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AustLII Research Seminars

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AustLII's fourth lunchtime Research Seminar will be presented by Graham Greenleaf, Professor of Law & Information Systems at UNSW and AustLII Co-Director, on the topic Reconsidering the meaning of 'free access to legal information'. Details of the Seminar Topic are below.

Date: Tuesday 7 August 2012
Time: 12:00 - 1:00
Venue: AustLII Offices, Level 12, Building 10, 235-253 Jones Street, Ultimo - see map

RSVP by Friday 3 August 2012 to Cathy Quigley Tel: 02 9514 4921 or Email:

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Seminar Details

Topic: Reconsidering the meaning of 'free access to legal information'
Speaker: Graham Greenleaf, Professor of Law & Information Systems at UNSW and AustLII Co-Director
Duration: The seminar lasts for an hour, including 20 minutes for discussion.


Free online access to legal information is approaching maturity in some parts of the world, after two decades of development, but elsewhere is still in its early stages of development. Nowhere has it been realised fully, including in Australia. The main question asked in this paper is "what should 'free access' mean in relation to legal information in order for it to be fully effective?"

The paper reviews previous answers to this question, and identifies twenty three principles necessary for a full understanding of 'free access to legal information', plus a further seven desirable principles. Many of the principles concern matters that are necessary to avoid monopolies in the publication of the core legal documents of a jurisdiction. Some areas where Australia does not fully realise these principles are identified, particularly in relation to 'authorised reports' and authoritative versions of legislation. As with software, it is pertinent to ask whether free access to law is 'free as in beer, or free as in speech?'

Finally, some consideration is given to what steps should be taken to most effectively realise a reformulated concept of 'free access to legal information', by legal information institutes, by States at the national level, and at the international level.

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