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1. A case study - Does AustLII have a future?

AustLII[2]ttp://www.austlii.edu.au/] has provided substantial Australian legal information via the internet since July 1995, two and a half years ago. When AustLII started there were no significant free access sources of Australian legal information, whether on the internet or elsewhere[3].

The electronic legal publishing environment in Australia is now changing rapidly, due in part to AustLII's achievements. Substantial quantities of Australian legal information are now available via the internet from other sources, including free access from some government agencies, Parliaments, tribunals (but not, as yet, courts), and from government publishers such as SCALE+ and AGPS, and charged access from legal publishers such as Butterworths Online.

What is AustLII's future in this changing environment? Does it have one, or will it just be remembered as a valuable early experiment in internet publishing of law in Australia?

The purpose of this part of the paper is to outline AustLII's current thinking on these questions. We start with a short assessment of AustLII's achievements so as to help identity which have continuing value. Then we describe why the environment is changing. Finally, we suggest how AustLII will have to respond if it is to continue playing an important role in access to law in Australia.

Some brief background

For readers not familiar with AustLII, it is a joint facility of the Law Faculties of the University of Technology, Sydney, and the University of New South Wales. It has two Co-Directors and a full-time staff of six. Access to all information on AustLII's web site is free. AustLII is best known as a web site, but there are a number of dimensions to its operations, including research in legal computerisation, education, and involvement in public policy issues concerning legal information. We describe AustLII as a University-based organisation specialising in research and teaching in computerisation of law, and which operates one of the largest free law sites on the web.

Full details of all of AustLII's operations are in Greenleaf G, Mowbray A and King G (1997) `New directions in law via the internet - The AustLII Papers'[4]http://ltc.law.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/LegInfo/97_2gree/default.htm] Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT), Issue 2, 1997, University of Warwick Faculty of Law, (electronic journal). The details that are not provided in this paper to describe the matters we mention below can be found in `The AustLII Papers'.

[2] h

[3] The Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department SCALE system (neither on the internet nor free) had gathered data for twenty years, however.


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