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Greenleaf, Graham; Mowbray, Andrew; King, Geoffrey; van Dijk, Peter --- "Public Access to Law Via Internet: The Australasian Legal Information Institute" [1995] JlLawInfoSci 5; (1995) 6(1) Journal of Law, Information and Science 49

Public access to law via internet:
the Australasian Legal Information Institute[*]



The Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), a legal research facility on the internet (, aims to provide access to Australasian legal materials via the internet. AustLII has been jointly established by the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology, Sydney with 1995 funding from DEET's Research Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities Program. It is intended to be a research facility operated with input from all interested Australasian Law Faculties.

AustLII is part of the expanding international network of public legal information servers - facilities providing public domain and freely licensable legal materials via the internet. AustLII's principal purpose is to provide to legal researchers, via the internet, effective access to Australasian legal materials that are in the public domain or for which licences can be obtained at minimal charge. It already includes the hypertext and searchable versions of the full text of over 1500 Commonwealth statutes and regulations, and a variety of law reform reports.

AustLII's public policy agenda is to maximise the free availability of legal information via the internet. To this end it seeks to convince governments, courts, government agencies and other public bodies to make legal data available on a cost recovery basis to those who wish to add value to it and publish it, whether on a non-profit or a commercial basis.

AustLII's technical agenda includes the provision of legislation in rich hypertext form, with cross-referencing between various primary and secondary sources of data, and the integration of free text retrieval and hypertext so as to provide various forms of stored automated searches. Examples of how these goals are being achieved are already provided on AustLII. Other technical goals are sketched. The importance of developing standards for node-referencing schemes between public legal information servers, and other forms of standards, is explained.

The Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), a legal research facility on the internet (, aims to provide access to Australasian legal materials via the internet. This paper explains AustLII's establishment, and the technical and policy agendas that it is developing.

1. AustLII - the story so far

AustLII has being jointly established by the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology, Sydney. Funding of $110,000 for 1995 has been provided by the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) from its Research Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities Program ('Mechanism C'), and is supplemented by a further $50,000 provided by the two host Universities. The establishment of AustLII was supported by the Australian Committee of Law Deans. It is intended that it will develop as a research facility operated with input from all interested Australasian Law Faculties. AustLII commenced operations on 1 January 1995.

AustLII's principal purpose will be to provide to legal researchers, via the internet, effective access to Australasian legal materials that are in the public domain or for which licences can be obtained at minimal charge. As a publicly-funded information utility, AustLII will not charge for access to the materials it provides. Access will be via standard internet tools such as world-wide-web, various search engines, telnet, ftp and list servers.

1.1 AustLII content and services

Among the research materials provided by AustLII will be primary legal materials such as legislation and case-law; secondary materials such as bibliographies, law reform reports, government policy statements and law journals; and data sets to support various types of empirical legal research. The technical and policy questions which have to be addressed in achieving these aims are discussed at the end of the article.

A prototype AustLII www site ( has been developed for demonstration purposes since January 1995, in conjunction with the tasks of obtaining and installing hardware and organising staff and accommodation. At the time of writing (30 May 1995) the prototype contains the following contents:

• The full text of 970 of the 1207 Commonwealth statutes (about 320MB of marked-up text and indexes), marked up in 'rich hypertext' and searchable by both user-controlled and pre-stored free text searches (discussed below). The statutes are consolidated with all amendments as at 17 May 1995. The remaining 235 statutes are being added.

• Over 600 Commonwealth statutory rules (those passed since 1989 and subsequently amended) in full text (about 200MB), consolidated as 22 May 1995 (to be released publicly early June).

The text of the legislation is provided by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department and its SCALE system, and converted into HTML and searchable form by AustLII.

• Two substantial new Discussion Papers from the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, on the subjects of People with an Intellectual Disability and the Criminal Justice System (DP 35) and Defamation (DP 32). More NSWLRC documents are being added.

• An Australian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) Report, Information Technology in Complex Criminal Trials.

• The Justice Statement (May 1995), the Commonwealth Government's response to the 1994 report of the Access to Justice Advisory Committee, as an example of AustLII providing government policy statements via internet as soon as they are announced.

• The www version of Murdoch University School of Law's electronic law journal, E-Law. All issues of E-law are included, with links from the journal to other web resources.

AustLII's Commonwealth legislation already demonstrates that we can provide very large quantities of legal information with a high degree of value-added functions. The other content is not very substantial as yet, but gives an indication of the structure and approach to hypertext presentation that is being developed for AustLII.

Access to other Australian legal materials are being negotiated at present. An agreement for AustLII to provide internet access to the decisions of a major Court is in the process of finalisation. This will provide us with opportunities to demonstrate integration between legislation and case law.

These contents are accessible at present from the AustLII main menu via classifications under 'Sources' (eg 'Commonwealth Statutes', 'NSW Law Reform Commission', 'E-law'). At a later stage, text content will also be accessible via a 'Subjects' classification (eg 'Intellectual Property', 'Evidence and Procedure'), as will relevant e-mail lists, news groups and other sources. The main menu will also provide additional items under 'Services' (eg Austpac/internet gateways to commercial Australian legal services) and 'International' (www links to international sources of law).

Other services of AustLII will include the provision of expertise in data conversion to assist other legal research bodies to develop internet facilities (for example, our collaboration with Murdoch to do the HTML mark-up for E-law), and the operation of e-mail lists concerning specific subject areas of Australasian-oriented legal research.

1.2 Infrastructure

AustLII has purchased and installed as its primary server a Sun SPARCstation 20 Model 502MP with dual 50MHz processors, 64MB RAM, 9.4G disk storage and other facilities. The primary development workstation is a SPARCstation 5 Model 70 with 32MB RAM and 1.5G disk capacity. This should provide AustLII with a sound hardware basis for its work and services for the time being, although additional development machines may be needed for project work. A communications server has also been installed, primarily for development and management purposes. AustLII's facilities are located physically at UTS and UNSW, with the main office and server at UTS.

1.3 Management and development

The co-directors of AustLII are Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray. Geoffrey King has been appointed as Manager, and is responsible for the overall development of AustLII's resources. Peter van Dijk is AustLII's Consultant, and has been primarily responsible for the implementation of Commonwealth legislation on the system.

In addition to the co-directors and Manager, the Management Committee also comprises Joe Ury (Deputy Law Librarian at UNSW), Robert Watt (Senior Lecturer in Law at UTS) and Alan Tyree (Landerer Professor of Law & Information Technology, University of Sydney). It is envisaged that the Management Committee will be expanded in due course. AustLII’s management will be advised on policy matters by an Advisory Committee to be established comprising two nominees by each University Law Faculty that wishes to be involved, plus invitees. The Committee will communicate with AustLII’s management principally via an internet list.

2. Collaboration and co-operation

2.1 Local collaborations

AustLII is developing close co-operative arrangements with other key providers of legal information via the internet, in Australia and internationally. Locally, these include LAWNET, the ANU-based Law Clearinghouse to enhance the quality of University teaching in law, and electronic journals such as Murdoch University School of Law's E-Law (discussed above). The Australian legal profession is starting to make use of network facilities (eg the NSW Law Foundation's communications network, 'First Class Law') and AustLII is seeking to develop co-operative links with initiatives from the profession.

2.2 'Australasian' focus

The 'Australasian' in AustLII is there because, although AustLII's present funding is from Australian funding sources, the primary research community that AustLII will serve, that of academic legal researchers, is organised on an Australasian basis (ie Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand) through the Australasian Law Teachers Association (ALTA). The research networks of many legal academics (including the Interest Groups into which ALTA is organised) are Australasian in focus. AustLII's e-mail lists, resource lists, and other such facilities will therefore necessarily be 'Australasian' in focus.

As a matter of policy, AustLII will also be willing to provide technical assistance in developing internet resources to any PNG or NZ law school on the same basis as to Australian law schools, if so requested. PNG and NZ legal academics will be invited to join AustLII's Advisory Committee if they wish. If we received any requests to locate available PNG or NZ legal materials on the AustLII server, we would do so. However, it is more likely that local servers will provide such materials. There are already well established Law School servers at Waikato (http://www2.wai/ one of the earliest on the web, and Auckland (, and it seems logical that such law school servers will develop to include substantive NZ law as has occurred elsewhere. If AustLII can provide assistance in such developments, it will do so.

Whatever role develops, the focus of our Institute will be broader than solely 'Australian', whether or not 'Australasian' remain the best description or name.

2.3 Public legal information servers

AustLII will be part of the expanding international network of internet servers which are concentrating on providing publicly available legal materials throughout the internet. Examples of such servers provided by Universities are Cornell's Legal Information Institute ( (US Supreme Court; NY Court of Appeals; US Code, other legislation, model codes), Universities in Florida, Utah, Indiana and Texas (State constitutions and codes) (see Cornell's site for a consolidated list), the University of Montreal's Centre de recherche en droit public ( (Canadian Supreme Court; Quebec Civil Code), and the Department of Anthropology, University of Western Australia ( (Australian native title case law).

There are also an increasing number of such servers provided by public bodies themselves[#] , including the Australian Parliament (, and the Law Reform Committee of the Victorian Parliament ( lawrefhome.html). Some examples of legislation being provided by government agencies in a very plain text form are VicNet's provision of the Constitution Act 1975 (Vic) ( vicnet/vicgov/exec/const1a.htm) and the Tertiary Education Act 1993 (Vic) ( Other than these isolated examples, the Australian Governments' Entry Point (, which attempts to list all governmental servers in Australia, includes no material related directly to law as yet. The New Zealand Government Web Pages ( also provide a selection of legal materials, including the Treaty of Waitangi ( and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 ( An important journal, the Maori Law Review (, is provided privately.

Overseas examples of government agency servers include the Library of Congress' THOMAS: Legislative Information on the Internet (, the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia (, legislatures in California, New York, Washington and Minnesota, and many more US agencies listed at Villanova's Center for Information Law and Policy ( There are also some international organisations attempting to be involved, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (

Most of the University-based internet servers providing law-related information are somewhat different from the type illustrated above, in that they provide combinations of the following: (i) 'Faculty' information, including course and staff details; (ii) a law school's own Journal in electronic form; and (iii) catalogues of resources available in a law library; and (iv) various forms of indexes of legal materials available elsewhere on the internet. These servers sometimes overlap with the public legal information servers listed above.

The international development of public legal information servers is part of the more general movement to create publicly available (or 'free to air') resources on the internet, similar in some respects to the creation of public libraries in the nineteenth century. The internet is fast becoming home to commercial providers of information, and effective means of charging for even occasional uses of resources are being developed. The countervailing movement, of which AustLII is a part, aims to ensure that some part of cyberspace is public space, where no one is denied use of resources because of financial considerations. Unless this is achieved, the internet will become '500,000 nodes and a toll booth on every one'.

2.4 Standards - www and others

Law-specific proposed standards for internet-accessible legal data are emerging, because legal documents have peculiar typographical and structural disciplines which are not common to other disciplines, and must be utilised in a standard way to maximise the internet’s research value. Leaders in the US development of legal information servers have argued for standardisation of the following elements: extensions to HTML mark-up; a core set of searchable fields; document granularity; link naming schemes; and a media-neutral citation scheme: [Bruce, Martin and Sadler, 1994].

Probably the most important aspect of standardisation that is needed to maximise the potential of legal data via www is to develop consistent, transparent and publicised node naming schemes (also called 'link naming schemes'). As discussed below under our 'technical agenda', extensive hypertext can only be created by automated means. For the potential of the publicly available resources on www servers (whether AustLII, or a server elsewhere in the world) to be realised fully, it needs to be possible for developers of legal documents in HTML format to know exactly how to create links to (say) any Australian legislation that a Journal article, law reform report or case report on their server might refer to. If they have to access another server each time in order to use their browser's 'source' function (in Netscape) to see what idiosyncratic mark-up was used this time, rich hypertext between servers on the www will never be built. HTML developers must be able to know without looking how the 'public legal servers' around the world label their nodes.

[Bruce, 1995] points out that authors of legal commentary in print can rely on their readers having access to print copies of the primary materials they cite, whereas authors of legal hypertexts cannot yet rely on being able to create links to such primary materials. The needs of such authors must be kept in mind as public hypertext collections of legal materials are developed. Similarly, Bruce points out that authors of legal hypertexts need to create their own works on the assumption that others will wish to provide multiple points of access to those works, and structure them accordingly.

Cornell's LII has published its own Evolving Standards for WWW Legal Document Preparation (1993) (, which elaborates on link naming schemes:

File and internal tags should be derived from standard citation references so that someone other than the builder can create a link to any point in the collection, knowing simply the print reference and the chunking and naming scheme employed by the author/editor/publisher. For example, knowing the WWW address of the UCC material and a particular section or subsection citation (e.g., UCC 2-403), another WWW author/editor/publisher can construct a link from a document discussing the situation of a good faith purchaser of goods to the text of that section:

"HREF= /ucc/ucc2-403.text.html"

AustLII's role will be to participate in the evolving international development of such standards, contributing a perspective based on the needs of Australasian legal materials.

3. A public policy agenda

AustLII's existence is based on the premise that a substantial part of the information which is valuable for legal research should be 'publicly available', using this expression to include any materials which are able to made available to the public free of charge, irrespective of whether there is still some copyright claim over them. An important aspect of AustLII's function is to argue on behalf of the legal research community for the maximum amount of law-related information which emanates from publicly-funded bodies to be made 'publicly available' so that organisations such as AustLII can disseminate it.

3.1 Copyright and other obstacles

The issue here is not solely whether there should be any copyright claim made by governments, courts, or government agencies, over such materials as legislation, cases or reports by agencies. It is quite possible, as the NSW government has shown in relation to legislation, for a government to theoretically claim Crown copyright but to give a blanket licence to the public. The Commonwealth government has not given any such blanket licence to the public, but has been willing to give licences for the commercial computerised use of legislation on request, including a licence to AustLII to include all Commonwealth legislation on the internet. Government agencies (such as the NSW Law Reform Commission) are also able to licence AustLII to publish their reports on the internet, while exercising some control over the quality of presentation by the fact that their copyright claim is preserved.

The secondary importance of the technical legal question of copyright is also shown by the fact (discussed below) that unless governments and agencies positively co-operate with non-commercial bodies which wish to provide information via the internet by providing them with raw data in computerised form, non-commercial bodies are unlikely ever to be able to publish the data in any form. It is therefore primarily a question of public policy, not a question of copyright.

There are a number of complex public policy issues involved here, and considerable commercial interests. The debate on these issues in the United States, Canada and elsewhere is very considerable and often litigious (see [Love, 1995] for a summary of US developments), and no doubt it will become more intense in Australasia.

The 'AustLII policy agenda' sketched below is in an early stage of development, but is put forward for discussion. One of the most comprehensive attempts to develop such a public policy agenda is Perritt's Report to the US government on electronic dissemination of public information by US Federal agencies ([Perritt, 1994]), which argues for many of the same points as are sketched below.

3.2 Primary materials - legislation and case law

Legislatures and courts can be argued to have only completed their work in formulating the law in the public interest, and in making it available to the public who must comply with it, when the output of their deliberations (legislation and decisions) meets the following five criteria:

(i) It should be in a completed form, including such additional information as is best provided by the source. The additional information should include catchwords nominated by the judge (as recommended by the AIJA: [Olsson, 1992]), and the consolidation of amending legislation by Parliamentary Counsel (as implemented in NSW, the Commonwealth and some other Australian jurisdictions). Other parties (such as publishers) should not have any role in assisting Courts 'tidy up' their judgments prior to the official release, because of the risk of copyright claims being asserted by them.

(ii) It should be in an authoritative form, in the sense that includes citations and numbering such that it can be cited to any court in an acceptable way. This means that Courts should assign their own sequential numbering systems to cases decided (eg HC 95/43), and should number paragraphs so as to make the medium of reproduction irrelevant. Each publisher of case law would be free to use its own numbering system, but would probably need to develop a correlator to the Court's own numbering system.

The demand for such 'vendor neutral citation systems' is very contentious in the United States, where it has become one of the main weapons being used by opponents to West Publishing's de-facto monopoly on case law in some jurisdictions (see [Love, 1995]). [Perritt, 1994] recommends US development of 'a national legal document citation system that is nonproprietory and is as suited for electronic as paper formats'. In an important test case, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin has deferred any decision on a petition by the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Judicial Council of Wisconsin seeking the creation of a rule requiring the Court Clerk to keep an authoritative electronic archive of judgments, and creating a new 'medium neutral' and 'vendor neutral' citation form, until it can test such an approach for at least a year (In the Matter of the Amendment of Supreme Court Rules: Electronic Archive of Appellate Opinions, Rules and Orders; Citation of Wisconsin Appellate Opinions - Order #95-01, 24 May 1995). A Bill has also been introduced into the US Congress providing that Federal or State Courts and agencies may not require legal citations in which copyright subsists, where alternatives exist (104th Congress, Bill HR 1584, introduced May 9, 1995).

(iii) It should be provided in a form facilitating dissemination, which means that it should at least be available on disk in ASCII (and preferably a choice of other formats and delivery media if possible). Where official bodies have created a created this data in computerised form as a by-product of their normal work, it is in the public interest that it should be available in that form.

(iv) It should be provided on a cost-recovery basis equally to anyone who wishes to obtain it (including other government agencies and commercial publishers). Public policy should support maximising public access to the law. Its dissemination should not be regarded as a 'profit centre' supporting other aspects of the operation of the judicial system.

(v) There should be no restriction on the re-use of it for any purpose including the creation of value-added products for resale. Public policy should support the maximum dissemination of the law, and in the forms to make it most understandable. The methods by which legal data is best disseminated are still unsettled and changing rapidly, and there are markets for the same source information with different features and at different prices. The fostering of maximum competition in the provision of different types of legal products seems to be the only way to meet the public interest.

The NSW Government's approach to the dissemination of legislation is a model implementation of all of these elements.

This policy agenda does not require any preferential treatment for organisations like AustLII that are publicly funded - though their could be arguments for that - but instead promotes effective access to the sources of law by all who wish to create value-added legal products, whether on a commercial basis or a publicly-funded basis.

3.2.1 Secondary materials - law reform reports, government reports etc

Somewhat different considerations apply to secondary legal materials created by publicly funded bodies, whether law reform reports, criminal statistics, or Ombudsman's reports. The public bodies responsible for these documents do not have quite the same imperative to disseminate 'the law', and finding an appropriate balancing between disseminating their work and recovering some of its costs is a more often a more justifiable exercise. However, such organisations often do not have access to in-house or other governmental expertise, hardware and administration necessary to create and maintain internet resources, and it is of considerable value to them to collaborate with publicly funded research bodies such as AustLII to reach their audience more effectively. It is often particularly attractive for such organisations to be given their own Home Page so that their own clientele can access all of their material directly without the necessity to come through, say, the AustLII main menu. The virtual access mechanisms provided by hypertext are particularly useful here.

[Perritt, 1994] argues that 'agencies must not cut off potentially competing resellers from "upstream" access to more basic elements, including raw content. It is reasonably clear that agencies should price their information products at levels no greater than the marginal costs of dissemination...'. The US Congress recently enacted legislation (Paperwork Reduction Act (1995), Public Law 104-13) prohibiting all federal agencies 'from charging prices for information which exceed the cost of dissemination. Government royalties or fees on the redissemination of information are prohibited. Agencies are also required to disseminate underlying records of information products, and prohibited from entering into exclusive distribution arrangements that interfere with "timely and equitable availability of public information to the public".' ([Love, 1995b]).

One of the most important general conclusions reached in [Perritt, 1994] is that '[a]gencies should concentrate on making their information resources available through the Internet rather than on making major investments in user interfaces'.

AustLII's agenda here is simply to encourage as many such public bodies as possible to make their information available free via the internet, to assist them to do so, and to provide a host for their data where appropriate.

4. A Technical Agenda

AustLII is also developing a 'technical agenda', a set of goals for how it will develop AustLII and of research and development projects related to computerisation of law that AustLII's existence will facilitate. Some items in our developing technical agenda are summarised below.

4.1 'Rich' and automated hypertext

The provision of legal material in hypertext form via the world-wide-web is AustLII's primary means of delivering legal information at present. This is an uncontroversial choice, as material all around the world which was once only available by gopher, telnet, ftp or e-mail access is being rapidly converted into HTML (hypertext mark-up language) so as to allow for www access. Netscape is our preferred browser at present, but technical and commercial changes make this an area of rapid change.

Creation and maintenance of hypertext links in large and complex bodies of text is very difficult. This is particularly so where text undergoes regular change, as is the case to some extent with statutes and regulations. If hypertext links are inserted in source documents manually, large or complex hypertext systems become impractical.

Most legal materials available via www at present (whether legislation, cases, law journals, law reform reports or whatever) have only what we would regard as a 'basic' level of hypertext functionality, consisting primarily of 'hierarchical' links (eg tables of contents, footnotes) and (if needed) sequencing links (eg 'next', 'previous'). It is often relatively easy to create such standard hypertext in a largely automated way, at lease if standardised source data is available, by relying on heading levels and numbering in the source documents. Many legal documents available via www are created in this way, though some (eg law journals) are marked-up by hand.

AustLII intends to focus on developing and providing 'rich' hypertext, by which we mean the addition of numerous 'lateral' or 'internal' hypertext link. These include links within sections to definitions, links to cross-references between sections or between cases, or to references to sections in cases, and not only hierarchical or sequential links. The creation of such 'lateral' links is complex as the link text must usually be recognised in the body of the anchor node, and will often occur in non-standard forms. By and large, few lateral links exist within the legal documents available via www at present (Cornell's intellectual property statutes are an exception - see

AustLII's approach is developing out of the 'DataLex' research and development work of the last ten years, documented in [Greenleaf, Mowbray and van Dijk, 1995] and (in an much earlier version) [Greenleaf, Mowbray and Tyree, 1991]. The 'DataLex WorkStations' involve the automated creation of many thousands of hypertext links (over 50,000 links in the current Intellectual Property WorkStation), the majority of which are 'lateral' links. To eliminate manual marking up, the DataLex mark-up language involves the writing of automated marking-up scripts for each category of document which has a reasonably regular form (statutes, regulations, cases, commentary etc). These standard ‘templates’ can be used to create useful hypertext automatically with almost all of the desired functionality. The details of these automation techniques are as yet unpublished, but will be documented in future work. There is relatively little published work on the automated creation of legal hypertexts: see [Choquette, Poulin and Bratley, 1995] and work cited therein.

For the purpose of AustLII's development, a converter has been written to convert the DataLex markup language to HTML. The legislation on the AustLII prototype, which contains 'rich' hypertext to a reasonably high level, is the result of the automated conversion of raw legislation using these tools.

Separate scripts have now been developed for the automated conversion of NSW Law Reform Commission documents, AIJA reports, and issues of E-Law. These scripts provide standard hypertext features at present, but we intend to develop them over time to provide 'rich' links from those secondary sources to the primary source documents to which they refer (sections of Acts, cases etc) as such primary sources become available on AustLII or on other www servers in Australasia or overseas.

4.2 An example of AustLII's hypertext

As an example of what is meant by 'rich' hypertext, all of the underlined text in the example below provides hypertext links which have been created automatically as described above (the 'Noteup' and 'Search' links are described later).

[AustLII logo] [Up to index] [Search all] [Search in this Act]

[Table] [Next] [Previous] [Currency] [History] [Noteup all] [Noteup in this Act]

PRIVACY ACT 1988 SECT 17 - Guidelines relating to tax file number information

Guidelines relating to tax file number information

17. (1) The Commissioner shall, by notice in writing, issue guidelines

concerning the collection, storage, use and security of tax file number


(2) A guideline issued under subsection (1) is a disallowable instrument

for the purposes of s46A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

(3) In its application under subsection (2) of this section, s48 of the

Acts Interpretation Act 1901 applies to guidelines issued under subsection (1)

as if paragraph (1) (b) of s48 were omitted and the following paragraph


"(b) shall, subject to this section, take effect:

(i) on the first day on which the guidelines are no

longer liable to be disallowed, or to be deemed to be

disallowed, under this section; or

(ii) if the guidelines make provision for their

commencement after the day referred to in

subparagraph (i), in accordance with that provision;


(4) Until the first guidelines take effect for the purposes of

subsection (1), the interim guidelines set out in Schedule 2 have effect, for

the purposes of any provision of this Act other than subsection (1), (2) or (3),

as if they were guidelines issued under subsection (1).

From the heading, hierarchical links are provided to the index of all legislation [Up to index] and to the Table of Contents of the Privacy Act [Table]. Sequential links are provided to the next section [Next] and the previous section [Previous]. Associative links are provided to the date the Act was last consolidated [Currency] and to its legislative history [History].

In the text of the section, associative links are provided to internal definitions ('Commissioner', 'use', 'tax file number information'), to internal cross-references ('Schedule 2'), and to external cross references (sections of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901).

4.3 Integration with text retrieval

The other aspect of the DataLex research which is relevant to AustLII's technical agenda is the integration of hypertext with text retrieval, as detailed in [Greenleaf, Mowbray and van Dijk, 1995] part 3. The problems that users of free text retrieval systems have in formulating boolean and proximity searches which give adequate precision and recall are well known. One form of integration is for system developers to attach automated searches for various types of data (eg all documents referring to a particular section of an Act) to a hypertext link placed in a context where the user is likely to want to do that type of search (eg a 'Noteup' button located next to title of the hypertext representation of that section). System developers can use their expertise to develop such 'best fit' searches in a way better than most users can - a form of knowledge representation. Automated searches such as this are included in a number of DataLex WorkStations.

This approach has now been re-developed for the internet environment by AustLII. For example, when a user is viewing the hypertext of any section of a Commonwealth Act or Regulation, the heading of the section appears as follows (for the same example as used above):

[AustLII logo] [Up to index] [Search all] [Search in this Act]

[Table] [Next] [Previous] [Currency] [History] [Noteup all] [Noteup in this Act]

PRIVACY ACT 1988 SECT 17 - Guidelines relating to tax file number information

The four links indicated in bold in the above example are the four types of standard searches provided. Selection of [Search all] allows the user to search all Commonwealth legislation using the Glimpse search engine, using phrases, boolean searches, wildcards etc.

We are using Glimpse (see for details) while we evaluate search engines, but it might not be our final choice. Glimpse is used in conjunction with GlimpseHTTP, a collection of tools that allows Glimpse to be used to search files using web browsers. Some extensions and modifications have been made by AustLII to achieve our desired functionality.

The [Search in this Act] option automatically limits the scope of the user-specified search to the Act currently being browsed.

The [Noteup in this Act] option automates a search for all references to s17 in the Act being browsed at present. It retrieves six other sections of the Privacy Act in this example.

The [Noteup all] option automates the same search but searches over the whole body of Commonwealth legislation. In this example, it finds 10 sections in five different Acts which refer to s17 of the Privacy Act. This option will become even more useful when case law and commentary is added to AustLII, so that cases and comment referring to a section can be found without users having to master search syntax.

The inclusion of such automated contextual searching is the distinguishing aspect of AustLII's implementation of free text retrieval at present.

4.3.1 Supporting research and/or development through data provision

Some of the data available on AustLII is likely to be free of copyright restrictions (eg the NSW government has issued a general licence to the public in relation to NSW legislation), whereas other data will be browsable but subject to the normal copyright limitations on copying (eg fair use provisions). Where downloading and re-use of legal data is permitted, AustLII will aim to facilitate such downloading so that other researchers can use it for research into computerisation of law, development of computerised legal products, or development of print products.

The same approach will be taken to empirical data relevant to legal research. We have not yet added any data sets to support empirical legal research. An excellent example of what can be done is Eisenberg and Clermont's US Federal Judicial Statistics service ( provided via Cornell's Legal Information Institute. It shows how data which an agency usually provides in a 'one size fits all' fashion can be delivered over the internet in customised user-specified selections that are far more useful.

4.4 Research in computerisation of law via AustLII

The existence of AustLII's server and the availability of very large quantities of data and (we hope) substantial usage patterns may provide opportunities for other types of research. For example, Dr Tom Gedeon, a computing researcher at UNSW, plans to use AustLII's data and usage patterns (subject to appropriate privacy controls) to conduct research on the utility of neural networks and other advanced forms of computerising legal information.

It may also be possible to extend the DataLex research on the integration of inferencing systems (see [Greenleaf, Mowbray and van Dijk, 1995] parts 4 and 5) into the internet context via AustLII.

5. Through the past darkly

The computerisation of legal information via the internet is a subject matter which is less than three years old, developing in any meaningful way only since the rise in popularity of the world-wide-web. The use of the internet for legal research had little meaning before that development. The path down which AustLII may develop is therefore necessarily speculative, and the 'agendas' sketched in this article may look amusing in hindsight. We have been given the opportunity and resources, through AustLII, to be a relatively early Australasian participant in these exciting developments. We hope that the initial approach that we have sketched here is one that finds approval in the research community that AustLII is intended to serve - but that is not the only factor to take into consideration.

To conclude, it is worth speculating briefly on the possible effects of a 'new entrant' such as AustLII on the previously established relationships between legal information providers, interpreters and consumers - in other words, legal publishers, law librarians and users of legal information. 'Established' relationships they may be in some sense, but, as [Martin, 1995] makes clear, the provision of legal information, and the technologies to provide it, have been anything but stable over the centuries.

5.1 AustLII and commercial legal publishers

We do not see any undesirable conflict or duplication between AustLII's role and that of commercial legal publishers. AustLII's aim is to take data created at public expense and use publicly available tools for the creation of internet resources to create the best level of computerised legal information on the internet that can be achieved using those resources. To do so, it has a modest level of publicly-funded infrastructure.

Commercial publishers of computerised legal products should be able to do better than that. Their role is to add value, not merely to repackage public materials. The headnotes, statutory annotations, indexes and other editorial enhancements added by legal publishers add value to their print products, and equivalent value-adding to computerised products is unlikely to be able to be matched by non-commercial internet publishers like AustLII. Second, the legal commentaries that they publish will provide them with further opportunities to add value to their electronic legal products that go far beyond what can be achieved with limited secondary materials such as law reform reports.

In summary, one function of AustLII is to provide a benchmark or basic standard of computerised legal resource which does not require payment for use. Legal publishers will have to add value beyond that standard if they are to convince the market to pay for their products. For some users, the resources provided by public servers such as AustLII will be all that they need or can afford. For others, the added value provided by commercial publishers will be well worth the cost.

5.2 AustLII and law librarians

It is a trite observation that the creation of electronic resources of all kinds, and particularly those on the internet, threaten the traditional roles of librarians. It is an equally commonplace observation that the organisation of information on the internet is rather chaotic - [Bruce, 1995] characterises it as like the Library of Congress being hit by a cyclone just after someone took all the bindings off the books. He points out that while many technophiles place their hopes in 'intelligent agents' and other automated searching tools, these hopes are still speculative, and 'Librarians, bibliographers and, treatise writers and others who have traditionally provided organizing value for print materials can and do continue to do so in the electronic environment (though in far fewer numbers)'.

One of the challenges for AustLII is to develop a close relationship with law librarians as a profession, to have them intimately involved in AustLII's development and collection policies (from inception, one of five members of the Management Committee is a Law Librarian), and to use the expertise of law librarians to better organise the material AustLII provides.

5.3 AustLII and its users

At the time of writing, AustLII's server is only just starting to provide substantial amounts of legal resources, so it has few user statistics to indicate who are its actual users and their needs. In theory, given the origins of its funding, AustLII's primary audience is Australian academic legal researchers. However, [Bruce, 1995] points out that the lesson of three years of log files at Cornell's Legal Information Institute is that public information servers have a 'widely varied audience' including may non-lawyers, lawyers from civil law jurisdictions, practitioners and law students - and this at a time when the internet was still dominated in its usage by academics. Their answer is to try to provide contextual information to the resources they provide, so as to orient different types of audience. That will also be a challenge for AustLII, as its user profile develops, and one where it would be reasonable to expect that the organisational and explanatory skills of law librarians could also find a valuable role in the electronic environment.


Bruce, T 'Legal information, open models and current practice' Crown Copyright in Cyberspace (Conference), Centre de recherche en droit public, University Of Montreal, 12 May 1995 (available at

Bruce, T, Martin, P and Sadler, W ‘A WWW Manifesto’, CALI/LEAP Conference, Chicago-Kent Law School, May 1994

Choquette, M, Poulin, D and Bratley, P 'Compiling legal hypertexts', unpublished, Centre de recherche en droit public, Université de Montréal, 1995

Greenleaf, G, Mowbray, A and van Dijk, P 1994a DataLex WorkStations User Manual DataLex Pty Ltd, 40pgs

Greenleaf, G., Mowbray, A. and van Dijk, P. 1994b DataLex WorkStations Developers Manual (2nd Ed) DataLex Pty Ltd, 105 pgs

Greenleaf, G., Mowbray, A. and van Dijk, P. 1995 'Representing and using legal knowledge in integrated decision support systems: DataLex WorkStations' Artificial Intelligence and Law, Kluwer Academic Publishers; in publication - accepted April 1995; 50 pgs.

Greenleaf, G, Mowbray, A and Tyree, A 1991 ‘The DataLex Legal Workstation’, Proc. 3rd ICAIL ACM Press (reprinted in Vol 3 No 2 Journal of Law and Information Science 1992, 219 -240)

Love, J 'Four years of struggle to free the law' Proc. 5th Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy, 194-199, Stanford Law and Technology Policy Center

Love, J 1995b 'New Federal law limits agency prices for government information', TAP-INFO, 31 May 1995 (available at

Martin, P 'Pre-digital law - How prior information technologies have shaped access to and the nature of law' Crown Copyright in Cyberspace (Conference), Centre de recherche en droit public, University Of Montreal, 12 May 1995 (available at

Olsson, Justice Trevor Guide to Uniform Production of Judgments, AIJA, 1992

Perritt, H Public Information in the National Information Infrastructure (Report to the Regulatory Information Service Center, General Services Administration, and to the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget), 1994 (available at

[*] Paper delivered to the Sixth Asian Pacific Specials, Health and Law Librarians Conference and Exhibition, 30 August 1995.

[**] Graham Greenleaf, Associate Professor in Law and Co-Director of AustLII, University of New South Wales (

Andrew Mowbray, Senior Lecturer in Law and Co-Director of AustLII, University of Technology, Sydney (

Geoffrey King, Manager of AustLII (

Peter van Dijk, Lecturer in Law (P/T), University of Technology, Sydney, and Consultant to AustLII (

[#] [Bruce, 1995] comments that 'It seems to be all the rage for [United States] agencies to put up a page or two with illustrated personnel rosters and audio clips in which the Secretary of Whatever tells you that you stand at the dawn of a new era and hopes you'll have a nice day.' Of course, that would never happen here.

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