4. Responding to change
How does AustLII intend to respond to this changing environment from now to 2000?
We see no reason to change AustLII's commitment to the permanent provision of
free internet access to public legal information in Australia. To achieve this,
AustLII must continue to pursue a number of strategic tasks:
will be a continuing need for AustLII as a large legal publisher for at least
the medium term. For many legal institutions, use of a non-profit publisher
such as AustLII will continue to be a better alternative than the financial and
technical requirements of self-publishing.
- We must maintain AustLII as an alternative public access source of
at least the most important databases of Australian legal information (the
`crown jewels'), so as to protect against the loss of such data from public
hands. So long as up-to-date databases are held by AustLII as well as SCALE+,
Osiris, or a `self-publishing' legal institution, it matters less if that
institution's data is suddenly privatised or converted to `user-pays'. There is
also far less likelihood of such data being an attractive commercial
proposition if AustLII continues to provide free access. AustLII's continuing
provision of free access to key databases will continue to be a necessary
`insurance policy' for those interested in access to justice, irrespective of
the quality of alternatives.
- We must continue to use AustLII's influence to help prevent any
public legal information from either (i) monopoly provision by institutions or
(ii) paid access where there is no free access.
We think that databases on AustLII will be continued on this basis:
needs to position itself as a key provider of access to distributed
information. We aim to do so by the following means:
- We will maintain and extend those databases that are needed for
AustLII's key tasks, which includes each of the following:
provision of key technical facilities on which other valued AustLII services
depend (for example legislation is needed for us to provide `noteups' of
(ii) for public policy reasons (the `crown jewels in public
hands' approach discussed above);
(iii) to maintain sufficient data for
research into computerisation of legal information; and (iv) because the data
is valuable and otherwise unavailable, even though it is only valued by a
minority audience (subject to available funding).
- We will help develop standards of data preparation by data sources,
as this reduces the costs and increases the quality provided by all publishers
that use that data. At the same time, we will increase the quality of our own
data collection and preparation, while still relying almost entirely on
automated processing of data.
- We will develop new means of obtaining important legal databases on
AustLII where the data is also available elsewhere on the web, by methods using
ftp or mirroring which rely on standards being observed by the data source.
- We will continue research and development of new forms of legal
services via the web using knowledge-based technologies and delivery of
data according to user-specified needs.
- We are developing a combination of an intellectual index and a targeted
web spider as a means of overcoming the research problems of distributed
legal data which is not held on AustLII (see Part B of this paper). This
applies to Australian data as well as `world' data.
- We will help develop standards for distributed legal data provision
via the web.
- We will develop SINO as a consistent search engine across all legal
information, local on AustLII and remote (Australian and international). A
single search of AustLII will produce results from AustLII's databases, legal
databases for which every word has been indexed by our web spider, and other
databases only identified in our intellectual index. This is already being done
in reverse in our use of the search engine to search remote databases in
Project DIAL, where users are given the option to repeat the search over
AustLII's databases, AustLII's links, Alta Vista or Yahoo.
AustLII can effectively pursue the policy and technical goals listed above,
then we should be able to secure our institutional base by these means:
- We will `export' the main features of AustLII's hypertext markup and
hypertext/search integration to enhance remote (ie non-AustLII) data, by
means such as:
(i) `remote noteups' (markup before indexing of web spider
(ii) encouraging other to use AustLII's markup tools by making
them more readily available.
Overall, our aim must be to
stay small, intelligent, flexible and (we hope) ahead of the game.
- Obtain funding from academic and other sources for research and
development of better access methods to distributed materials across the web,
both Australian and international.
- Obtain funding from a broader range of stakeholders: (i) institutions who
do not wish to self-publish their own legal materials, but would like us to do
so; (ii) corporate representatives of categories of users who wish to fund
access to particular types of materials.
- Develop international alliances and involvement, both so as to promote the
value of public legal information institutes world-wide, and as to increase the
range of possible funding sources for AustLII.