New Website for State Online Legal Information

April 9, 2013

 By Elizabeth

The Digital Access to Legal Information Committee (DALIC) has created a new website to host information about the status of online legal materials in every state with respect to authentication, official status, preservation, permanent public access, copyright, and universal citation.

The new website brings together information from AALL’s National Inventory of Legal Materials and updates AALL’s Preliminary Analysis of AALL’s State Legal Inventories2007 State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources, and 2009-2010 State Summary Updates. State pages will be updated as information changes. DALIC members will monitor the site and periodically check in with AALL’s state working groups to ensure the accuracy of the information.

DALIC also welcomes your additions or updates to information about legal materials in your state. If you have information to offer, please fill out our online form. A member of DALIC will contact you to verify the information you provide.


House, Government Printing Office Increase Access to Legislative Data

February 4, 2013

By Emily

The Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives has expanded its docs.house.gov site to include committee information such as committee rules, bills and resolutions to be considered, recorded votes, meeting notices, witness lists and testimony. Visitors can subscribe to Committee RSS feeds and download the XML for reuse. In addition, the Government Printing Office (GPO) is now making bills in XML format available for bulk download through FDsys, from the 113th Congress forward. These efforts advance the transparency goals put forward in the 112th Congress by the House leadership and House Report 112-511, which established the Bulk Data Task Force.

AALL submitted feedback to the Bulk Data Task Force late last year, recommending that a disclaimer and link to FDsys be included along with any legislative information that is posted for bulk download. We urged the Clerk to follow the example set by the White House, GPO and the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of the Federal Register in adding a disclaimer to the XML of the Federal Register on Data.gov, which clearly states that the XML is not official. We are pleased that the new Help section of docs.house.gov includes the following questions along with a “Legal Status and Authenticity” section as part of the FAQ:

Q. What is available on docs.house.gov?

A. Text of legislation that may be considered on the House Floor is posted on docs.house.gov. Committee documents in accordance with the standards adopted by the Committee on House Administration are posted on docs.house.gov.

If available, both the PDF version and XML version of a document are posted. Documents follow the House’s document naming convention. If the documents have been processed by U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), there may be direct links to GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDSys).

 Q. What is the authenticity of data files from docs.house.gov after they have been downloaded to another site?

A. We cannot vouch for the authenticity of data that is not under the control of the U.S. House. The U.S. House does not endorse third party applications, and does not evaluate how our original content is displayed on other sites. Consumers should form their own conclusions as to whether the downloaded data can be relied upon within an application or its enriched results that were not necessarily the original reason for producing the raw source data.

AALL supports access in many formats. We commend the Office of the Clerk for clarifying the authenticity of the XML files and for recommending that committees link to FDsys where possible. We also applaud GPO for making XML files available on FDsys through the Bulk Data Repository, along with the authenticated PDFs. This affirms GPO’s status as a trusted repository of official, authentic, digital and secure information and allows other entities to add value to government information.


Final Version of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) Now Available

October 11, 2011

The Uniform Law Commission (also known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws) recently released the final version of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA).

The prefatory note and comments accompanying the uniform act explain each section, including what state’s requirements are to ensure that, when legal material is published only in an electronic format, the material is designated as official and is authenticated, preserved and made permanently available to the public.

AALL is now working to enact UELMA. Stay tuned to learn how you can advocate for UELMA in your state.


White House, GPO and NARA Collaborate on Release of XML Version of Federal Register

October 6, 2009

On Monday, the White House announced the official launch of the XML version of the Federal Register (FR), now available from 2000 to the present through GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), the Federal Register Web site and Data.gov. Access to the XML will allow third parties to manipulate the government data in innovative ways, and we applaud the White House, the Government Printing Office and the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for making this exciting development possible.

There are important distinctions between the XML versions available on FDsys and Data.gov. Data.gov is limited to full-year XML downloads, while FDsys offers the ability to quickly and easily download the Federal Register by day, month or year. By providing these options, FDsys may better fit user needs.

In addition, FDsys also provides access to the official, digitally signed PDF version of the Federal Register, in addition to the XML.

We were pleased to see that a new disclaimer has been added to the description for all of the FR datasets and tools on Data.gov explaining this important distinction:

The current XML data set is not yet an official format of the Federal Register. Only the PDF and Text versions have legal status as parts of the official online format of the Federal Register. The XML-structured files are derived from SGML-tagged data and printing codes, which may produce anomalies in display. In addition, the XML data does not yet include image files. Users who require a higher level of assurance may wish to consult the official version of the Federal Register on FDsys.gov. The FDsys data set includes digitally signed Federal Register PDF files, which may be relied upon as evidence in a court of law. See: http://www.fdsys.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=FR

AALL has worked closely with GPO for many years to ensure that the public has permanent access to official, authentic online legal information, and we have strongly supported the development of FDsys. We applaud GPO for its leadership in authenticating the online version.

[Posted by Mary Alice Baish and Emily Feldman]


When is the Law THE Law?

August 6, 2009

On Friday, July 31, 2009, AALL Government Relations Office Director Mary Alice Baish participated in a CLE program during the American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, “When is a Law THE Law? Why Authenticity and Quality Matter.” Catherine Sanders Reach, Director of the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center, moderated the panel, which also included Denley Chew, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s counsel, and Dr. Janice Hyde, Director of the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) at the Law Library of Congress. AALL, the ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress, and the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center were co-sponsors of the program.

Mary Alice’s presentation summarized the findings of AALL’s 2007 State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources and our national leadership on the authentication and preservation of online legal information. She also provided a quick update on progress made since the National Summit. For example, as we have previously reported, the Government Printing Office now digitally authenticates collections of Public and Private Laws and congressional bills.

Linda Edwards, legal affairs writer for the ABA, wrote a nice summary in the ABA Journal about the program and the difficulties of finding official, authentic primary legal resources on the Web.

Mary Alice’s slides are available on AALLNET, and a compiled version of the slides from all of the speakers is available on the ABA’s Web site.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


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