Statute Law Database to be free for public

After much campaigning and several articles, it appears that Your Right to Know may have scored a victory for the common man’s right to know the laws that bind him.

The Statutory Publications Office now says that the online statute law database: “will be launched free of charge to the public once piloting is complete. A commercial strategy will still be developed, but will primarily be looking at options that concern the commercial reuse of data as well as functionality for specialist users”.

Readers of the blog will know that I campaigned for open access to the statute law database joined by other citizens groups including mySociety and the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians.

STATUTES FREE ON WEB
Law Gazette, By Rupert White
Thursday 05 October 2006

The on-line statute law database moved closer to reality last month when the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) told users that the final Web-based system will be fundamentally free to use.

The decision was revealed in a newsletter from the DCA’s Statutory Publications Office (SPO), announcing the end of the first public ‘beta’ test phase of the database.

The next phase is expected to have more than twice the number of users from a wider audience, including members of the public.

Until now it has been unclear how the DCA would operate a charging element for the database (see (2006) Gazette, 30 March, 11). But it appears that pressure from various sources has won the day – the SPO said the Web ‘will be launched free of charge to the public once piloting is complete. A commercial strategy will still be developed, but will primarily be looking at options that concern the commercial reuse of data’ as well as functionality for ‘specialist users’.

The Law Society welcomed the move. A spokeswoman said: ‘We are very pleased that this is being made available to everyone free of charge. The database will be a useful resource for solicitors and others.’

However, she added that it needs to present both current and historical data, as ‘an Act of Parliament may be considerably changed after it has come into force, and both the original text and the later changes to it need to be easily accessible’.

3 Responses to “Statute Law Database to be free for public”

  1. Congratulations!

    I read this morning about an open access, searchable database of a US judge (Posner)’s decisions: http://www.projectposner.org/

    Do you know if any plans exist to make UK common law / judicial decisions available in this manner?

  2. Nick Evans says:

    http://www.bailii.org/databases.html has databases of various UK court decisions, back to the mid 1990s. No idea if there are plans to extend this back in time.

  3. RICHARD SHEPHERD says:

    While no doubt Charlie Falconer would like to take the credit for the Statute Law Database, people should know that it was started in 1989 by Lord James Mackay of Clashfern … the genius who was Conservative Lord Chancellor 1987-97. The main architect was John Gibson, Editor for the Statutory Publications Officer.
    Credit please, where credit is due !

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