,

U.S. Code as Linked Data

Recently the Office of the Law Revision Council released a request for proposal (RFP) to upgrade their website.

“The Office of the Law Revision Counsel prepares and publishes the United States Code, which is a consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States.”

We responded to that RFP. We = Bridgeborn, Inc, and Business Bullpen, LLC.

The Law Revision Council’s recognition that the online home of the United States Code needs upgrading translates into a wonderful opportunity for the LRC, our companies, and the American People. This is much more than an opportunity to redesign web pages for an online presence.

This is an opportunity to publish the U.S. Code as linked data.

Linked data is important for the U.S. Code because it will make the Code more searchable, navigable, and usable by orders of magnitude. Linked data will also increase accessibility and lower costs of integration by making it easier for more consumers to treat the information according to their needs and possible constraints.

Sites exist already to provide the U.S. Code through styled web pages. The Legal Information Institute of the Cornell University Law School, for example, publishes a searchable HTML index of the U.S. Code. This version, however, is not well-formed, linked data. These sites also omit important text included in the official record published by the LRC, such as the Positive Law Codification actions that have been taken. These sites play an important roll is the dissemination of U.S. Code, so it is our hope that this effort will also make the U.S. Code more accessible and usable for consumers like Cornell’s LII.

The LRC Web site isn’t too bad really. Essentially what it needs is a global site navigation scheme, search on every page, and a good Cascading Style Sheet. There are features that could be added, such as public request for comments with voting. But the most important thing anyone can do with this site is Tag the Code.

For example, the following text:
-CITE-
THE ORGANIC LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
-End-
-CITE-
USC THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – 1776 01/03/2007
-EXPCITE-
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – 1776
-HEAD-
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – 1776
-MISC1-
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – 1776 (!1) IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776 THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Could become:

From here, there is nowhere we can’t go with the Code. We can put put it in any container, we can transform it into any view, we can access it from any device. Given tagged, well-formed, linked data, we can address every element of U.S. Code from a standard Internet URL.

While tagging the code with XML may not fully constitute linked data, it is a big step in the right direction. Decorating the those tags with RDF is easily accomplished.

There is no point in enumerating the potential applications of an endeavor such as this. They are infinite.

Leave a Comment

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Profile Photo Steve Ressler

Fascinating. I think the opportunity really lies to transform government websites and data to make it infinitely more usable to the average person. U.S. code is something that comes up in many realms of life but can be greatly improved in terms of usability.

Reply
Profile Photo Kevin Curry

Yes, that’s essentially the point. (Did I fail to make it?) By making the US Code more portable and linkable we make it easier to use and reuse on the Web, easier to mashup into a variety of containers for a variety of use cases. Thanks for your comments, Steve. I certainly appreciate them.

Reply