Summary of Draft Proposal for a Legal Citation Markup Standard

Date: 2013-09-12
Version: 01
Contact: John Joergensen, Library Director, Rutgers School of Law
Extended Charter Proposal: Proposed OASIS Legalcite TC
Further Information: Discussion and Updates

Draft Technical Committee Proposal

Purpose for a legal citation markup standard

Several OASIS members with expertise in the legal field are discussing starting a Technical Committee to develop a free, open markup standard for citations to legal materials. How might such a standard benefit the legal community?

One of the fundamental principles of legal writing is that every statement of law or fact must carry a citation to its source. Citations document the history of precedent that ensures the continuity and consistent application of the law. Legal documents always include citations within the body of the text and, in fact, would be unacceptable without them.

The standards that exist today for constructing citations vary depending on jurisdiction and language and describe how they should appear in print. There is no generally accepted data structure or metadata definition for capturing the essential facts about the citation in a way that supports automated processing.

In today's world of electronic research and increasing sources of material, attempting to automate the processing of the printed text of citations has a number of problems such as:

  1. Print citations can't be machine-processed with 100% accuracy, e.g. a citation may point to a page with complex text that requires a human reader to decipher the intended target.

  2. There is no way to encode improvements in quality and accuracy into the citations in a file; without that capability publishers and other users cannot improve the quality of citations in their content over time.

  3. There is no way to encode consistent metadata behind print citations that may vary from one jurisdiction to the next.

  4. There is no way to enrich the citation with additional metadata that can assist authors, editors, or readers in using the citation.

  5. There is no support for extracting citations into databases or even something as simple as tables of authority.

A non-proprietary and royalty-free citation markup standard designed with the input of subject matter experts and focused on the unique requirements of the broad legal community can:

Just as web browsers and related types of software have become core parts of our interactive computer environment thanks to the foundation of HTML, a legal citation markup standard can enable a new generation of tools and capabilities benefiting all players and allowing commercial entities to deliver new generations of products and services limited only by their imagination and ability to innovate.

A legal citations Technical Committee at OASIS would develop such an open standard for machine-readable tagging of legal citations. Specifically, the standard would provide a tagging model that:

Updates: Further Information and Discussion