FINDING LAW ON THE INTERNET
A paper delivered at the at the Continuing Legal Education Seminar of the NSW Bar Association on the 13 May 1996, Sydney Australia
by Sandra Davey, Manager, Foundation Law (email:firstname.lastname@example.org)
by Lisa Allen, Librarian, NSW Bar Association Library (email:email@example.com)
by Mark Robinson, Barrister (email:firstname.lastname@example.org)
by Sandra Davey
The Internet is a network of computers from around the world that have agreed to communicate with each other using a common protocol or standard. This protocol is called TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. This protocol forms the underlying structure of the Internet and provides such basic applications as electronic mail, ftp or file transfer protocol and telnet, along with more sophisticated applications such as gopher and the world wide web.
The Internet provides access to a variety of resources and information, limited only by your imagination. Information and resources include electronic mail services, electronic discussion groups and lists, file transfer services, library catalogues, games, chat services, reference services, weather forecastsnews and sports reports and online shopping.
Anywhere between 20 and 30 million people from over 130 countries across approximately 9,472,000 million computers, have access to the Internet. According to Hobbes’ (1996), the following table represents Internet growth rates.
Internet growth (Internet Society statistics)
Date Hosts | Date Hosts Networks Domains ----- --------- + ----- --------- -------- ------- 1969 4 | 07/89 130,000 650 3,900 04/71 23 | 10/89 159,000 837 06/74 62 | 10/90 313,000 2,063 9,300 03/77 111 | 01/91 376,000 2,338 08/81 213 | 07/91 535,000 3,086 16,000 05/82 235 | 10/91 617,000 3,556 18,000 08/83 562 | 01/92 727,000 4,526 10/84 1,024 | 04/92 890,000 5,291 20,000 10/85 1,961 | 07/92 992,000 6,569 16,300 02/86 2,308 | 10/92 1,136,000 7,505 18,100 11/86 5,089 | 01/93 1,313,000 8,258 21,000 12/87 28,174 | 04/93 1,486,000 9,722 22,000 07/88 33,000 | 07/93 1,776,000 13,767 26,000 10/88 56,000 | 10/93 2,056,000 16,533 28,000 01/89 80,000 | 01/94 2,217,000 20,539 30,000 | 07/94 3,212,000 25,210 46,000 | 10/94 3,864,000 37,022 56,000 | 01/95 4,852,000 39,410 71,000 | 07/95 6,642,000 61,538 120,000 | 01/96 9,472,000 93,671 240,000
The Internet is a loosely arranged group of computers with no governing body and as such, is not owned by anyone. Links that make up the Internet are funded by various bodies including federal governments, universities, research institutions, consortiums, private companies and the commercial sector. Each organisation connected to the Internet owns and controls only their local computers and the link they use to connect their machines to the Internet. A standards body however, known as the Internet Society, makes recommendations and implements new standards for consistency in networking across the Internet.
Electronic mail can be sent to any person anywhere, anytime, as long as they are connected in some way, to the Internet. They may be connected through a University, through work or use a commercial provider (such as Enternet, Hutchison and MagnaData) for access.
Email addresses are what you use to send and receive electronic mail. To send and receive mail from the Internet, you need a unique Internet address. As part of a connection to the Internet, your Internet provider will assign to you, a unique email address which consists of a UserID (generally your name or initials) + a standard Internet host address format.
The host address will change depending on who you have your Internet connection with. Some examples of host or domain names are:
- fl.asn.au – a Foundation Law user
- enternet.com.au – an Enternet user
- gtlaw.com.au – someone from Gilbert and Tobin
- magna.com.au – a MagnaData user
- laurel.mq.edu.au – a Macquarie Uni user
- email@example.com, or
Mail addresses are a combination of the users name (always to the left of the @ symbol), the machine where their account is located, the owner of the machine, and the Internet domain (these always to the right of the @). For example the following designates an Internet address.
- cregan is the user name
- library is the machine name
- usyd is the subdomain name
- edu is the subdomain name
- au is the domain name
Internet addresses end in the most general domain which is a country code. These codes are based on the ISO standard defining countries and their abbreviated codes (hence au for Australia). The only exception to this is US destinations where the most general domain name is the organisation type. Rarely will you see an American user whose address ends in .us. An email address that ends in edu.au indicates that it is an Australian educational institution while just edu indicates an American educational institution.
Examples of domain and subdomain names used across the Internet are:
- edu: education
- gov: governmental sites
- com: commercial organisations
- net: special network machines
- asn: associations/not profit
- au: Australia
- th: Thailand
- uk: United Kingdom
- jp: Japan
- ca: canada
The two subdomains can be names of institutions and departments at those institutions. So it is common to see subdomains such as csd (computer services department), lib (library), and med (medical centre). After the @ is the machine name which is a local name. Quite often this name is colourful or thematic such as laurel and hardy at Maquarie University and fatty at Cornell University.
The main advantages and uses of electronic mail are:
- low cost
- establish business and personal contacts
- stay in touch and up-to-date
- information exchange: ask questions, get help, help others
- resource sharing: tap into the knowledge and experience of others and share yours
- document exchange
- general and business communication
Part of the Global Village: Electronic Mailing Lists
Electronic mailing lists are a popular form of information exchange. They provide the ability for a group of people from geographically diverse areas to get together to discuss issues that are of mutual relevance or interest. Mailing lists can used for discussion, debate, resource and information sharing and difficult to answer reference queries.
Lists can be either those that generate discussions about a subject area; where people pose questions, provide answers, chat and give opinions, debate and discuss topics in an intellectual fashion, or they can be those that deliver an electronic journal, newsletter or information update, on a regular or semi regular basis.
The main advantages and uses of mailing lists are:
- low cost
- stay in touch and up-to-date
- establish business and personal contacts
- information exchange: ask questions, get help, help others
- resource sharing: tap into the knowledge and experience of others and share yours
- document exchange
- general and business communication
- targeted audience
- forum for intellectual discussion and debate
- access to subject specific lists
- resource discovery
- useful for small libraries as an effective way of staying in touch
- professional development
- stay up to date with new Internet legal developments
- database access tips (Lexis users mailing list)
- awareness of current issues
- resource for elusive/rare information sources
- information on legal publishing developments
- virtual reference desk
Some mailing lists generate a lot of mail. Before you know it, you are on 1/2 dozen lists and receiving a few hundred messages a day. Be careful about how many you initially join. Join them one or two a time and monitor them for relevance. Get off them if you find them irrelevant.
A full list of the legal Internet mailing lists can be obtained from the Legal Resources menu on Foundation Law.
The Global Cafe: Internet Newsgroups
Internet discussion groups are similar to Internet mailing lists except with a discussion group, you do not need to be a member or have a subscription in order to see and/or participate in the discussions. Therefore everyone who has access to the Internet can get access to these discussion groups quite easily. The advantage is that you can potentially reach a broader audience, the obvious disadvantage being that you may not necessarily know who that audience is.
The underlying beauty of discussions groups is that they are just like the kitchen table; nothing goes undiscussed, nothing is taboo. This means that the junk to content ratio can be potentially high so work out for yourself whether you think this could be useful ;-) !!
The main advantages and uses of Internet discussion groups are:
- stay in touch and up to date
- establish business and personal contacts
- information exchange: ask questions, get help, help others
- resource sharing: tap into the knowledge and expertise of others
- general and business communication
- reach a potentially broad audience
- hobbies and interests
- current awareness
Remotely Possible: Telnet
Telnet is an Internet protocol that allows you to connect to a remote computer. These remote computers generally provide access to databases, either of a public or private nature. The beauty of Telnet is that is makes it possible to use the remote computer as if it were the computer in front of you.
The main advantages and uses of Telnet are:
- connect to a library catalogue: National Library of Australia, Library of Congress
- connect to an online database such as LawPoint, LEXIS or DIALOG
- connect to a virtual environment, game or chat session, such as a MUD, MOO or IRC
- low cost: no international communication charges (Telstra, Sprint or BT)
Although Internet congestion can be a problem and this can result in incredible frustration, the advantage of connecting to a database over the Internet is that there are no international communication charges.
A Moving Experience: File Transfer Protocol or FTP
FTP is another Internet protocol that enables you to access files on the Internet and bring them back to your own computer for displaying or using locally. These files could be large images, software programs, pieces of music or large documents. An FTP site is generally referred to as an archive or, a place to store large amounts of information.
The main advantages and uses of FTP are:
- browsing software archives
- locating freeware or shareware software: Netscape, Eudora and Trumpet Winsock
- accessing large files such as graphics, images, sound files and statistics
- accessing large electronic journals and online books
Get Linked: WWW and Netscape
The World Wide Web revolutionised the way information is arranged on the Internet and programs like Netscape and Mosaic have revolutionised the way we access the information. Riddled with colour, images, pictures and hotlinks, the Web has almost put the Internet into the hands of us all. Based on the concept of hypertext or the ability to link multiple media such as text, images, sound and even video, the Web provides non linear access to information and resources. The user moves through the information in a way that suits them, clicking on links they find interesting, and not necessarily following the information in the manner the publisher intended. In this sense, it is a much more lateral and fair way to display information claiming ultimately, a higher level of user controlled navigation and satisfaction.
The Web is worldwide because the links between documents can stretch across the global Internet: select a link from Foundation Law in Sydney and you might see a related document from Cornell University or the United Nations. The Web is seamless because the distance between the documents is transparent to the user.
Most publishing developments occurring across the Internet are done through the use of the World Wide Web. Legal information available on the Web includes Commonwealth legislation and regulations, US Supreme Court judgments, legal journals, Australian government information including the Budget Papers, and just about every other legal subject is covered. Accessing information available in this manner requires a WWW browser, with the most common being Netscape, Mosaic, Emmisary and the Microsoft Internet Explorer.
The advantages and uses of the WWW and Netscape are:
- the ability to browse text and graphical based information
- accessing primary legal documents in full text
- accessing secondary legal documents in full text
- access other legal information: Attorney General’s Department, NSW Law Reform Commission, LawNet, and University Law Schools
- online journal, newspaper and magazine access
- as an invaluable marketing tool; promote your firm/chambers or organisation
- publish on a global scale
- electronic purchasing and transactions
Netscape also provides the ability to:
- access gopher sites
- access FTP archives and transfer files
- access Internet news/discussion groups
- access library catalogues (assuming Telnet is running)
- send limited mail
- store favourite addresses of popular or frequently visited sites (bookmarks)
- customise your Netscape interface, including colours, loading of images, bookmarks or hotlists etc
- save information to disk, mail it to a colleague or print it.
This means that rather than run a whole variety of Internet applications such as FTP, Gopher, and a newsreader, Netscape incorporates those facilities and tries to do it all for you. Let me tell you though, it doesn’t always work!! Sometimes it’s better to use FTP software to transfer files, or a newsreader program to participate in Internet discussion groups, especially if you are doing it on a regular basis.
The Internet Services Industry
There are over 200 Internet Service Providers nationally. Some provide a decent level of services, others sound as though they are run out of the backyard .. and they probably are!!
The Law Foundation of NSW recommends Enternet, an Internet Service company from Connect.com, one of the oldest Internet Service Providers. There are a number of reasons why we decided to choose Enternet and these include:
- They have many local dial in areas around Australia.
- They have multiple account maintenance (you can have one PC with various people using the Internet from it).
- They have toll-free customer support (m-f, 8am-8pm).
- The software they provide on disk to new users (includes Netscape) and the cost of any associated license fees for the software (available in the Enternet Pro kit).
- The sophistication and reliability of their technical infrastructure, including their security and backup mechanisms.
- Enternet have a fast private national network, two private links to the United States and one private link to Singapore.
- Enternet has three payment options.
- Pre-sales support, including modem sales and support (through their TeleSales servivce).
- Alignment with a telecommunications carrier. Enternet are owned by NetComm (Australia’s biggest modem manufacturers), and AAPT. AAPT is part owned by Singapore Telecom.
If you need an ISP and you would like to join Foundation Law through Enternet, call 1800 269 950. If you do not wish to take the Foundation’s recommendation, you are more than welcome to shop for an Internet Service Provider. Listed below are the issues you should consider.
Hardware (minimum requirements)
- System 7.0 or higher
- 8Mb RAM
- 4-8 Mb hard disk space
- 8Mb RAM
- 4-8Mb hard disk space
- 8Mb preferably 16Mb RAM
- 30Mb hard disk space
The ISP may supply you with what you need. If they do not, make sure you can get the following products:
- Dial software (Trumpet)
- Mail software (Eudora)
- WWW browser (Netscape)
- Telnet software
- Dial software (inc. with 95)
- Mail software
- Web browser (inc. with 95)
- Telnet software
- Dial software (MacPPP)
- Mail software
- Web browser
- Telnet software
If you are a Windows 95 user, it is in your best interests that you use Microsoft Plus Pack for your Internet connection. This pack includes the dial program and a Web browser. You’ll need a copy of Eudora if you wish to use that as your mail program and Netscape if you do not want to use the Microsoft Web browser.
The latest version of Netscape, 2.0 or better, comes bundled with a mail program built in. At the time of writing however, the mail component is still evolving and it is recommended that you use a more reliable mail program such as Eudora. Telnet software is essential if you wish to connect to library catalogues, online databases and games such as MUD’s (multi user dungeons). If you want to play around on Internet Relay Chat (real time talk), you will need to get IRC client software.
Most of these programs are shareware, ie. you can evaluate them for free, but if you are using the programs for commercial access, you will need to register them.
For a graphical connection to the Internet I would recommend a 28.8k modem (V34) or, at the very least, a 14.4k (V32bis) modem. All V34 modems will come with fax capability so you can send and receive faxes. Obviously the faster the modem, the faster you move around the Internet and that quite nicely calculates into less frustration! There are loads of good modems on the market and they include Best V34, NetComm M34F, Banksia V34 and the Hayes Accura or Hayes Optima. If you buy a modem, make sure it is Austel approved and Hayes compatible (it should say it on the box).
With a dialup connection to the Internet, your security needs are not as high as what multiple connections (say through a work environment) may be. This is not to say that you should disregard security as an issue, but to keep it in perspective. Check that the ISP has the appropriate security mechanisms in place on their machines. For you, your safest bet is to make sure you have difficult to guess passwords, to all online services that you have accounts with. A good password will be a mixture of both numbers and letters and UPPER and lower case characters. You may also use characters such as the @ # $ % & signs.
Your potential use will dictate what sort of billing mechanism will suit you. If you think you will use it all the time, regularly, you will be better off with a flat rate, either monthly or yearly. If you would rather pay as you play, then an hourly rate or bulk hours purchased in advance may be more suitable. Some ISP’s offer xx free hours on joinup, so check that as well. Keep in mind, if you pay by credit card (and most of us do!), it is unlikely that you will receive any statistics on your connection. Make sure you check your bills.
POP’s or Points of Presence
If you live outside a metropolitan area or you travel regularly, then points of presence (local ISPs) are important. You do not want to pay STD phone rates on top of your Internet connection, so ask them how people outside of the metropolitan areas access the Network. Check if there is a local ISP in your area. Enternet from connect.com offers over 60 local dialin points.
Customer and Technical Support
This is extremely important. I’ve seen a number of ISP’s fail to meet the needs of both sophisticated users and low level users. Access to hotline phone support, preferably through a 1800 is imperative, particularly for non-metropolitan and new users. How easy are they to get on the phone and are they prompt in returning your calls? Is support free or charged? What level of support do they provide? Will they go onsite if there are difficulties and do they charge? Do they provide access to manuals? If support is important to you, check these things. If you have a support network, through friends for example, already in place, you may not require this level of service.
Type of Connection
You will need to ask them what type of connection they will provide: graphical (pictures, Mac/Window etc) or text based (DOS, Linux etc) or both For Web browsing using Netscape, Mosaic or some similar product, you will need a graphical or SLIP or PPP connection to the Internet. Check to see whether they provide the software for access, or whether you will need to get it yourself.
Speed of Connection
One thing that will turn you off the Internet is the congestion you will encounter. Sometimes the Net is just slow :-( You can however, ensure that your connection is decent by checking BOTH the size of the link (bandwidth) the ISP has to the Internet, and the ratio of modems to users (10-50 users per modem). There are three ways an ISP could go:
- Lots of modems and narrow bandwidth
- This saves money on the link cost to the ISP and allows the ISP to market their service as always being available (ie. no engaged signal when you ring). However, this can make the link very very slow to use.
- Not so many modems and decent bandwidth
- Obvious disadvantages such as not being able to connect because there are not enough modems, however, once you are online, the link you have to the Internet will be terrific.
- Lots of modems and lots of bandwidth
- This is an excellent service. Could be more expensive as a result of the extra level of service. Ask them also if they have their own private link to the United States. Some of the bigger IPS’s even have their own private Australian network, so check that as well. Make sure that the modems at their end are either V.Fast or V.34 (28.8k modems). Anything slower, don’t bother.
Plug and Play or Plug and Perish? Installing the Software
I love the boxes that come packaged with some spiffy advertising slogan like ‘plug and play’. They all make us think that setting up an Internet connection is as easy as pouring a drink! As much as I would like to think that it is easy, be prepared! Most times it does require a bit of fiddling before it works (especially Windows!). Depending on the ISP you choose, you may be able to get assistance from them with the initial setup and some ISPs may offer an inhouse/installation for a fee.
If you buy a shrink wrapped ‘all in one kit’, beware that that they don’t lock you into a particular ISP. Rule here: shop around no matter what comes bundled in your shrink wrapped kit or on your hard disk.
The Main Players
Foundation Law is a project of the Law Foundation of NSW designed to provide the community with low-cost access to primary and secondary legal materials on the Internet.
Foundation Law is a project undertaken in co-operation with the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) and endorsed by the Law Society of NSW, the NSW Bar Association and the NSW Attorney-General’s Department. The Law Foundation of NSW funds the ongoing work of the AustLII.
Foundation Law is accessible on the World Wide Web via Foundation Law
AustLII’s principal purpose will be to provide to legal researchers, via the Internet, effective access to Australasian legal materials that are in the public domain or for which licences can be obtained at minimal charge. AustLII is part of the expanding international network of Internet servers which are concentrating on providing public domain legal materials throughout the Internet.
Among the research materials provided by AustLII include primary legal materials such as legislation; secondary materials such as bibliographies, law reform reports and law journals; and data sets to support various types of empirical legal research.
Apart from a funding and working relationship with AustLII, Foundation Law concentrates on ‘adding value’ to the material held on AustLII by providing customised links to AustLII materials (and other materials). These links are suited to various users of legal materials: practising lawyers, community groups etc. Foundation Law is also developing its own content, including Court Lists, Practice Books, community legal materials and private legal discussion groups (conferences).
AustLII is accessible on the World Wide Web via AustLII
Enternet is the new Internet Service Provider for Foundation Law. Enternet is the Internet service product provided by Connect.com and NetComm Australia, both Australian companies. Connect.com have been in the Internet service provision industry for many years and NetComm Australia is Australia’s largest modem manufacturer producing the NetComm modem product range.
Australian Legal Materials
Just about all caselaw and legislation that I could find is located at the Foundation Law/AustLII site. The only other place is Lawnet/Vicnet in Victoria which points to selected decisions from the Magistrates Court, the County Court and the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Primary Materials – Judgments
- High Court of Australia 1947-
- Federal Court of Australia 1977-
- Industrial Relations Court of Australia 1994-
- Family Court of Australia 1988-
- Administrative Appeals Tribunal 1976-
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1985-
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunity – Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner
- Immigration Review Tribunal 1990-
- Native Title Tribunal
- Refugee Review Tribunal 1993-
- New South Wales
- Court of Appeal Judgments Report 1993-
- Land and Environment Court 1988-
- Magistrates Court of Victoria 1992-
- Supreme Court of Tasmania 1987-
- Northern Territory
- Supreme Court of the Northern Territory 1986-
- Supreme Court of the ACT 1986-
Primary Materials – Legislation
- Consolidated Acts
- Numbered Acts (since 1973)
- Consolidated Regulations
- New South Wales
- Consolidated Acts
- Consolidated Regulations
- Consolidated Acts and Ordinances
- Numbered Acts and Ordinances
- Consolidated Regulations
There is a vast amount of secondary materials available within Australia. The sites that have materials available, differ substantially in their content. As a result, I have listed below a few sites which provide decent content.
In most cases, you will find these Web sites via the link Australian Legal Resources Index which is available in the Legal Resources area on Foundation Law.
Courts and Tribunals
- Foundation Law Practice Area
- Sydney Court Lists
- Melbourne Court Lists
- High Court Bulletin
- Reconciliation and Social Justice Library
- Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation
- Refugee Review Tribunal
- Law Reform Commission Reports
- Supreme Court Victoria
Federal Government departments are currently much better represented than their State counterparts. Of the States, Victoria seems to be providing the greatest amount of information with NSW decidedly behind in delivery of government information via the Web. For government information, the National Library (http://www.nla.gov.au) in Canberra has a complete index to all Federal, State and Local government resources.
Australian Securities Commission
House of Representatives
National Library of Australia
A good example of value adding’ is the LawNet site in Victoria. LawNet offers a variety of free legal materials including a mailing list which sends the summary of High Court judgments automatically to your electronic mailbox. You can then choose to retrieve the fulltext if you wish. LawNet also has a terrific index to Australian law by State (see http://www.lawnet.com.au).
Taxation Institute of Australia (Taxline database)
Australian Repulican Movement
Both the Law Book Company and Butterworths have some freebies’, most of these being their Internet based journals. Other hardcopy journals like Australian Bar Review, Journal of Corporate Law, Australian Law Journal etc only provide the Contents pages.
Searching Foundation Law
Foundation Law provides access to a range of Australian primary and secondary legal materials. With Foundation Law, you can browse across the information or you can conduct searches for keywords. Each Court or State available, is represented as a database. You can search across the entire database or you can be specific, such as searching across just High Court judgments, searching just Commonwealth Legislation, or even searching across all primary material databases.
The search engine that Foundation Law uses is called SINO. SINO was built by Andrew Mowbray of the University of Technology Sydney, and is maintained by Geoffrey King at UTS. Andrew and Geoff, along with Graham Greenleaf (UNSW), are responsible for the AustLII service.
If you know the name of the case or Act or Regulation that you are looking for, there are two ways to access the material. You can choose CaseName or ActName Search and you can choose the Alphabetical Listing.
The CaseName/ActName search requires that you type in part of the name that you are looking for. You only need one or two words. If you use more than one word, make sure the two words are together in the title of the material you are looking for. For example, if the case is Davey Industries Pty Ltd v. Page and Jenkins, do not type davey page or page jenkins. Type davey or davey industries or even page.
The alphabetical list simply requires that you select a letter. If you were looking for Davey Industries, select the letter D. Beware of cases that have initials in them. If the case you were looking for was S.L. Davey, it will be under S not D.
When you do a SINO search, you are searching for documents which contain words or phrases. If you can come up with a phrase which you think is distinctive enough, just type it into the Please enter your search terms here field and hit the return key.
The basic unit of a SINO search is an individual word. All words are searchable other than a relatively small list of common words which are specified for each database. The list of non-searchable words is typically quite small (fewer than 100 words) and is generally limited to words of little informational content (such as “the”, “is”, “but” etc). Words may be combined into phrases without the need for any special connectors (eg. “pervert the course of justice”, ie. “pervert court justice”).
SINO expands searches to match regular English plurals (a search for “treaty” will also match “treaties”, and a search for “contract” will match “contracts”).
Words and phrases may be connected together to form more complex searches. These connector words (known as Boolean operators) may be used in any combination.
If you want more than one phrase or word to appear in the retrieved documents, put an and between them (without the quotes). Eg.
- 18 and crimes act 1900
- defamation and journalist and newspaper
- moral rights and copyright
If you want to find documents containing either or both of two terms, use the command or. It is typically used to find synonymous words and phrases. Eg.
- section or s
- proprietary limited or p l or pty ltd
You can put AND and OR searches together as in:
- treaty or convention or international agreement and moral rights and copyright.
If you want to find documents that contain one word but not another, use the command not. Eg.
- trust not family
- trade practice act not 51
If you want to find two or more terms that appear near to each other, use the command near. This requires that words or phrases appear within 50 words of each other. Eg.
- smith near brown
- near bail act 1900
Limiting your Search
The SINO database allows you to limit where you search for materials. In the picture below, note the Search field. You can tell the database for example, that you only want the databasea to search across the Federal Court, or just NSW Regulations. You can even tell the database that you wish to search across the entire database (known as All AustLII) or All caselaw. Select the databases you wish to search across by clicking in the search field and selecting the relevant option.
Searching the Internet
If you are looking for other materials on the Internet (not primary Australian materials), one way to start navigating your way around the Internet is to take advantage of the search engines that are available. Search engines are useful if you are looking for a subject area, a particular document or even a site across the global Internet. There are a number of engines available with each search engine working slightly differently and these are all available by choosing Legal Resources from the Foundation Law home page. From Legal Resources, choose Internet Search Engines. As new engines arrive on the Internet, Foundation Law will add them to this list.
Because there are so many search engines to choose from and each of them work slightly differently, your best bet is to pick one or two and learn them well. Good search engines include Alta Vista, Lycos, InfoSeek and Inktomi. All of these are available via the Foundation Law menus.
[see comments below in Lisa’s section on Internet Subject Indexes]
Tips for Researching on the World Wide Web
There are many tips for undertaking legal research via the Internet and its associated applications (mail, mailing lists, telnet, www, ftp etc). Listed below are tips you should keep in mind when starting to use the World Wide Web for legal research purposes.
- Australian primary materials check Foundation Law
- Australian secondary materials check AustLII
- Government materials check National Library Australia
- Other Australian materials check Australasian Index to Law
- Law by subject check Legal Resources menu on Foundation Law
- International Law: Legal Resources menu on Foundation Law menu for Subject indexes
- International Law: Legal Resources menu on Foundation Law for Search engines
Section B – U.K, U.S. and Canadian Legal Materials on the Internet
by Lisa Allen
Legal research on the Internet is different to researching using a commercial database. Commercial databases have a defined set or sets of information that have been indexed and a search engine and language developed for the type of information stored, designed to maximise the search outcome.
The Internet, on the other hand, has often been described as being like an uncatalogued, unindexed library. How do you know where to go to find what you need? And is it worth finding once you get there?
Thankfully there are now several methods of locating and accessing international legal resources on the Net. This section will look at how to search for and locate resources from United States, United Kingdom and Canada on the World Wide Web.
One of the earliest, easiest but not very efficient method is to browse’ or surf’. You just log on to the Web and follow hypertext links to the resources you are looking for. These can then be bookmarked’ to make locating easier in the future. This method is not very cost or time efficient.
Another method, more recently developed, is to use one of a number of search engines available through the Web. The major search engines available have been referred to above. These are a useful way of searching for information particularly if you don’t know the URL (address) or are not sure that there is information of that kind available.
Although there are some search engines specifically set up for searching legal resources, for example Yahoo: Law, there are limitations to be aware of when using them. You cannot be sure that a search carried out on one search engine will cover all the resources of the Web, but using a search engine that covers several subject areas can return a large number of irrelevant results. You also cannot be sure of the authority or accuracy of some of the information found.
There are also several indexes, also known as meta-lists to legal sites on the Internet. The information is usually grouped by subject and by type and provides hypertext links to related sites. Several indexes are detailed below and are a good method for locating specific information.
While directing you to the location of information, these methods don’t inform the user of either the scope or currency of information available.
Listed below are some major sites and meta-lists of primary legal information in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, and their addresses. This list does not pretend to be an exhaustive description of available sites, but an indication of what is available and the scope.
U.S. Primary Legal Resources
The main legal site in the United States is the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell University. This is the equivalent of AustLII and has primary legal sources and links to major US and international sites. Its resources include Decisions of the US Supreme Court, from 1990 to date and selected historic decisions such as Roe v Wade (1973) and Miranda v Arizona (1966). Decisions can be searched by party name and topic. More recent decisions are also arrayed by date. The NY Court of Appeals can also be accessed from here and are set up in the same way. Supreme Court decisions are said to be available within an hour of being handed down. The US Code , with a listing by title, popular name and a search capacity is available from Cornell also.
The Legal Information Institute offers a current awareness service covering the U.S. Supreme Court and N.Y. Court of Appeals. Information about this service can be accessed through Cornell’s home page. Decision summaries on the more significant decisions of the courts are written by student editors. These are e-mailed to subscribers with instructions on how to access them in full text or retrieve them by e-mail.
>From Cornell’s home page, there is a link to the US House of Representatives Internet Law Library. This houses the US Federal laws, arranged by original published source or by agency. US state and territorial law can also be accessed here.
The Library of Congress Library of Congress has access to the congressional record, bills and information on their status. Different university law faculties in the United States house Court of Appeals circuit judgments, for example the Third Circuit decisions are available from the Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy which is associated with Villanova University School of Law and the Sixth Circuit at Emory University . These can all be accessed via Cornell’s home page.
State legislation is available from Washburn Law School which has a State Law Page. From this site click on a link to each state or you can do a keyword search of all US states legislative information. The comprehensiveness of information available varies from state to state.
U.K. Primary Legal Resources
The United Kingdom is not as advanced in the provision of information as the U.S. or Canada. A large proportion of legal sites consist of law firm home pages, publishers or universities.
The major sources of primary legal information are from the HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) has a HMSO and Parliament page. So far, the only substantive information available is legislation. The full text of 1996 acts, the Data Protection Act 1984 and summaries of other U.K. acts in force plus one 1996 bill, the Arbitration Bill are available. Both Houses of Parliament produce a weekly information bulletin, but copies of parliamentary debates are not available online.
U.K. caselaw is not available on the Internet, the only references to caselaw I could find was Mason’s Computer Law Reports. This is a set of reports published electronically of important decisions in the field of intellectual property.
The U.K. government has the CCTA Government Information Service is the central source of government information in the UK. Government bodies are indexed by organisation and by function. The service also provides a data protection register, press releases from the Lord Chancellor’s Department. The Access to Justice Report by Lord Woolf is also available.
Canadian Primary Legal Resources
Canadian case law and legislation are both able to be found on the Web. The Supreme Court of Canada maintains a home page Supreme Court of Canada, which has details about the court and copies of Supreme Court rulings from 1993 onwards. This database can be searched using keywords.
Champlain: Canadian Information Explorer is a Canadian government pilot project to provide greater access to government through information networks. It has links to both Houses of Parliament, important government documents and treaties’ such as the Constitution and NAFTA, and to Federal Government Departments and Provincial information.
The Canadian Department of Justice is the home of Canadian legislative information. The Constitution, Criminal Code, Consolidated statutes and regulations to 31 December 1995 and the annual statutes for 1995 are available and can be searched using Folio views software.
The Canadian Parliament has a home page at Canadian Parliament. Both houses of parliament provide information, although the only the Senate has Parliamentary debates.
The Access to Justice Network lists legislation of Canada and British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, North West Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.
Osgoode Hall Law School at York University has the most extensive access to English language legal resources. Along with Supreme Court rulings, there are summaries of selected British Columbia decisions.
The Commerce and Law Internet Bookmarks: Law group sources together by subject and type of site, for example you can access Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute site via either the US law group or the Schools, Universities& Libraries.
Another good Australian index or meta list’ is the ACT LawNet Research Page. While focusing on ACT and Australian related links, it groups resources by type eg indexes and organisations and by provenance.
US Legal Indexes are generally US focused and some mention overseas sites with seeming surprise at their existence (and even South Africa!). Some good ones include the Internet Legal Resource Guide. This guide was established as a comprehensive resource of the information available on the Internet concerning law and the legal profession and the World Wide Web Virtual Library. This is a concise index listing legal information by organisation type and by topic. This index also has a search window.
There are two main indexes to legal resources on the Internet in the U.K. These are Law on the Web from ifl , which is provided by Information for Lawyers Limited’. This is described as a UK-centric index of legal resources on the Worldwide Web. It indexes sites by type of information and by subject.
The other major index is hosted by the U.K. Law Society . The search menu Search allows the user to tailor a search with the aid of pull down menus like those on the AustLII database. A search for legal sites in the UK produces an alphabetical list of sites List of Sites.
A major Canadian index is Canadian Legal Resources on the World Wide Web. This is a commercial index developed and maintained by a Canadian lawyer, where the sources are listed by category and province. The University of Montreal hosts the Virtual Canadian Law Library This lists almost every information source available in Canada.
There are usually a number of different ways to get to the site with the relevant information and often a number of sites that hold the same type of information. The trick is to find the site that has the most comprehensive information, that is updated frequently and has a search capability. Then bookmark it. This is the easiest way to find it again.
While there is now a vast amount of legal information on the Web, comprehensive coverage of information is rare, in fact with the advent of Foundation Law, Australia can now boast the best coverage of primary legal materials in the world, Australian High Court decisions from 1947 are available, compared with the United States from 1990, Canada 1993 and the United Kingdom not at all. Legislation fares better, with current federal legislation being available in the US and Canada.
Accessing legal information on the Web, particularly overseas information is still a haphazard operation, even with the development of the search tools mentioned above. It is getting easier and more efficient, but it’s not quite time to give up your subscription to Lexis.
by Mark Robinson
There are already quite a number of barristers on the Internet. Many are subscribers solely for email and for access to particular bulletin boards which may interest them. Many subscribe to certain newsgroups containing regular legal updates and discussions.
When it comes to the World Wide Web, there are very few NSW barristers represented. Most barristers in Victoria have a presence on the Web care of LawNet.
Why Would Barristers Wish To Be On The World Wide Web?
There are a number of reasons why barristers might wish to create and, in some cases, create and maintain a presence on the World Wide Web with a home page.
- It is easy to create a home page;
- It is can be inexpensive or even free to create a home page and to place it on the World Wide Web using the computer (server) of your Internet service provider;
- It is an interesting and in some cases challenging exercise;
- It makes a public statement that tells the users of the new electronic/digital world (including your solicitors) that you exist, who you are, what you do and anything else you would care to tell them, show them or share with them;
- It is flexible, able to be easily updated and can be easily moved from one Internet Service Provider to another;
- It is not the future. It is the here and now.
Who Is Already Out There?
The Bar Association maintains a page on the World Wide Web. It contains information about their Personnel, a list of Barrister Mediators, Stop Press, Bar Rules etc. The site has just moved to the Law Foundation server where it will be regularly updated.
In New South Wales at the time of writing, two barristers are individually represented and there are two chambers present. The barristers are Timothy J Hancock of Blackstone Chambers and Cath Johnson of 8/233 Macquarie St. . The content of Timothy Hancock’s home page is as follows:
- A short description of what a barrister is;
- His curriculum vitae;
- His chambers contact details;
- A link to one World Wide Web search engine (InfoSeek Net Search); and
- A series of “Hot Links” to numerous other legal sites.
Hancock has also caused his floor to be placed on the World Wide Web. Blackstone Chambers contains the chambers contact details (including the chambers email address), a list of barristers’ names and their respective years of admission, and a few selected links to other Internet legal resources. The pages for Hancock and the chambers were designed by Mr Stuart Anderson of the DLA Group Pty Ltd.
The first appearance, as we believe, by New South Wales barristers on the World Wide Web was in June 1995 by the 5th floor Wentworth Chambers. It contains chambers contact details and a list of barristers with short descriptions of their practice. There are a number of links to other legal resources on the Internet provided at the end. The site was designed and created by Jeffrey Kildea, of that floor. He wrote the page himself in HTML language and posted it himself to the server of his Internet Service Provider. He also designed and wrote a home page for the Human Rights Council of Australia, of which he is a member.
Catherine Johnson’s home page URL is . It is well worth looking at.
Mark Robinson has commenced drafting and designing his own home page which will be published shortly at one or other of the following URLs: Mark Robinson orMark Robinson. Mark will include in his home page the full text of some of the continuing legal education papers he has published over the years from various seminars and conferences.
How Can A Barrister Get Onto The World Wide Web?
There are a number of ways a barrister or chambers or groups of barristers can secure a place on the World Wide Web. In summary one can;
- Learn HTML language and simply type or compose the home page yourself. Send the finished product to your Internet service provider and they will advise you of your URL;
- Engage a person or firm to create and/or manage a home page for you;
- Tag on to somebody else’s home page.
Obtaining Web Space
Most Internet Service Providers offer free space on their web servers for clients or customers of the provider to use as web pages. Barristers can take enormous advantage of these offers because they will mainly use text files and their need of graphics, sound and video files is minimal.
We have not conducted a survey, but we are aware that Hutchison Telecoms (ph 02 9964 4889) offers up to 3 megabytes free space. Oz-Email (02 391 0400) offer 5 megabytes. The suggested replacement for Foundation Law’s recommended service provider, Enternet (1800 269 950) offers up to 2 free megabytes to customers for web use.
Doing It Yourself
You can learn HTML language and create home pages easily on your home computer in your chambers. The actual language looks very much like the older forms of word processing. Codes are typed which inform the web browser how to display the information. For example, a sentence “marked up” with HTML language tags looks like this in a simple ASCII DOS text file:
“That’s a <B> good </B> idea.”
When the same sentence is displayed via a web browser, it will look like this:
“That’s a good idea.”
The principle is the same for ALL HTML tags. They are easy to type and to insert into text and other documents. The same type of procedure is used to call up backgrounds, photographs, sound files, video files and enable jump links to other World Wide Web sites.
We strongly recommend the purchase of a basic introductory book on the topic.
- Creating Web Pages For Dummies, 1996, IDG Books (with CD-ROM included), an excellent book by Bud Smith & Arthur Bebak
- HTML Language for Dummies, another in this series which we have not looked at yet.
For the slightly more advanced, we recommend:
- Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML in a Week, 1995, SAMS Publishing by Laura Lemay and Andrew Bryce Shafran
- Creating Your Own Netscape Web Pages, 1995, QUE Corporation by Don Doherty
- Special Edition Using Netscape2, 1995, QUE Corporation by Mark Brown et al
Each of these books have CD-ROMS included with web authoring software that makes web page creation very easy.
For those first timers who do not wish to learn HTML or any other language, there is a growing number of people and organisations in NSW who offer their services.
Help can usually be obtained from your Internet service provider. In some cases, your Internet service provider can create home pages for you. See, for example, the “automatic” home page you can make at Ozemail. There is a place there which permits you to fill in a blank form and it automatically generates a World Wide Web page.
Other help can be found by looking at World Wide Web pages of others and noting who designed or published them and contacting that person.
In our experience, simple home pages can be commercially designed for an amount in the order of $1,000 to $2,000.
More complex home pages which have an original photograph plus number of links embedded in the text might be in the region of $2,000 to $5,000.
Large-scale professional commercial sites can be created by some firms. There are not many of these firms around at present. One such firm is Bassett & Campbell Pty Limited who oversaw the creation of the magnificent World Wide Web site of Gilbert & Tobin . That firm coordinated the taking of photographs, the settling of the text, original colour graphic images, the new Netscape features of the site, and maintaining and updating the site from time to time. Detailed work such as this would not be inexpensive. The rewards for a large organisation, however, are obvious.
Another firm offering a full web service is Webcom Pty Limited (Mr Richard Morgan – 02 418 9897) who produced the excellent web site for Champion & Partners, solicitors at Parramatta . Webcom sets up entire web domains and also design and maintain the sites on a commercial basis.
Some smaller scale web page creators to have come to our recent attention (in addition to DLA Group mentioned above) include: CN Computing, Mr Colin Navin, (who designed Mark Robinson’s page – 02 418 7057); Brad Drysdale (c/- Law Foundation, 02 299 5621); Colin Johnson (who designed Catherine Johnson’s home page) on 018 203 792, John Hogan-Doran (ph 9929 6777); Next Online (ph 02 310 1433); Radient (ph 02 281 3977); Access One (02 391 0727). One can make one’s own computer an Internet server with a dedicated telephone line and registered domain name. This option is so sophisticated and expensive that it ought not be considered here.
For those who adopt the wait & see approach, all we can say is this – the World Wide Web is already immense in scope, size and content. It is largely free, and exciting. There is no reason to stay away from it. There has never been a better time to place a toe in the water and post a homepage than today. If you wait until next year, it will be a whole year of having to make yourself content with other people’s pages!
If this paper has provided some small incentive for you to explore the Internet further and even to design and post your own presence on the World Wide Web, then we are pleased.
The Internet and the World Wide Web is the biggest news in legal research in decades. It is a free, updated virtual law library with sound, colour and motion thrown in.
It is not the future. It is the here and now.
The Australian Academic Research Network. Established by the AVCC and CSIRO to promote electronic networking amongst the research communities in Australia. AARNet is the Australian part of the Internet.
Anonymous FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The procedure of connectingto a remote computer, as an anonymous or guest user, in order totransfer public files back to your local computer. (See also FTP)
A method of storing the addresses of your favourite Gopher and World Wide Web sites in Lynx, Mosaic and Netscape, so that you can go there again without having to remember the Internet address or how you got there in the first place! Very useful.
Software that provides an interface to the World Wide Web. Browsers can be text based such as Lynx or graphical based such as Mosaic, MacWeb, Netscape and MicroSoft Internet Explorer.
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research. The really amazing bunch that brought us the World Wide Web.
A server is a computer with special software loaded on it. This server software allows the computer to offer a service to another computer using client software eg. Netscape is the client software used to access world wide web servers, FirstClass is the client software need to access the First Class Law server.
The electronic transfer of information from one computer to another, generally from a larger computer to a smaller one.
The Law Foundation’s preferred but not exclusive Internet Service Provider. Enternet is the Internet wing of Connect.com, an Australian telecommunications company owned by NetComm Australia and AAPT.
File Transfer Protocol enables you to transfer files electronically from remote computers on the Internet back to the computer that you are using that is connected to the Internet.
Graphical User Interface is a graphical way of presenting information and is generally represented by pictures or icons. The Macintosh, Windows, Mosaic and Netscape are examples of accessing information and resources in a graphical environment or manner.
A menu driven information retrieval system which allows you to browse Internet resources. This program/software has been superceded by the World Wide Web.
Hypertext Markup Language. The standard language or format that is used when creating documents (or pages) for access via the World Wide Web.
Hypertext Transmission Protocol. The standard language that World Wide Web clients (Mosaic, Netscape, Lynx) and servers use to communicate with each other.
The concept of combining various media such as text, images, sound and video.
Text that when selected, has the ability to connect to related documents, regardless of their location.
The Internet Protocol that provides a common layer over dissimilar networks. It is used to move packets of information among host computers and through gateways if necessary.
The numeric address of a computer connected to the Internet; also called Internet domain or host address. Common addresses look like 188.8.131.52. IP addresses are also represented as characters such as www.fl.asn.au.
The series of interconnected networks that includes local area, regional, and national backbone networks from around the world. There are an estimated 1.4 million networks that make up the Internet from approximately 120 countries.
National Centre for Supercomputer Applications. The amazing department at the University of Illinois that has brought you, amongst others, Telnet software, Mosaic and Netscape.
A collection of computers that have been linked or connected together to enable the sharing of resources (such as files or a printer).
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol is a combined set of protocols (or rules) that performs the transfer of data between two computers connected to the Internet thus allowing these computers to communicate with each other in a seemingly transparent manner. TCP/IP is the default standard protocol for the Internet.
The mob that now manage the Australian segment of the Internet. It used to be AARNet.
Most communications software packages will permit your personal computer or workstation to communicate with another computer or network as if it were a specific type of terminal directly connected to that computer or network. The standard terminal emulation across the Internet is vt100.
Universal Resource Locators are standardised addresses for locating information or resources available on the World Wide Web. A typical URL looks like http://www.fl.asn.au or can also include additional path and file information such as http://www.anu.edu.au/cle/about.html.
World Wide Web
The initiative to create a universal, hypermedia based method of access to information. Currently the most popular way of accessing Internet resources. Browsers such as Lynx, Mosaic and Netscape are used to access information on the World Wide Web.
Law related URLs
- Access to Justice Network
- ACT LawNet Research Page
- Australian Securities Commission
- Blackstone Chambers
- Canadian Department of Justice
- Canadian Legal Resources on the World Wide Web
- Canadian Parliament
- Catherine Johnson
- CCTA Government Information Service
- Champion and Partners
- Champlain: Canadian Information Explorer
- Commerce and Law Internet Bookmarks: Law
- Gilbert and Tobin
- UK: HMSO & Parliament
- Human Rights Council
- Internet Legal Resource Guide
- Law Book Company
- Law on the Web from ifl
- Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell University
- Library of Congress
- Mark Robinson
- Mason’s Computer Law Reports
- National Library of Australia
- NSW Bar Assocation
- NY Court of Appeals
- Osgoode Hall Law School at York University
- State Law Page
- Supreme Court of Canada
- Timonthy Hancock
- U.K. Law Society search menu
- U.S. Code
- University of Montreal Centre of Research in Public Law
- US Court of Appeals 3rd circuit
- US Court of Appeals 6th circuit
- US House of Representatives Internet Law Library
- US Supreme Court
- Virtual Canadian Law Library
- Wentworth Chambers
- World Wide Web Virtual Library
- Yahoo Government: Law
Other URLs for Fun & Interest
- The Moody Blues
- The Blade Runner Movie
- Temporal Nexus – Doctor Who
- The Dr Who Shop in London
- Deliver a Postcard to a Friend
- Bookwire Bookstand
- Alice in Wonderland
A paper delivered at the Continuing Legal Education Seminar of the NSW Bar Association on the 13 May 1996.
This paper was prepared by the three named authors. However, Sandra Davey, is primarily responsible for Section A, Lisa Allen is primarily responsible for Section B and Mark Robinson is primarily responsible for Section C.
This is a snapshot of the Web as at May 1996. Available resources and addresses change every day.
Copyright: No part of this paper may be reproduced without the prior consent of the authors or any one of them.