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Created: October 06, 2004.
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Legal Information Institute Releases Complete United States Code in XML Format.

Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute has announced the release of a new online edition of the United States Code, including all the Federal law passed by Congress currently in force. For the first time, the project team is also releasing the underlying XML version as a dataset for use in research.

The XML data set has been generated from the most recent official version made available by the US House of Representatives, codified under fifty "titles". The United States Code "is the official compilation of the Federal statutes of a general and permanent nature; by Federal statute, the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives is the publisher and compiler of the Code, and the Counsel is an appointee of the Speaker of the House."

Thomas R. Bruce, Director of Cornell's Legal Information Institute (LII), suggests that this edition of the United States Code represents perhaps the largest body of legislation ever made available online in XML format for use by researchers interested in legal text. One of the goals of the US Code project is to stimulate interest on the part of the research community in working with legal text, and to survey the uses to which people put XML versions of legislation.

According to the LII's USC Bell Code Browsing Environment User Guide, the Institite is sponsoring a "continuing effort to render the United States Code as an open-source multi-use XML data set. An important part has been to develop an environment to make the raw data, and emerging interpretations of it, as visible as possible in an analytical mode. As this is primarily a laboratory artifact, not many user friendliness features have been implemented; the emphasis has been utility for someone who knows the project."

The US Code supplied to the Legal Information Institute "is marked up for typesetting; [the project team] uses this specialized markup to help discover the structure to motivate more generalized XML elements. In a preliminary micro-translation, the control-code based input is rendered in a quite literal readable format, which is then stored as a file with the same scope as the input (title or appendix) as well as fragmented along data-natural boundaries and rendered as static HTML for easy viewing."

The U.S. Code XML data is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The relevant Creative Commons "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0" license ensures that users are are free to: (1) copy, distribute, display, and perform the work, and (2) to make derivative works, provided that attribution is given to the original author credit, that the use is noncommercial, and that derivative works which alter, transform, or build upon the original are distribute only under the identical Creative Commons License.

About The Legal Information Institute

The Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute (LII) "is known internationally as a leading 'law-not-com' provider of public legal information. It offers all opinions of the United States Supreme Court handed down since 1992, together with over 600 earlier decisions selected for their historic importance, over a decade of opinions of the New York Court of Appeals, and the full United States Code. LII also publishes important secondary sources: libraries in two important areas (legal ethics and social security) and a series of topical pages that serve as concise explanatory guides and Internet resource listings for roughly 100 areas of law...

Funding: The Institute is a non-profit activity of Cornell Law School supported by grants, the consulting work of its co-directors, and gifts. No subscription fee limits access to LII services. They are not cluttered with commercial messages or banner advertising. As server traffic and the range of LII services have grown, gifts have become critical..."

Mission: The LII mission is:

  • To carry out applied research on the use of digital information technology in the distribution of legal information, the delivery of legal education, and the practice of law
    • [Its] research is applied in the sense that it is carried out by means of creating key collections of primary legal materials and commentary and information retrieval and resource location tools for use by a large and diverse population of users
    • [Its] mission is research rather than mere information delivery in the sense that we continue to seek improved ways to use a rapidly shifting set of technology tools in a constantly changing information environment
    • [It] attempts to lead through example, consulting and contract work, and workshops
  • To make law more accessible not only to U.S. legal professionals but to students, teachers, and the general public in the U.S. and abroad
  • To carry out these activities in partnership with but not under the control or direction of such other key actors as law firms, bar associations, public law making and applying bodies, commercial publishers, and other academic institutions..." [from the Overview]

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