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Legislative XML for the Semantic Web: Principles, Models, Standards for Document Management

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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.  

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