Draft* Proposal for a New OASIS Technical Committee (Legalcite)

Date: 2013-05-14
Produced by: OASIS Members
Further Information: Discussion and Updates

*This early draft has not been formally submitted to OASIS. Additional stakeholders are being consulted for feedback on the core propositions, including problem statement, scope, and initial identification of deliverables.


Section 1: Charter

(1)(a) TC Name

OASIS Legal Citation (Legalcite) TC

(1)(b) Statement of Purpose

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. That worked fine in an era when all legal research and argument was conducted using paper and when the sources to be cited were relatively manageable in number. In today's world of electronic research and proliferating sources of material, relying on the appearance of citations on paper has a number of problems, key among them:

  1. Print citations can't be machine-processed with 100% reliability, 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 a citation over time so publishers and other users must reprocess the text citations over and over.

  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 way to link a citation to a source with 100% reliability.

  6. 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 provide the foundation for creating enriched content that can be useful across multiple groups of interested parties. It can provide a basis for creating more powerful editorial and data handling tools for legal content. It can support the development of federated citation databases that help connect legal professionals to resources. It can support the growth of open source legal content and applications. And it can become a foundation for new products and uses that can make the material more valuable to everyone in the legal community.

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.

Around the world, the number of officially binding electronic resources for legislation, case law and official documents is increasing. Relying solely on the printed text of citations will add to the cost and burden of researching and complying with increasingly complex legal issues. A uniform approach to legal citations is crucial for the long-term accessibility and preservation of legal content.

It is important to note that the purpose of this TC is to produce a markup standard that supports citation formats and style guidelines, not to create those formats and style guidelines, or prescribe them to any government organization or body.

(1)(c) Scope

The Legalcite TC will develop an open standard for machine-readable tagging of legal citations. Specifically, the standard will provide a tagging model that:

  • Enables cites to be richly tagged while leaving the visible text of the citation undisturbed.

  • Works for the broad variety of legal content including court cases, legislation and regulations.

  • Supports any style of citations such as those used in different states within the US, those used in different countries, those documented in the Bluebook and the Universal Citation model (www.universalcitation.org).

  • Allows other legal metadata to be associated with citations for purposes beyond just linking.

The TC will also define use cases and other non-normative content that can help guide the development and adoption of the standard.

Out of scope:

The TC will not specify processing models or specific tools for citations. For example, it will provide semantics for describing the information needed to link citations, but it will not specify how such linking should be done. The TC will not specify schemas or other proscriptions for citation repositories. Citation style guidelines are also out of scope for this TC.

(1)(d) Deliverables

The TC will produce:

  1. A universal legal citation markup standard within 12 to 18 months of the first meeting.

  2. A list of business cases and use cases, including processing of legacy materials and handling multiple languages, to be supported by the standard within 12 to 18 months of the first meeting.

  3. Optionally, such other explanatory and educational documents as the TC may choose to produce to support the overall standard, timing to be determined as the TC progresses. These are limited to the implementation of the markup and not to advocate any particular citation format or style.

(1)(e) IPR Mode

The TC will operate under the Non Assertion IPR mode as defined in the OASIS Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy effective 15 October 2010.

(1)(f) Audience

Because citations are fundamental to the practice and application of the law, the audience for this work is extensive:

  • Developers creating products for the legal market, including the open source community; in fact, a standard for legal citation markup could encourage more open source development for the legal profession

  • Legal publishers and legal service providers

  • Law librarians

  • Academics, especially those with an interest in legal analytics

  • Court and legislative staff, especially those charged with performing research and drafting documents as well as government IT staff who must support them

  • Open public records advocates

(1)(g) Language

The TC shall carry out its activities using English.

Section 2: Additional Information

(2)(a) Identification of Similar Work

The OASIS LegalDocumentML TC is based on the Akoma Ntoso (http://www.akomantoso.org/) specification produced under the UN/DESA's Africa i-Parliament Action Plan. The specification includes a URI-based syntax for legal citations and a naming convention (http://www.akomantoso.org/release-notes/akoma-ntoso-3.0-schema/naming-conventions-1).

The IETF has published an Internet Draft titled A Uniform Resource Name (URN) Namespace for Sources of Law (LEX). The document provides a URN convention for "identifying, naming, assigning, and managing persistent resources in the legal domain" (http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-spinosa-urn-lex).

The Council of the European Union has published a proposed European Legislation Identifier to support the development of a semantic web of official gazettes (http://legalinformatics.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/st17554-en11.pdf).

The American Association of Law Librarians' Universal Citation Guide, their recommendations for universal citation rules for a variety of legal content, to support both print and electronic resources (http://www.aallnet.org/main-menu/Publications/products/pub-universal.html)

(2)(d) TC Proposers

Updates: Further Information and Discussion


URI: http://xml.coverpages.org/legalcite-tc-draft-charter-proposal.html