Openlaws.eu: Open Justice in Europe through Open Access to Legal Information

Openlaws.eu: Open Justice in Europe through Open Access to Legal Information

Thomas J. Lampoltshammer (Danube University Krems, Austria), Andres Guadamuz (University of Sussex, UK), Clemens Wass (BY WASS GmbH, Austria) and Thomas Heistracher (Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0717-8.ch009
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Abstract

Legal texts represent a fundamental building block in all democratic states. As such, legal information must be accessible to all members of society to the widest possible extent, to aid inclusiveness and to enable participation in public decision-making. In recognition of this, the EU and its Member States work to make laws, court decisions, etc. publicly available online. The sheer mass of legal norms, instruments, and interpretations in court decisions, commentaries and other sources, makes it increasingly difficult for citizens, civil society, businesses, and all involved stakeholders in legal practices to locate the relevant law. The challenge is to interlink local legal information and to have structures in place to enrich this information through aggregation and mass customization. The technological possibilities to achieve this goal do exist. The European project openlaws.eu aims for initiating a platform and to develop a vision for Big Open Legal Data (BOLD): an open framework for legislation, case law, and legal literature from across Europe.
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Definition Of Key Terms

When reaching out to the topic Open Justice and the associated environment, the reader is confronted with a plethora of key terms and their definitions can vary depending on their origin or the crispness/fuzziness intended by the defining body. In order to set the direction of this chapter and to present the reader with the views of the authors, this section introduces important key terms and how they contribute to the overall theme of Open Justice. Alongside with the definition of terms, the authors present the reader with a visualization, showing the interdependencies and complimentary nature of all concepts involved (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Visualization of key terms in the Open Justice environment

The first term to present is E-Governance. This term is often used interchangeably with the term E-Government. Yet, the terms describe, while being strongly related, different aspects of the same concept. This can lead to confusion regarding the extent of each term within the governmental environment (Palvia & Sharma, 2007). The definitions the authors of this chapter use go along-side with the definitions by Palvia and Sharma (2007): E-Governance is representing the environment for E-Government, setting its course to the conceptualization and implementation of information and communication technologies (ICT) within organizational or governmental bodies, while E-Government is the actual use of this infrastructure for all actions within the government as well as within the interaction with external stakeholders.

Embedded within E-Government is the concept of E-Democracy. The idea of this concept is to change existing structures of representatives towards a direct influence of citizens in the governmental processes and decision-making (Mahrer & Krimmer, 2005). As this definition can be approach from different angles, in this chapter, the authors see it rather as a complementary movement than as an entire replacement. Within the E-Democracy movement, three major sub-processes can be identified (Parycek, 2003):

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