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[FYI] Australia leads way on database


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Australia leads way on database  

The UK should start to build an independent, free case law and 
legislation database on the Australian model without delay, a 
conference on access to the law concluded last month. Held by the 
Society for Computers & Law (SC&L) in London, the Free the Law 
conference agreed unanimously that the Australian on-line legal 
database, known as AustLII (Australasian Legal Information 
Institute), was a development long overdue in the UK. Laurence 
Eastham, co-ordinating editor of the SC&L journal, urged that lawyers 
and other interested parties should join to create a UK database 
without waiting for the government to take the initiative. A SC&L 
spokeswoman this week predicted that a UK equivalent to AustLII would 
be set in motion in the new year. According to Professor Graham 
Greenleaf, of the University of South Wales, AustLII was founded in 
1995 with an academic grant of A$100,000 (about 40,000), with the 
aim of providing free access to Australian legal information via the 
Internet. The service now has 80 databases of case law, legislation 
and other materials, including the full texts of more than 100,000 
cases and over one million pages of legislation. Up to 200,000 pages 
of the AustLII Web site are accessed each day. Its centrepiece is a 
national law collection, consisting of legislation and decisions of 
the superior courts of all nine Australian jurisdictions. Funding 
bodies, known as stakeholders, include government departments, 
business and other non-government organisations with an interest in 
easy access to up-to-date legal information. Speakers at the 
conference agreed that a UK version of AustLII should be independent 
of government and the legal profession.  

Dan Bindman  

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