A new home for Commonwealth law online

Graham Greenleaf, Philip Chung, and Andrew Mowbray[*]
28 February 2003

 This paper is to be presented to the 13th Commonwealth Law Conference, Melbourne, 15 April 2003


The World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) is the largest free access source of legal information available on the Internet, providing access to over 290 databases of case law, legislation, law reform and law journals. This paper describes WorldLII's origins as a cooperative venture of Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) from many countries, and outlines the advantages of the system. We survey the current state of free Internet access to legal materials in Commonwealth countries, showing that significant quantities of legal information are only available from a minority of Commonwealth countries, and that the majority of that information is already provided by WorldLII and its cooperating LIIs. Because the core content of WorldLII is drawn from Commonwealth countries and other common law jurisdictions, one way to think of WorldLII is as a new online 'home' for Commonwealth law. We argue that it is not sufficient for governments and Courts only to publish essential legal information for free access on their own web sites. Provision to other publishers (whether LIIs or commercial publishers) is also necessary for sound public policy, and is more important than official self-publication. The paper concludes with an invitation from WorldLII to governments and Courts in Commonwealth countries to publish their legislation, case law and law reform reports on WorldLII. A central independent access point for Commonwealth law would be another significant step toward the creation of a genuinely international common law.
  • 1. Free access to law
  • 1. Free access to law

    1.1. The need for free access to 'essential' law - Commonwealth wide

    Why should we value free access to legal information? Most obviously, access to legal information supports the rule of law. People should not be governed by laws to which they do not have effective access. Businesses have much the same needs as individuals. From a national perspective, attraction to foreign investment is enhanced by free access to information about the operation of a country's legal system. Transparency of a country's legal system is one of the three legal and administrative requirements for WTO membership, and this is enhanced by free access to at least regulatory materials.

     At least in relation to 'essential' legal information, free access to the laws of one's own country is an important support for the rule of law. By 'essential legal information' we mean primary legal materials (legislation, case-law, treaties etc) and some secondary materials (interpretative) legal materials (law reform reports, travaux préparatoires, investigative commission reports etc). The test is something like 'legal information produced by public bodies which have a duty to produce it and to make it public'.

     In the particular context of the nations that make up the Commonwealth, most of whom share the common law as a source of law (often in conjunction with sources from other legal traditions), free access to the law of one's own jurisdiction is not sufficient. Historically, decisions of United Kingdom courts have had and still have significant persuasive value in most Commonwealth jurisdictions, including those where there is no longer any avenue of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council[1]. As Lord Cooke of Thorndon put it, 'There was a time when the ideal of uniform common law dominated by English decisions held sway'[2]. If a more genuinely international common law is to develop, then the judicial influences must be more of a two-way-street than they have been in the past. As Lord Cooke observed, although it has long been recognised that the common law in other countries is 'not necessarily the same as English common law',

    "emancipation does not mean abandonment of cooperation to mutual advantage. Common denominators may be usefully sought, as long as the process is not compelled from outside and the national ethos is allowed its own weight."[3]
    One reason among many for the past dominant position of English judicial decisions in the development of the common law is probably the relative ease with which lawyers and judges in other Commonwealth countries could access British decisions, compared with the difficulty of finding decisions of Courts from numerous other Commonwealth countries. It was a 'hub and spokes' model of a print-based information network, with English Law Reports flowing out to the rest of the Commonwealth. Lord Cooke has suggested another reason when discussing progress toward 'a common law of the world'[4]:
    "First, interaction between national jurisdictions in the use of precedents, a form of cross-fertilisation. It may be illustrated by what is happening in England. On the whole the common law of England has evolved in a markedly insular way, and there are still many English lawyers who believe that English Judges are gifted beyond all others. But then they might think that English cricketers are gifted beyond all others, but for the evidence of test matches against other countries, comparable evidence being necessarily unavailable in any judicial arena. Insularity in legal development is now, though, becoming distinctly less noticeable. In Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) only two overseas cases were mentioned in the speeches, both from New York, Cardozo J duly honoured. Whereas the speech of Lord Goff of Chieveley in White v Jones (1995) cites authorities from, inter alia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Canada, the United States, Australia, Israel and New Zealand." (citations omitted)
    In this paper the expression 'international common law' is only used in this sense of 'interaction between national jurisdictions in the use of precedents', and does not encompass different notions such as lex mercatoria[5] or customary international law.

     One potential of the Internet is that it can provide the 'level playing field' of access to legal information (for which Lord Justice Brooke rightly argues[6]), not only in terms of better access to British law, but also in terms of more equal access by Commonwealth judges and lawyers to decisions and law reform from all Commonwealth countries. Lord Cooke, referring to the potential role of the Court of Final Appeal of the Hong Kong SAR as 'a pioneering bridge between western and eastern legal systems', adds as a 'crucial addendum' that 'Traffic over the bridge should not be one way'. His words are equally apposite to interaction between jurisdictions with the Commonwealth.

     Writing in 1996, when the provision of legal information via Internet was still in its infancy, Lord Cooke considered[7] that:

    "It is obvious that today in the main Commonwealth common law countries there is a judicial practice, much more noticeable that in the past, of drawing on authorities from a wide range of jurisdictions: treating them, moreover, as of persuasive force according to what are seen as their intrinsic merits of reasoning rather than their national sources."
    Has the availability of legal information via the Internet, first noted by the English Courts in Bannister v SGB in 1996[8], accelerated this process of reciprocal influence? Later in this paper we will provide some post-1996 evidence of the extent to which it has, and a discussion of how it might do so further in future.

     Since the advent of widespread Internet access in the mid-1990s, the availability of a relatively inexpensive but sophisticated means of access to information has provided for the first time the prospect of effective popular access to at least 'essential' law. A side-effect of this 'popular access' (free Internet access to a country's own law by its own citizens) is that Judges, law reformers and scholars in other countries also have such access. Government agencies, Courts, NGOs, Universities, law firms, and others have created numerous web sites in most jurisdictions in the world as a result. However, the proliferation of legal web sites has not provided a satisfactory answer, as their existence may not be known to users, and they are likely to have inconsistent means of both browsing and searching (if searching is even possible). The problem is of course exacerbated if you need to find the law from more than one jurisdiction. What solutions are possible?

    1.2. Legal Information Institutes (LIIs)

    One answer to these problems[9] has been the attempt to create comprehensive law sites for all the essential law from a jurisdiction, country or region. There is an occasional governmental attempt to create such comprehensive sites[10], but the attempt has been made more often by independent, often University-based, Legal Information Institutes (LIIs).

     We use the term 'Legal Information Institute' (LII) to refer to a provider of legal information that is independent of government, and provides free access on a non-profit basis to multiple sources of essential legal information[11], including both legislation and caselaw (or alternative sources of jurisprudence). Ideally, a LII should attempt to provide comprehensive coverage of at least the most important sources of essential legal information for the jurisdictions that it covers, and should allow simultaneous searches of all its databases (so that it is not a collection of isolated databases). Systems which approximate these criteria can reasonably be called 'LIIs'.

     Examples of LIIs include Cornell's Legal Information Institute (LII (Cornell) - 1993) for US federal law, the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII -1995) for Australian and New Zealand[12] law, the British & Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII - 2000) for the jurisdictions of the UK and Ireland; the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII - 2000) for Canadian law; the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII - 2001) for thirteen island countries of the Pacific and the Hong Kong Legal Information Institute (HKLII[13] - 2002) for Hong Kong (and potentially other parts of China). As detailed in the third part of this paper, all of these Legal Information Institutes, and a large number of other legal information providers in other countries, are now cooperating to provide the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII - <>).

     There are also a number of similar systems which provide information satisfying the definition of a LII, but without using the name 'LII'[14]. These include the Unidad de Documentación de Legislación y Jurisprudencia in Mexico[15] and (on a lesser scale) the Nigeria Law system[16].

     In many jurisdictions there are comprehensive sites run by the government. In civil law countries none of these contain caselaw but may contain other forms of jurisprudence. These include systems in Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Austria, Belarus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Switzerland, Sweden and Romania[17]. Legifrance in France will soon be a government site providing comprehensive free access to legislation and case law.

     Throughout the world there are many free Internet sources of caselaw[18], legislation[19] and other essential legal information, but ten years after the creation of the first LIIs it is still only a minority of jurisdictions around the world that have accepted the need to provide comprehensive free access to essential legal information, either through creation of government sites, or by providing the data to independent free access publishers such as LIIs.

    The current state of free online access to law in Commonwealth countries is reviewed later in this paper.

    1.3. The Montreal Declaration on Public Access to Law

    In October 2002, representatives of all the Legal Information Institutes mentioned above, plus representatives from South Africa and the Caribbean, meeting in Montreal at the 4th 'Law via Internet' Conference, made the following declaration[20] as a joint statement of their philosophy of access to law:

    Legal information institutes of the world, meeting in Montreal, declare that:

    Public legal information means legal information produced by public bodies that have a duty to produce law and make it public. It includes primary sources of law, such as legislation, case law and treaties, as well as various secondary (interpretative) public sources, such as reports on preparatory work and law reform, and resulting from boards of inquiry.

    Therefore, the legal information institutes agree:

    University-based LIIs have taken up much of the burden of providing free public access to law, and are unanimous in laying down the challenge to Courts and governments to do their part by providing the data, and the public policies, that support free access.

    1.4. Public policies supporting access to law

    Is it sufficient if governments provide free access through government-run websites?

     We have argued elsewhere[21] that official bodies should accept that they have seven obligations in the provision of essential legal information in order to provide the best support to the rule of law and other values:

    1 Provision in a completed form (including additional information best provided at source)

    2 Provision in an authoritative form (examples are court-designated citations and digital signatures)

    3 Provision in the form best facilitating dissemination

    4 Provision on a marginal-cost-recovery basis to anyone

    5 Provision with no re-use restrictions or licence fees (subject to preserving integrity)

    6 Preservation of a copy in the care of the public authority

    7 Non-discriminatory recognition (end the privileged status of 'official' reports )

     A corollary of these propositions is that it is not sufficient for official bodies only to publish essential legal information for free access on their own web sites. Provision to other publishers (whether LIIs or commercial publishers) is also necessary for sound public policy, and is more important than official self-publication. Such dissemination is necessary to ensure that free-access is not second-rate access.

     A good example of a jurisdiction (common law and ex-Commonwealth) that satisfies most of these criteria to a high degree is the Hong Kong SAR. The most explicit illustration of these policies[22] is the 'Yes you may copy and link ...' policy on the BLIS legislation web site[23] which states in part in relation to the whole of the Hong Kong Ordinances and other legislation:

    1.It is the policy of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [HKSAR] that the electronic publications of the laws of Hong Kong should be freely available to all persons. 2.Visitors to this web site are permitted to, print, make copies of and distribute HKSAR legislation on this site, and b.include the HKSAR legislation in a text book or other educational materials, whether in electronic or paper form.

    Few governments are as explicit as the HKSAR in their policies concerning rights to republish free access legal information, but there are good examples in both practices and explicit policies in many parts of the world.

    2. The World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII)

    The World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) - <> - is a free, independent and non-profit global legal research facility developed collaboratively by a number of Legal Information Institutes (mainly University-based) and Law Faculties around the world. It was launched in November 2002, though a prototype version was available during the previous year[24].

    2.1. Establishment of WorldLII

    The name 'WorldLII' was used to describe the challenge of developing a global free access legal research facility at a meeting of parties interested in free legal information at the LII Workshop on Emerging Global Public Legal Information Standards[25] held at Cornell Law School in July 2000. Various possible models were discussed at the Cornell workshop, the most detailed of which was a distributed search system described by Tom Bruce[26]. The current implementation of WorldLII does not rely as much on distributed searches as Bruce's model, but instead uses a combination of distributed searches and regularly synchronised databases.

    Collaborating parties

    WorldLII is principally a collaboration between existing LIIs, as indicated on its front page, with AustLII taking the leading technical and organisational role in the initial implementation. However, WorldLII is also developing to include databases that come from organisations other than LIIs, and are hosted only on WorldLII and not on another LII. These are described later.


    Collaborating parties banner from the WorldLII front page


    Technical development and hosting

    WorldLII's user interface, the WorldLII Catalog and those databases hosted on WorldLII (both discussed below), are all located on WorldLII's server located at AustLII in Sydney, and the initial WorldLII implementation is by AustLII. CanLII and HKLII are involved in technical enhancements to WorldLII. It has been designed with an appearance and functionality similar to most of the other LIIs collaborating in its operation, to assist user recognition and ease of use.

    Funding and support

    Like all LIIs, WorldLII is a low-budget operation. The combined budget of AustLII and WorldLII for 2003 is at present A$750,00 ([sterling]250,000), though there are prospects of additional funds being obtained as the year progresses. This funding is provided by a number of stakeholders including our two Universities (UTS and UNSW), Australian Business (a business peak body), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the High Court, and a legal publisher (CCH), plus the largest contribution (over 50%) from the Australian Research Council for the development of Australian and international legal research infrastructure. AustLII has had a steadily rising 'stakeholder' funding base for the past nine years, and we are confident it will continue, but this depends on our expanding the range of stakeholders in order to decrease reliance on any one of few stakeholders.


    WorldLII front page (extract)

    2.2. WorldLII Databases: the largest online collection of Commonwealth law

    Databases accessible through WorldLII are located on the following LIIs:

    Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) - <>

     British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) - <>

     Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) - <>

     Hong Kong Legal Information Institute (HKLII) - <>

     Legal Information Institute (Cornell) (LII (Cornell)) - <>

     Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII) - <>

     In addition, databases hosted only on WorldLII include

    WorldLII already provides databases from many parts of the world, particularly those with jurisdictions with a common law tradition. As the front page indicates, there are databases from jurisdictions in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and the South Pacific. WorldLII has a global rather than regional approach, and from its birth has a more extensive range of databases than any other free access facility, even though it is still only a fraction of what it may be possible to achieve. Almost all of WorldLII's initial databases come from its collaborating LIIs at present, as follows: AustLII (120); BAILII (19); PacLII (43); CanLII (80) and HKLII (13); LII (Cornell) (1); WorldLII (12). There are now over 290 databases from 50 jurisdictions in 22 countries.

     We intend that, subject to limitations of resources, we will host on WorldLII significant databases made available to us by Legislatures, Courts, Law Reform Commissions, and the like from jurisdictions where there is currently no national or regional LII that can act as a host, particularly from Asian countries and from Commonwealth countries. Decisions of international courts and tribunals, and internationally-oriented law journals will also be included.

    2.3. Facilitating a Commonwealth jurisprudence in WorldLII

    Search options

    The most obvious strength of WorldLII is that it already allows 290 databases from 22 countries to be searched simultaneously, and this is in fact the default scope of searches. However, the most valuable search feature of WorldLII will often be that it allows narrower searches over particular types of materials, but across a wide range of jurisdictions. This is illustrated by the range of selections already provided.


    An extract from the WorldLII search options (Full Search Form)


    The following search options have been implemented:

    These options are important because they provide WorldLII with a logical structure within which to place databases which become available from jurisdictions which do not have a separate LII providing a 'home' for databases. We hope that these options will encourage leading Courts, Law Reform Commissions, Law Journals and the like to consider possible inclusion of their databases in WorldLII. We expect that some databases will be included in WorldLII's own databases only temporarily, and that WorldLII will act as an 'incubator' for the development of separately operating LIIs.

     Geographically-based search options will become particularly interesting when WorldLII expands to include databases from more than one LII or other source in a region. The geographical options provided at present include (with current content listed):

    An interesting inclusion is that the Privy Council's decisions in WorldLII include appeals from so many geographically disparate regions. Those listed above are only from regions where we already have other databases, but when appropriate they can also be added to regional collections from the Caribbean and from the Indian subcontinent.

     Finally, users may choose their own combinations of the 290 databases accessible from WorldLII: 'customised' searches. It may also be valuable to provide for users a selection of the most obviously useful subject- specific customisations, such as 'All administrative review Tribunals' or 'All unfair competition tribunals' or 'All anti-discrimination tribunals'.

    A new standard for Court-designated Citations

    From January 1999 the High Court of Australia adopted a new method of 'Court-designated' citation of its decisions, a citation provided by the Court from the moment the decision was made available to the public. That case is Parsons v The Queen [1999] HCA 1 - indicating that it is the first case published by the High Court in 1999. The High Court also adopted paragraph numbering of its decisions (sequential throughout all judgments in a decision), so that paragraph 95 of Parsons has the 'pinpoint citation' Parsons v The Queen [1999] HCA 1 at [95]. This method of citation is sometimes called 'vendor-neutral and medium-neutral', but we prefer the expression 'Court-designated' to indicate that it involves the Courts taking control of how their cases are cited.

     Since 1996, AustLII had been advocating the adoption of a Court-designated citation by Australian Courts, and had proposed a similar method of citation to the Council of Chief Justices in 1998[32]. Following the lead of the High Court and the Council of Chief Justices, almost all Australian Courts and Tribunals have now adopted the same method of citation, and have adopted an agreed set of Court designators (such as 'HCA'). It has been implemented on AustLII as the method of citing the decisions of the more than 70 Courts and Tribunals on that system, and is in use by other publishers as a method of parallel citation to their own 'publisher-specific' means of citation. The same citation method has been implemented for the decisions of the Courts of Pacific Island countries on PacLII, and the decisions of the Hong Kong Courts on HKLII.

     With the creation of BAILII in 2000, a similar method of citation and set of Court designators was used to identify the decisions of the Courts and Tribunals on that system[33]. The English Courts, assisted to a very large extent by the efforts of Lord Justice Brooke, quickly took up the challenge of adopting a method of Court-designated citations suitable for electronic publication. The same citation method was adopted as had been adopted by the Australian Courts, and trailed on BAILII, but with a number of progressive modifications to the Court designators used, as the preferences of the Courts became clear. These changes were then 'retro-fitted' to the BAILII databases. Since than, the English Courts have continued to make advances, as Lord Justice Brooke points out[34], by adopting paragraph numbering in their decisions, and through Practice Directions in 2001[35] and 2002[36] implementing and consolidating the new system. The first Practice Direction states:

    " The neutral citation will be the official number attributed to the judgment by the court and must always be used on at least one occasion when the judgment is cited in a later judgment. Once the judgment is reported, the neutral citation will appear in front of the familiar citation from the law report series. Thus: Smith v Jones [2001] EWCA Civ 10 at [30]; [2001] QB 124; [2001] 2 All ER 364, etc. The paragraph number must be the number allotted by the court in all future versions of the judgment."
    The second Practice Direction concludes "Although the judges cannot dictate the form in which law publishers reproduce the judgments of the court, this form of citation contains the official number given to each judgment which they hope will be reproduced wherever the judgment is republished, in addition to the reference given in any particular series of reports". By these means, the English Courts have made it clear their intention that the Court-designated citation should not be used and not ignored, both by those who are citing cases before a Court, and by those who are re-publishing the Court's decision.

     In Canada a very similar neutral citation method has been adopted, and is used on CanLII. For example, the third decision of the Supreme Court of Canada for 2003 has the citation '2003 SCC 3'. Court-designated citations are therefore now in use in many jurisdictions in the Commonwealth, and in relation to all of the Courts whose decisions are available through WorldLII.

    Cross-LII hypertext links to cases and legislation

    The development plans for WorldLII include the creation of mark-up software which automates the creation of hypertext links where cases (or other documents) from one national jurisdiction cite case or legislation from another national system.

    In WorldLII and its collaborating LIIs, cross-national hypertext links are only implemented to a limited extent as yet. For example, on WorldLII and BAILII in the database 'England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions', the decision Yasin Sepet And Erdem Bulbul V. Secretary Of State For Home Department (UNHCR Intervening) [2001] EWCA Civ 681 <> contains two automated hypertext links to Australian High Court decisions on WorldLII (and AustLII), as shown in the following extract (at para 88).


    Extract from a UK court decision with automated hypertext links to Australian cases


    This example also shows a UK court citing an Australian decision by its Court-designated 'HCA' citation, rather than a publisher-designated citation. Because AustLII and BAILII identify all cases by their Court-designated citations, these links can be created automatically between and within national collections on WorldLII.

     For examples of such cross-LII hypertext links on HKLII, the decision in Sin Hoi Chu & others v. The Director of Immigration [2002] HKCFA 3[37] (10 January 2002) provides good examples, as it includes hypertext links to cases on BAILII (eg, at [90], R v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte Bajram Zeqiri [2001] EWCA Civ 607)), to legislation on BAILII (eg at [131], UK Education (Schools) Act 1997) and to cases on AustLII (eg at [323], to University of Wollongong v. Metwally (1984) 158 CLR 447).

     Where Courts cite cases by use of publisher-designated citation, the task of recognising the location of cases on WorldLII from the citation is much more difficult and is a major research and development task for the future development of WorldLII and for national LIIs. HKLII is developing, with the assistance of the Law Library of the University of Hong Kong, a comparative case citation table for all Hong Kong courts, to enable comprehensive hypertext links to be created.

    2.4. WorldLII Catalog: the largest online index of Commonwealth law

    WorldLII also includes the WorldLII Catalog and a web-spider search facility for sites listed in the Catalog, covering law sites not on WorldLII ('WorldLII websearch'). It is probably the largest law catalog on the Internet[38], and is one of the very few web-spider-based law-specific search engines. The Catalog contains links to over 15,000 websites categorised under more than 5,000 categories with most sites indexed under multiple categories. The Catalog lists law-related websites for every country in the world from its 'Countries' page, but also groups countries into special groupings such as the Commonwealth.


    WorldLII Catalog front page for the Commonwealth


    The front page in the Catalog for the Commonwealth lists Commonwealth institutions, and also links to the 'Member Countries' page below which conveniently links to the indexes for each Commonwealth country. A search from the front page with the 'Only WorldLII Catalog >> Commonwealth' option checked will search law websites from all Commonwealth countries and institutions but not from other countries.


    The Commonwealth Member Countries page in the Catalog


    For each Commonwealth country listed, there is a substantial index of legal information available, illustrated below by the entries for Nigeria.


    Nigeria front page (extract) in the WorldLII catalog


    As well as these specific catalog links, the Stored Search 'Search all World Law: Nigeria' finds 5788 web pages of legal material referring to Nigeria by use of WorldLII's Websearch facility. The Catalog can be used in this way to find large amounts of legal materials relevant to any Commonwealth country, no matter how small or with few websites of its own.

    3. Systematic global legal research using WorldLII

    WorldLII provides for the first time a working model for systematic global legal research over free Internet law resources. Such research involves the following five separate steps, each of which is now possible using WorldLII and its collaborating LIIs:
    1. Start search on the most relevant law site (eg PacLII if you lived in the Pacific)
    2. Expand search to cooperating standardised law sites (mainly LIIs) (eg WorldLII)
    3. Expand search to non-standardised law sites by a law-specific web spider (eg WorldLII Catalog's Websearch facility)
    4. Expand search over general (non-law) search engine (eg Google)
    5. Browse and search a global catalog of legal web sites to find sites the content of which cannot be searched from a central facility (eg sites listed in the WorldLII Catalog)
    The research task is made more complex by the fact that we often need to make our research specific to particular types of legal materials (eg legislation, caselaw or law reform reports). As illustrated earlier, such type-specific research can be done using WorldLII or its collaborating LIIs.

     This systematic approach to legal research is implemented in two different ways in WorldLII and its collaborating LIIs: (i) invitations in search results to repeat searches over different collections; and (ii) the WorldLII Catalog interface which provides search options of different scope over different collections. They are outlined below (some still use the old terminology 'World Law' rather than 'WorldLII Catalog'). Other implementations of a systematic approach will no doubt be implemented as WorldLII develops.

    3.1. Repeating searches for comprehensive research

    In order for WorldLII to be part of as comprehensive a legal research system as possible, the presentation of search results for searches over the WorldLII Databases, WorldLII Catalog and in the collaborating LIIs all invite users to broaden their research by automatically repeating it over the other relevant systems. In addition, users are invited to repeat their search over Google, and their SINO search (from any of the systems) is translated into the most suitable search over Google.

     Where a user starts research from a single LII (eg PacLII), search results appear headed by a message such as the following:

    Repeat search over WorldLII Databases ; WorldLII Websearch ; Google


    The user is therefore invited to broaden their research by repeating the search automatically over WorldLII Databases (represented by the bold lines in the diagram below). When the search is repeated over WorldLII Databases, the search results invite the user to repeat the search over the World Catalog. When the user repeats the search over World Catalog, the search results then invite them to repeat the search over Google (and translate the search into Google syntax).

     Similarly, anyone who commences research on the WorldLII Catalog is invited to repeat their search over WorldLII Databases (represented by the lighter lines in the diagram below). Both the WorldLII Databases and WorldLII Catalog searches invite a further search over Google.


    A systematic research path, starting from a single LII (in bold)

    Our aim is therefore to assist (and encourage) users to do comprehensive searches over WorldLII Databases, WorldLII Catalog/Websearch and Google without having to re-key searches or learn different search commands for each system.

    3.2. An interface for comprehensive research

    The limitations of the above approach of inviting users to repeat searches are that it is not as intuitive as an interface which provides search alternatives, and that it does not so easily allow for searches of limited scope.

     How can this be achieved through one reasonably transparent interface? We are implementing it through the WorldLII Catalog interface, as shown below for the 'Legislation' page. The fourth option 'Only WorldLII Legislation' is additional to the options available on most pages.


    Proposed World Law search interface on the Legislation page


    On WorldLII Catalog pages where this is implemented, the user's context in browsing the catalog (eg 'Legislation') will determine the scope of the second and fourth options offered. So, for example, if the user is at the WorldLII Catalog page for all 'Law Reform' then the available options will include 'Only WorldLII Catalog - Law Reform' and 'Only WorldLII Databases Law Reform'.

    4. Commonwealth countries: how much free access?

    The three tables following summarise the known online databases of legislation, case law, and law reform reports that are available for free access from Commonwealth countries. The table is derived from the Commonwealth pages of the WorldLII Catalog[39], where details of the databases mentioned, and links to them, may be found. Due to the large number of countries involved, it is likely that we are unaware of some database that should be included[40]. No attempt has been made here to summarise the comprehensiveness of the databases concerned, but databases are not included unless a significant number of Acts, cases, or reports are included in them. There are of course many hundreds of websites in Commonwealth countries with small useful sets of Acts or cases, and details of these may also be found in the WorldLII Catalog.

     In relation to legislation, 20 of 56 Commonwealth countries have legislation collections online. The most comprehensive collections are from Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. WorldLII (through its collaborating LIIs) is by far the largest single source of legislation, with legislation databases from 24 Commonwealth jurisdictions (8 countries) covering all Australian jurisdictions, most Canadian jurisdictions, most UK jurisdictions, some Pacific jurisdictions, and in addition the historically related jurisdictions of Hong Kong and the Republic of Ireland. Permission has also been obtained to add New Zealand legislation, and that of some other Pacific countries, to WorldLII. The most significant improvements to WorldLII's Commonwealth legislation coverage would be if it was possible to add the existing legislation collections of India, South Africa and Singapore. However, there are no significant legislation collections available on the Internet from 36 Commonwealth countries, and the addition of collections from these countries, on WorldLII or elsewhere, would be a significant improvement.

     Case law shows a similar pattern: 21 countries have significant online case law collections, but 35 countries do not have any. By far the largest single source of Commonwealth case law is WorldLII which through its cooperating LIIs and its own databases has 164 case law databases from Commonwealth jurisdictions (13 countries), many of these being databases containing thousands of decisions. In addition, WorldLII is now adding to its coverage the content of the INTERIGHTS[41] database of Commonwealth and international human rights decisions from almost all countries in the Commonwealth. WorldLII also contains many decisions from International Courts and Tribunals[42] which affect the law of Commonwealth countries, such as the WTO tribunals, International Court of Justice, and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. WorldLII's national and international case law is clearly a potentially valuable tool to assist in the creation of a more international common law, but its value would be enhanced greatly by the addition of decisions of senior Courts in the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and other parts of the Commonwealth not well represented as yet.

     The situation with law reform online is rather different. There are extensive reports available online from 23 jurisdictions in 9 countries. Many countries do not have formal law reform bodies, so it is difficult to state how many Commonwealth countries' reports are 'missing'. WorldLII's coverage is as yet very limited: it only includes the Australian Law Reform Commission (though the database is very large), though it does include law reform reports from the historically related jurisdictions of Hong Kong and the Republic of Ireland.

    The countries with significant legislation only partly overlap those with significant case law: 14 countries are on both lists, so another 13 countries are on one list only, giving 27 of 56 Commonwealth countries with at least one type of significant collection. If we add law reform reports to this consideration, only 6[43] of 14 countries with both legislation and case law collections also have law reform collections online. There are two countries[44] with law reform online but no other collections, bringing the total number of countries with significant collections of at least one type to 29, just over half of all Commonwealth countries.

     This survey supports the contention in the title of this paper: that WorldLII can be seen as a new 'home' for Commonwealth law, in the sense that it is already the largest single source of law on the Internet for Commonwealth law (and for the common law), and its structure and policy allows for development toward being a more comprehensive instrument. The policy of WorldLII on this potential development is discussed in the concluding part of this paper.

    Citation of decisions by other Commonwealth Courts - a survey

    Lord Cooke compared the citations in two important cases decided by UK Courts in 1932 and 1995, and detected 'distinctly less' insularity. Since then decisions have started to become available via Internet. In Table 4 'Citation of decisions of other Commonwealth Courts' we set out a similar analysis for the two most recent decisions of the most senior Courts in Commonwealth countries where free access decisions are available online. There are obvious limitations in this Table, so it is presented only as an example of the type of analysis that needs to be done if we are to assess whether there is generally increased 'interaction between national jurisdictions in the use of precedents' (as Lord Cooke hoped) across the whole Commonwealth. Is the Internet producing the international 'level playing field' that Lord Justice Brooke hopes to see?

     The obvious limitations of this Table are that it only includes a statistically insignificant two cases per jurisdiction, it does not include details of non-Commonwealth cases cited, and it treats the Privy Council as a UK Court rather than as a separate jurisdiction[45]. A distinction may also need to be made between civil and criminal matters.

     Bearing in mind these limitations, the Table suggests that the decisions most frequently cited by Courts in other Commonwealth countries are those of Courts of the UK (60)[46], Canada (10), Australia (5), and New Zealand (5), but decisions from 10 other countries are also cited. Decisions from the majority of countries involved some citation of cases from other Commonwealth countries. A more comprehensive study could show quite a different result.

     The Table also shows that quite a few of the overseas cases cited (10) are able to be found on the various Legal Information Institutes comprising WorldLII, particularly BAILII, CanLII and AustLII, even though those systems only cover cases decided in recent years, and cases cited are often much older. In this sense, WorldLII is already becoming a 'home' for emerging Commonwealth jurisprudence.

    Table 1: Commonwealth Free Access Legislation Collections Online

    Key: HMSO = Her Majesty's Stationery Office;
    USP = University of the South Pacific, Vanuatu (School of Law)

     Brackets ( ) indicates number of different databases available
    Australia Cth (4), ACT (4), NSW (2), NT (2), QLD (2), SA (2), TAS (1), VIC (2), WA (2) AustLII/WorldLII
    AustLII 21

     Others 65

    Cth & territories (50), ACT (1), NSW (1), NT (1), QLD (3), SA (1), TAS (2), VIC (3), WA (3) Government sites
    Bahamas Lex Bahamas Lex Bahamas
    Bangladesh Law Translation Project Heidelberg University
    Belies Laws of Belize BelizeLaw.Org
    Canada Federal, Québec, New Brunswick, Alberta, Nova Scotia ; Constitutional Documents CanLII/WorldLII
    CanLII 6 

    Others 31

    Federal (2), Alberta (2), British Columbia (2), Manitoba (2), New Brunswick (2), Newfoundland & Labrador (2), NW Territories (2), Nova Scotia (3), Nunavut (2), Ontario (3), Prince Edward Island (2), Québec (2), Saskatchewan (2), Yukon (3) Government sites
    Fiji Fiji Legislation PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    India Laws Valkino1
    Maha Library Network Publishing
    INCODIS Government site 
    Lesotho Bills and acts Lesotho Government
    Nauru Nauru Statutes USP (PacLII/WorldLII approved)
    New Zealand Public Access to Legislation Project NZ Parlt. Counsel Office

     (AustLII/WorldLII approved)

    Nigeria Laws of the Federation of Nigeria Nigeria Law
    Samoa Samoa Legislation PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    Singapore Singapore Statutes Online  A-Gs Chambers of Singapore
    Solomon Islands Solomon Islands Legislation PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    South Africa Legislation  S. Africa Government Online
    Online Hypertext Series  Acts Online
    Tonga Tonga Legislation  PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    Tuvalu Tuvalu Legislation USP

    (PacLII/WorldLII approved)

    United Kingdom United Kingdom statutes &, instruments, Northern Ireland statutes, Welsh instruments, Scottish statutes & instruments BAILII/WorldLII
    BAILII 6

     Others 4

    United Kingdom, Northern Ireland Scotland and Wales legislation & instruments HMSO
    Wales Legislation Online Cardiff Law School
    Vanuatu Legislation PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    Zambia The Acts of Zambia Zambia Legal Information Institute (ZamLII)
    Countries with no known significant free online legislation collections omitted from this table (apologies for any inadvertent omissions): Antigua & Barbuda; Barbados; Belize; Botswana; Brunei; Cameroon; Cyprus; Dominica; Gambia; Ghana; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Kenya; Kiribati; Malawi; Malaysia; Maldives; Malta; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent & Grenadines; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Sri Lanka; Swaziland; Tanzania; Trinidad & Tobago; Uganda; Zimbabwe.

    Table 2: Commonwealth Free Access Case Law Collections Online

    Key: USP = University of the South Pacific, Vanuatu (School of Law)


    Brackets ( ) indicates number of different databases available
    Multi-jurisdiction Human rights cases (980 cases) INTERIGHTS

     (being added to WorldLII)


    AustLII 77

     Others 40

    Commonwealth (22), including High Court, Family Court, Federal Court, Industrial Relations Court, High Court Transcripts and Bulletins), ACT (5), NSW (16), NT (3), QLD (11), SA (9), TAS (2), VIC (4), WA (4), Supreme Court of Norfolk Island (1) AustLII/WorldLII
    Commonwealth (7), ACT (4), NSW (12), NT (1), QLD (4), SA (1), TAS (5), VIC (4), WA (3) Mainly government

    CanLII 50

     Others 33

    Canada Federal (4) Includes Supreme Court, Federal Court, Tax Court ad Competition Tribunal; Alberta (3), British Columbia (3), Manitoba (3), New Brunswick (3), Newfoundland and Labrador (3), Northwest Territories (3), Nova Scotia (6), Nunavut (2), Ontario (2), Prince Edward Island (2), Québec (9), Saskatchewan (3), Yukon (4) CanLII/WorldLII
    Canada (8), Alberta Courts (Court of Appeal, Court of Queen's Bench, Provincial Court) (3), British Columbia (6), Federal Court of Canada, Manitoba (1), New Brunswick (0), Newfoundland and Labrador (0), Northwest Territories (0), Nova Scotia (0), Nunavut (0), Ontario (6), Prince Edward Island (1), Québec (5), Saskatchewan (1), Yukon (0) Mainly government
    Cases Indigenous Bar Association
    Cyprus Cypriot High Court (Appellate, Administrative and Supreme Court) CyLaw.Com (Uses WorldLII's SINO Search Engine)
    Fiji Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, Fiji Magistrate's Court PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    India Supreme Court, Delhi High Court, Andhra Pradesh High Court, Jammu & Kashmir High Court, Orissa High Court, Bombay High Court, Madras High Court Judgement Information Service (JUDIS)
    High Court of Kerala (Extracts) Kerala Internet Communications
    Supreme Court; Companies Act Judgements; Income Tax Judgements (includes Decisions from various courts)
    Jamaica Supreme Court Supreme Court of Jamaica
    Kiribati Court of Appeal, High Court, High Court of the Gilbert Islands PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    Malta Constitutional Court Uni. of Malta Faculty of Law
    Maltese court decisions Sentenzi Online
    Nauru Supreme Court  PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    New Zealand Court of Appeal 

    (other Courts planned from mid-2003)

     NZ Privacy Commissioner

    Court of Appeal Brookers (Thomson Group)
    Refugee Status Appeals Authority, New Zealand High Court and Court of Appeal (refugee cases only) RefNZ
    Nigeria Supreme Court Nigeria Law
    Samoa High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, District Court  PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    Solomon Islands High Court, Court of Appeal , Magistrates' Court PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    South Africa Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Appeal WorldLII also WITS Law School
    Supreme Court of Appeal  University of the Orange Free State
    Tonga Supreme Court , Court of Appeal, Land Court PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    Trinidad & Tobago High Court, Court of Appeals Judiciary of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago 
    Tuvalu High Court  PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    United Kingdom

    BAILII 9

     Others 3

    United Kingdom House of Lords, Privy Council, High Court and Court of Appeal (England & Wales), Northern Ireland Court of Appeal and High Court, Scottish Court of Session, High Court, and Sheriff Court BAILII/WorldLII
    House of Lords United Kingdom Parliament
    Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Privacy Council
    Judgments (various courts, selected) Court Service (Eng. & Wales)
    Court Opinions (various courts, selected) Scottish Courts Website
    Judgments (various courts, selected) Northern Ireland Court Service

    PacLII 5

     Others 5

    Supreme Court , Court of Appeal, Efate Island Court, Senior Magistrate's Court, Supreme Court of New Hebrides  PacLII/WorldLII also on USP
    Zambia Supreme Court , High Court ZamLII
    Countries with no known significant free online caselaw collections omitted from this table (apologies for any inadvertent omissions): Antigua & Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Botswana; Brunei; Cameroon; Dominica; Gambia; Ghana; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Kenya; Lesotho; Malawi; Malaysia; Maldives; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent & Grenadines; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Sri Lanka; Swaziland; Tanzania; Uganda; Zimbabwe.

    Table 3: Commonwealth Free Access Law Reform Collections Online

    Key: Brackets ( ) indicates number of different databases available

    Australia Australian Law Reform Commission

     NSW LRC (Only 7 reports and 4 Discussion papers)

    Cth (2), ACT LRC (1), NSW LRC (1), QLD LRC (2), TAS LRC (1), VIC (3), WA LRC (1) Government sites
    Canada Canada, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan Law Reform Commissions Government sites
    Uniform Law Conference of Canada Uniform Law Conf. of Canada
    India Reports Law Commission of India
    Kenya Reports and papers Constitution of Kenya Review Commission
    Malawi Reports Malawi Law Commission
    New Zealand NZ Law Commission  NZ Law Commission
    Singapore Law Reform Committee, Singapore Academy of Law LawNet
    Law Reform and Revision Division, A-Gs Chambers  A-Gs Chambers of Singapore
    South Africa South African Law Commission  WITS Law School
    United Kingdom Law Commission for England and Wales Law Commission 
    Office of Law Reform for Northern Ireland; Law Reform Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland Office of Law Reform
    Scottish Law Commission Scottish Law Commission
    Countries with no known significant free online law reform collections omitted from this table (apologies for any inadvertent omissions): Antigua & Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Botswana; Brunei; Cameroon; Cyprus; Dominica; Fiji; Gambia; Ghana; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Kiribati; Lesotho; Malaysia; Maldives; Malta; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Nauru; Nigeria; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent & Grenadines; Samoa; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Solomon Islands; Sri Lanka; Swaziland; Tanzania; Tonga; Trinidad & Tobago; Tuvalu; Uganda; Vanuatu; Zambia; Zimbabwe. Some of these jurisdictions may not have law reform agencies.

    Table 4: Citation of decisions of other Commonwealth Courts

    Key: Table includes only two most recent free access online cases by a country's highest Court; Countries with no such cases available omitted; CAOECA=Ct Appeal, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

    Country Judgment Other Cth Cases Cited
    Australia (High Court ) Maurici [2003] HCA 8 1 UK
    Re Minister for Immigration; Ex parte Lam [2003] HCA 6 7 UK (2 on BAILII); 1 NZ; 2 Canada (Both on CanLII)
    Bahamas (Supreme Court) Financial Clearing Corp. v. Attorney General. (27/11/ 01) 1 South Africa; 3 UK (1 on BAILII); 1 Gambia; 1 Trinidad & Tobago; 1 Mauritius
    Glinton and Esfakis v. Ingraham (307/02) 3 UK (2 on BAILII), 1 NZ, 1 Bermuda, 1 Antigua & Barbuda, 2 Canada (on CanLII)
    Belize (Supreme Court) Selgado v A-G et al (18 /12/02) 2 UK
    Chawla v A-G (29/7/02) 3 UK; 2 Canada; 1 CAOECA; 1 Guyana; 1 Bahamas
    Canada (Supreme Court) R. v. Zinck 2003 SCC 6 0
    Harvard College v Canada 2002 SCC 76 1 UK
    Fiji (Supreme Court) In re the Constitution (Misc. Case #1 of 2002) 1 NZ
    The President v Kubuabola [1999] FJSC 8 1 Australia (on AustLII)
    India (Supreme Court) M/s. Cadila Laboratories (6745/99) (13/2/03) 0
    UPSRTC v Hoti Lal (5984/00) (11/2/03) 8 UK
    Jamaica (Supreme Court) Couttes v Barclays Bank (E466/99 ) 3 UK
    Judgment E100 of 2000 Everton George Hyatt v Sharon Jennifer Hyatt 1 UK
    Kiribati (High Court) Republic v Timiti [1998] KIHC 1 (1998) 0
    Republic v Tekanene [1997] KIHC 3 ((1997) 1 UK
    Malta (Ct of Appeal) Borg v Debono 0
    Aic v Pubblici 0
    NZ (Court of Appeal) Amaru [2002] NZCA 338 0
    Lawton [2002] NZCA 337 1 UK
    Nigeria (Supreme Court) A-G Abia State (2002) 3 NILR 28 1 UK
    7-UP Bottling Company (1995) 3 NILR 10  0
    Samoa (Court of Appeal) Mulitalo [2001] WSCA  0
    Teo [2001] WSCA 7 2 UK, 1 Canada, 1 Fiji, 2 NZ, 1 Australia (on AustLII)
    Solomon Is (C of A) Air Transport Ltd [1999] SBCA 2 1 UK
    Prime Minister [1998] SBCA 1 2 UK
    S. Africa (Sup Ct Appeal) Golden Fried Chicken [2001] ZASCA 105 0
    York [2001] ZASCA 104 0
    Tonga (Court of Appeal) Tu'i'onetoa [2001] TOCA 1 3 UK
    Tupou [2001] TOCA 2 0
    Tuvalu (High Court) Toafa [1987] TVHC 1 15 UK, 1 Australia
    Trinidad & Tobago (Ct of Appeal) Chaitan (Cv.A. Nos. 26 & 29/01) 1 UK
    Luciano Valley Vue Hotel (Cv.A No. 40/98) 1 UK
    UK (House of Lords) Kanaris [2003] UKHL 2 1 Australia
    Fairchild [2002] UKHL 22 7 Australia, 3 Canada
    UK (Privy Council) Singh [2003] UKPC 15 0
    Patel [2003] UKPC 16 0
    Vanuatu (Court of Appeal) Mathias [2002] VUCA 8 0
    Malsoklei [2002] VUCA 9 0

    5. Conclusions: Some speculation and an invitation

    5.1. Future development of WorldLII

    Although we have set out some of our priorities in this paper, it is not easy to predict how WorldLII's content will develop, or what technical tools will be needed to best assist that development. Systems like WorldLII tend to develop something of a momentum of their own, depending on the wishes of data providers, the collaborative LIIs, users and funding organisations.

    Some of the technical developments which would assist WorldLII's growth and quality include:

    Work is proceeding on all of these potential improvements but depends on resources available.

    5.2. An invitation to Commonwealth Courts and Governments to join WorldLII

    We conclude this paper with an open invitation to Commonwealth Courts and Governments to join WorldLII and its collaborating LIIs in creating a more comprehensive source of Commonwealth law. Within the limits of the constraints imposed by our financial resources[48], WorldLII is willing to include in its databases: Except for certain high priority databases (as indicated earlier in the paper), we will not contact Courts and governments to solicit databases directly. We will instead give priority to those Courts and governments that express an interest to us in the inclusion of their data in WorldLII, and a willingness and ability to provide it in a suitable form[49]. We welcome expressions of interest.

     The main ingredients needed for success are goodwill on the part of data providers, a commitment to free access to the law, and a determination to create a better Commonwealth and common law jurisprudence. Technical and resources questions can usually be solved when these ingredients are present.

     In some cases, the inclusion of databases on WorldLII may be the first step toward the development of independent national or regional Legal Information Institutes using the same software as WorldLII, on the model of PacLII, AustLII, CanLII, BAILII or HKLII. The development of WorldLII's South African databases in conjunction with WITS Law School could lead to one example of such as a development. WorldLII could serve as an 'incubator' of other Legal Information Institutes in the Commonwealth.

     Achieving WorldLII's goal of facilitating the development of a more international common law will involve overcoming many obstacles. Perhaps Lord Cooke's words (in another context) will be accurate[50]:

    "One does not collect jurisdictions like postage stamps, and the possibilities of any increase at all in my own modest collection are by no means evident ..."
    Will WorldLII and the LII's cooperating in it become 'home' to the law of more Commonwealth countries? As Lord Justice Brooke concluded 'We will have to wait and see'[51].


    Lord Justice Henry Brooke 'Publishing the Courts: Judgments and public information on the Internet' (paper presented at this Conference)

     Lord Cooke of Thorndon "The Dream of an International Common Law" in C Saunders (Ed) Courts of Final Jurisdiction: The Mason court in Australia, Federation Press 1996

     Lord Cooke of Thorndon 'The Judge in an Evolving Society', address to Judges and Judicial Officers of the High Court of Hong Kong, 17 December 1997, available at <>

     G Greenleaf, P Chung , A Mowbray, Ka Po Chow and KH Pun 'The Hong Kong Legal Information Institute (HKLII): Its role in free access to global law via the Internet [2002] Hong Kong Law Journal Vol 32, Part 1; presented at 4th Law via Internet Conference, Montreal, October 2002, available at <>

     G Greenleaf 'Free the Law: How the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) Achieved the Free Availability of Legal Information on the Internet' 2000 (1). The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT) at <>

     G Greenleaf, A Mowbray G King `New directions in law via the internet - The AustLII Papers' Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT), Issue 2, 1997, University of Warwick Faculty of Law, at <>

    A Mowbray, G Greenleaf and P Chung 'A Uniform Approach for Vendor and Media Neutral Citation - the Australian Experience' Citations Workshop: strategies for accessing law and legal information Edinburgh, Scotland - 11th & 12th March 2000

    (c) G Greenleaf, A Mowbray and P Chung 2003. These materials are subject to copyright. No part may be reproduced, adapted or communicated without the written consent of the copyright owner except as permitted under applicable copyright law.[*] Graham Greenleaf is Professor of Law, University of New South Wales; Andrew Mowbray is Professor of Law, University of Technology, Sydney; Philip Chung is Executive Director, AustLII, and Lecturer in Law, , University of Technology, Sydney; the authors are the Co-Directors of the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) and World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII); Madeleine Davis and Takao Hasuike, Research Officers at AustLII, prepared the Tables in this paper.

    [1] Lord Justice Henry Brooke 'Publishing the Courts: Judgments and public information on the Internet' (paper at this Conference, 2003) describes one motivation for the creation of BAILII as the needs of 'the countries of the Commonwealth particularly in Africa and the Caribbean, which are desperate to obtain access to UK law texts', and the need for quick download of Privy Council decisions when you are in countries with very slow Internet connectivity.

    [2] Lord Cooke of Thorndon "The Dream of an International Common Law" in C Saunders (Ed) Courts of Final Jurisdiction: The Mason court in Australia, Federation Press 1996

    [3] Lord Cooke "The Dream of an International Common Law" op cit

    [4] Lord Cooke of Thorndon 'The Judge in an Evolving Society', address to Judges and Judicial Officers of the High Court of Hong Kong, 17 December 1997, available at <>

    [5] As to which, see Lord Cooke "The Dream of an International Common Law" op cit Part I.

    [6] Lord Justice Brooke op cit

    [7] Lord Cooke op cit 1996, Part II

    [8] See Lord Justice Brooke op cit p5 for an explanation of the significance of this case

    [9] Another answer to providing comprehensive access is to have all significant legal websites in a jurisdiction adopt a standard format for their materials, and to return results of distributed searches to a centralised search facility. There are no successful examples of this approach yet known.

    [10] LawNet in the Australian State of New South Wales is one example, but even it lacks the capacity for users to search all of its databases in one search.

    [11] We are not suggesting that LIIs should only provide essential legal information. They are likely to be involved in the provision of other types of secondary materials such as law journals, in the provision of 'plain English' guides to the law and in other approaches to improving public access to the law. These sources require different considerations from 'essential' legal information, particularly because their publication is less likely to be pursuant to a duty to publish, or public subsidies to do so.

    [12] Until recently the 'Australasian' in the title was more a statement of intention than fact.

    [13] HKLII is pronounced 'H K Lee'.

    [14] The Zambian Legal Information Institute (ZamLII) <> (1996) no longer seems to be updated; There is a list of LIIs at <>.

    [15] See <> - It is maintained by the Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas (Legal Research Institute) de la UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).

    [16] <>

    [17] Links to these key government sites, and to LIIs, can be found at <>.

    [18] See <> for a global list.

    [19] See <> for a global list.

    [20] See <>

    [21] See G Greenleaf, A Mowbray G King `New directions in law via the internet - The AustLII Papers' Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT), Issue 2, 1997, University of Warwick Faculty of Law, at <> , and G Greenleaf 'Free the Law: How the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) Achieved the Free Availability of Legal Information on the Internet' 2000 (1). The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT) at <>.

    [22] The existence of the Hong Kong Legal Information Institute (HKLII - <> is another demonstration of this.

    [23] See <>.

    [24] It was first demonstrated at the Third Law via Internet Conference, held at AustLII in Sydney in November 2001, and has been available for public access since then.

    [25] See <>.

    [26] Tom Bruce 'WORLDLII: A sketch for a distributed search system' at <>.

    [27] Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, and Constitutional Court of South Africa

    [28] WTO Arbitrators Decisions 1998- ; WTO Panel Decisions 1998-; WTO Appellate Body Decisions 1996- <>

    [29] Generic Top Level Domain Name (gTLD) Decisions 2000- <

    [30] International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Decisions 1997- <>

    [31] ISIL Year Book of International Humanitarian and Refugee Law <>

    [32] For a history of these developments in Australia and elsewhere, see A Mowbray, G Greenleaf and P Chung 'A Uniform Approach for Vendor and Media Neutral Citation - the Australian Experience' Citations Workshop: strategies for accessing law and legal information Edinburgh, Scotland - 11th & 12th March 2000

    [33] See Mowbray, Greenleaf and Chung 'A Uniform Approach for Vendor and Media Neutral Citation - the Australian Experience' op cit Part 8 for discussion of the implementation on BAILII and the original set of designators used.

    [34] Lord Justice Brooke op cit 'Advances in England and Wales in the last five years'

    [35] Practice Direction (Judgments: Form and Citation) [2001] 1 WLR 194 available at <>

    [36] Practice Direction (Judgments: Neutral Citation) [2002] 1 WLR 3 available at <>

    [37] At <>.

    [38] See, for a detailed description, Graham Greenleaf, Philip Chung and Russell Allen 'World Law: Finding law after Google' Proc. AustLII Law via Internet 2001 Conference, AustLII, Sydney, 2001.

    [39] <>, as discussed earlier in this paper.

    [40] We apologise for any inadvertent omissions, and if informed of them will amend the tables accordingly before further publication, and will add the databases to the WorldLII Catalog.

    [41] <>

    [42] See back to the discussion of WorldLII's existing and proposed databases.

    [43] Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The historically related jurisdictions of the Republic of Ireland and Hong Kong also meet all three criteria.

    [44] Malawi and Kenya

    [45] It is arguable that the Privy Council should be considered as a separate jurisdiction, particularly in light of the surviving rights of appeal to it from some jurisdictions, which may make it more likely that Courts in those jurisdictions will cite its decisions since they are binding on local courts.

    [46] At least half these decisions are by the Privy Council, and need to be noted separately from other UK Courts.

    [47] See G Greenleaf, P Chung , A Mowbray, Ka Po Chow and KH Pun 'The Hong Kong Legal Information Institute (HKLII): Its role in free access to global law via the Internet [2002] Hong Kong Law Journal Vol 32, Part 1 for a discussion of the general issues involved.

    [48] Thanks to funding from the Australian Research Council, as described earlier, AustLII/WorldLII is able to undertake this inclusion of Commonwealth/common law material at present, but long-term continuation or expansion of this will require additional funding from new stakeholders.

    [49] We cannot convert data from paper, it must already be available in some computerised form.

    [50] Lord Cooke, op cit, p2

    [51] Lord Justice Brooke, op cit, final words