The Internet already is the broadest and most used source of legal information: in
the web one can find most statutory texts (all in some jurisdictions), a vast amount of
case law, huge repertoires of doctrinal contributions, many blogs and fora discussing
different legal issues. Moreover, as legal activities (legislative, administrative, judicial
procedures) are increasingly supported by computerised tools, computer networks
(Internet or intranets) become the place where many legal events are primarily
taking place (voting, presenting petitions or interrogations, promulgating legislation,
acting in judicial and administrative proceedings, etc.). Consequently, the documentation
constituted by, and constitutive of, such activities consists of electronic documents
that are from the beginning, or can become subsequently, components of the
web. For instance, not only the final statutory instruments, but also all preliminary
documents, such as proposals, amendments, comments, transcripts of debates, can
be produced over, or at least distributed though, the web.
In the emerging framework of the semantic web (where information can be
directly processed by computer, according to its meaning), legal documents and
in particular legislative documents, are undergoing a fundamental change. Being
directed to the Internet, rather than to a print house, such documents need to be
identifiable in the web, structured according to document models and enriched with
machine processable meta-data. This is achieved using standards based on XML
(the eXtended Markup Language) to express document structures and insert in the
documents meta-textual information. XML standards can be supplemented with
ontology languages (for specifying conceptual structures), and rule languages (for
capturing the logical content of legal rules).
This volume examines the basic layers of the standard-based creation and usage of legislation. In particular, it addresses the identification of legislative documents, their structure, the basic metadata and legislative changes. Since mature technologies and established practices are already in place for these layers, a standard-based approach is a necessary aspect of the up-to-date management of legislative resources.
Starting out with an overview of the context for the use of XML standards in legislation, the book next examines the rationale of standard-based management of legislative documents. It goes on to address such issues as naming, the Akoma-Ntoso document model, the contribution of standard-based document management to handling legislative dynamics, meta-standards and interchange standards. The volume concludes with a discussion of semantic resources and a review on systems and projects.