This is another idea that’s been percolating for awhile and I decided it would be better to just go ahead and create an example and then seek feedback for whether it’s a good idea and, if it is, what can make it better. Law libraries buy a lot of books that are essentially free laws supplemented by information about free cases. So we’re paying for free stuff. Frequently, these books are updated annually so a researcher uses them as a starting point and then updates them electronically.
In reality, we’re paying for the editorial process of updating the connections between the laws and the cases, etc. There’s value there but I’ve been wondering if there is a good enough plateau that can be done electronically.
Here is my attempt with Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act. The intention is to take a piece of public legislation, clean it up to make it readable, add links to useful resources – whether to special definitions within the document
or to cases and resources outside the document
while also making the whole thing portable. The audience would be legal professionals, particularly paralegals, who might use this frequently, or self-represented pro se litigants. I’m using the free Pressbooks plugin on WordPress, so the underlying text can be updated over the Web. But the main idea is to create an epub book that people can take away and use offline. Hopefully the process is one that would be low on manual work and easy to replicate for a handful of useful legislation.
Even if this goes nowhere, the concept relies heavily on the Canadian Legal Information Institute. I’m using the source legislation from their site, linking to cases flagged by their citation tool, and using those results enhanced with more refined searches using their site, to get more focused results. So many thanks to CanLII and all of Canada’s lawyers who pay each year to keep it running.
If you take a look at this on the web or download the ebook version (ePUB or MOBI), I would be interested in feedback. Please comment directly on the page on the Web book or here, below. Any feedback is welcome – although please look before commenting, and practical ideas are preferred – but in particular I’m curious about:
- are links to the overarching section enough? I like this, because it automatically updates when CanLII has a new match. But …
- is it better to have a list of individual citing cases, even if those cases are repeated throughout the text if they discuss more than one section? This would be more manual work but could be more precise.
- does it need a table of contents? I think this stinks – the legislators named so many sections Same that it’s pointless. Would you just rely on search instead?
- does it need an index? if yes, what should go in it? how would you use it? (I considered making one when I see lots of references to NSF cheques but no mention of insufficient funds; I expect there are other examples of metadata that could help those who aren’t familiar with terms of art used)
- are there technical elements of ebooks that you think should be included that I’ve missed?
- if you could only have 3 statutes done this way, what would they be?
Thanks in advance.