July 14, 2011
On "not inconsequential economic advantages"
We believe that public bodies have a duty to make law public and accessible free-of-charge, and that these objectives are further advanced if our courts, legislatures and government agencies commit to the production of official versions of primary legal materials in stable and open digital formats in freely-accessible digital repositories. We believe that these same principles are best served when legal publications are prepared using neutral citation standards as the primary standard for citation of legal materials.
In the second decade of the 21st century, there is a growing preference among users of legal information – whether students, faculty, lawyers, librarians or the public – to access legal information in digital formats. Print copies of legal materials are often not as current as their digital counterparts and lack the flexibility and functionality demanded by 21st-century practitioners, students, researchers and scholars. If legal primary materials, scholarship and information are freely and publicly available in stable and official digital formats, legal researchers and many libraries will have the option not to acquire or maintain them in print, along with the not inconsequential economic advantages.
OK, that's not me "talking;" the above is a direct quote (with emphasis added) from the Council of Canadian Academic Law Library Directors' Calgary Statement on Free Access to Legal Information. The Calgary Statement was approved at the Council's annual meeting on May 14, 2011 in acknowledgement and as an endorsement of "our American colleagues’ groundbreaking move" expressed in The Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship. However, The Calgary Statement goes one giant step beyond The Durham Statement by integrating this effort into a much broader context:
We issue this statement not only as an indication of our solidarity and shared commitment to the ideal of open access in legal scholarship but also to promote and further support the Canadian ideal of free public access to legal information as embodied in the Montreal Declaration on Free Access to Law.
Do note that neutral citation format is not just a toss-in. One of the actions, the Council commits to is
[W]e encourage all Canadian law schools, as well as our courts, legislatures, governments and law publishers, to implement already-approved national standards for neutral citation of judicial and tribunal decisions in all their publications and to expedite the approval of a national standard for the neutral citation of legislative and regulatory publications.
Also note that while the Durham Statement was proposed by a well-meaning but small ad hoc group of academic law library directors as a collective expression of their professional opinion, not as AALL's, this is not the case with the Council's statement.
Let's end with The Calgary Statement's most comprehensive principle:
We believe that a move toward digital formats as the preferred and official format for legal materials and scholarship will enhance free public access to legal information and knowledge not only inside the legal academy and in practice, but to scholars in other disciplines and to international audiences, many of whom do not now have access either to law libraries or to commercial databases. These principles are best served when legal information is freely available to the broadest possible audience.
Well stated. Here's the link to The Calgary Statement on Free Access to Legal Information. If you have not read it already, at the very least I suggest you consider reading it on the trip to Philly 2011: Cream Cheese, Cheesesteak or Karaoke, perhaps even taking it to the Exhibit Hall to ask what vendor folk think about it.
By the way, the Council adopted this Statement during the course of the 2011 annual meeting of CALL/ACBD. I'm thinking the Council didn't have to meet off-site; not sure if the Council had to get CALL/ACBD's official okie dokie for the Statement first. Might be time to remind folks of a related off-site, AALL officialdom not okie dokie-ed meeting that is being held during Philly 2011: Cheese, Cheesesteak or Karaoke: Will There Be a Better Time for Promoting Adoption of Universal Citation in the US?
Hat tip to Library Boy. [JH]