The Principles and Declaration — which are also being referred to as The Law.gov Core Principles — begin by offering a definition of “primary legal materials.” The Principles and Declaration then set forth ten “principles [that] should govern the dissemination of primary legal materials in the United States”:
- Direct fees for dissemination of primary legal materials should be avoided.
- Primary legal materials should be made available using bulk access mechanisms so they may be downloaded by anyone.
- The primary legal materials, and the methods used to access them, should be authenticated so people can trust in the integrity of these materials.
- Historical archives should be made available online and in a static location to the extent possible.
- Vendor- and media-neutral citation mechanisms should be employed.
- Technical standards for document structure, identifiers, and metadata should be developed and applied as extensively as possible.
- Data should be distributed in a computer-processable, non-proprietary form in a manner that meets best current practices for the distribution of open government data. That data should represent the definitive documents, not just aggregate, preliminary, or modified forms.
- An active program of research and development should be sponsored by governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials to develop new standards and solutions to challenges presented by the electronic distribution of definitive primary legal materials. Examples include the automated detection and redaction of private personal information in documents.
- An active program of education, training, and documentation should be undertaken to help governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials learn and use best current practices.
The Principles and Declaration next set out several expected consequences were the principles to be adopted by U.S. governments, including greater use of legal information, enhancements in political science and legal scholarly research, greater innovation in legal publishing, and improved access to justice.
The Principles and Declaration are signed by a number of prominent law professors, leaders of the legal informatics community, technology innovators, and law librarians.
For more information, please see the full text of The Principles and Declaration.