indian Penal code 1860
Their validity lifecycle is much longer than any modern hardware, software and application
- There was no computer in 1267 nor in 1911 but there were laws
Both the structure and the content have high semantic significance
- An Act is different from a Bill
- Case Law is different from an Act
- An Article and a Chapter in an Act are different things
- Content & Metadata need to be always together
- The Workflow itself has legal significance
High Temporal significance (Sensitivity to Time)
- Laws get amended, and amend other legislation at different points in time
Every legal document is connected to some other extant legal document
How is Legislative Content being handled presently ?
- It is not being handled
- Laws are not searchable, not linked
- They cannot be searched at a point in time
- Their structure cannot be sematically iterated
- Legal information is treated in the context of very short-term systems requirement lifecycles
- Legal Information producers (and consumers) end-up reinventing the wheel every that many years
- Current spending on managing legal content is either very low - or very high
How should they be handled ?
Using Open Standards
Open Source technologies
Top Down v/s Bottom up application
- Who is producing the laws ?
- Who is consuming the laws ?
More difficult going from paper / pdf -> digital, than from digital -> pdf / paper
Talk about available Technology set, application examples
- XML Databases
- Document Production Use cases (and tools)
- Search engines
Some basic knowledge of information management; At least a very elementary understanding (e.g. primary school civics level) of what laws are and how they are produced; an idea of what XML is. Some programming experience / awareness of modern web applications is good but not a must.
I have been working in the niche area involving the convergence between Law and Information Technology since 2005. I used to work for the United Nations, where I was part of project that gave birth to what is now the main Legal Document Standard “Akoma Ntoso” (pron. “Akoma-in-toso”) in use across the world.
I have had the unique opportunity of visiting dozens of Parliaments, Law making bodies and Legal research organizations in different parts of the World – something that has also shown me how good laws can really make a difference for the better, and bad laws can be very hard to undo. Currently I am based out of Mumbai, and I consult with International Agencies and Law-making institutions in different parts of the world, to bring their laws out of dusty cupboards and grainy pdf files into the semantic web.