On the Net* and the liberation of information that “wants” to be free** - A call for action by the United Nations, Universities, researchers, and development agencies, with reference primarily to international trade law, Ralph Amissah

4 - How information might be freed

“You see things and say 'Why?'; but I dream things that never were and I say 'Why not?'” - George Bernard Shaw

On the background of discussions in the earlier sections, we now look to describe how, utilising the characteristics of the Net and the dynamics of its use, one might set up a free information repository, and/ or keep costs to a minimum.

4.1 - A hypothetical example based on a World Bank, UNCITRAL or UNCTAD law repository on the Net

The UN sets up an information repository, for the dissemination of its texts and for the collection of relevant works related to them produced elsewhere by recognised institutions. Contracting States are encouraged to submit all information related to United Nations instruments produced within the State, including their reports and cases generated. Universities and academic journals are invited to submit their published scholarly works on UN materials. The information is available via the Net.

The purpose of the base is made known to governments, and reporting is encouraged. Elected government reporters submit official reports and relevant juridical decisions in the national courts to the base. (In some cases the UN has already set up rudimentary government reporting systems for this purpose.) If governments start to ensure that their legal reports are available in digital format, it takes little additional effort to identify and submit those which are of interest to the UN. Researchers could also provide assistance in identifying those cases and materials that would be of interest to the UN base.

Universities being independently interested in the publication and dissemination of their scholarly works publish on the Net independently. Whenever a scholarly writing is published that is of interest to The UN base, a notification of this is sent to the appropriate UN department. A submission is made of the finalised digital (“html” or other) versions, and/ or the location on the Net from which a copy can be downloaded and incorporated into the UN base. Such notification and submissions may be organised on an individual researcher basis after official publication by a department, by the department itself, at the university level or by a scholarly journal.

Individuals can take from any of these bases free of charge. Individuals can produce and publish their own works, which if worthwhile may come to be recognised as such and assimilated.

To ensure the cycle works, the UN could also appoint scouts for relevant scholarly writings and law reports, from within different State research communities who volunteer their services - possibly for mention or a token (such as a certificate) for having contributed to the UN information collection/ dissemination effort.

Unidroit, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the World Bank and indeed any other organs to which such a system is suited could set up similar structures, along lines suitable for their objectives.

Within the chain each member has an interest in playing an active participating role. Finalised work is completed at source prior to submission. Publication can be automated.

4.2 - Reiteration of the universities role and interest

If universities and other organisations operate on the premise that a substantial part of the information they produce should be publicly available, they create a valuable body of information to be used on the Net to which others, will wish to contribute. Whether cost-recovery is necessary depends on what the cost is in relation to the perceived returns to the contributing entity and the perceived desirability of recovering cost. Publishing on the Net as we have noted is inexpensive for many of the individuals and institutions under discussion here. The returns include advertising and prestige, and if a certain threshold of participation by others is reached, participation becomes an end in itself.

4.3 - Support for a non-commercial publishing system

Assuming that governments continue to fund full access to the Net at institutions of higher learning and within such organisations as the United Nations, the following are suggested to be basic requirements for the effective functioning of a non-commercial/ public domain: 33

●  Information should be completed at source as far as possible. This includes any additional information, catchwords, or summaries. This means that authors complete their final text for publication. In our UNCITRAL example this would mean that UNCITRAL took care of its own productions, and that submissions made to UNCITRAL should be in completed form whether they be of cases or reports by governments or of scholarly writings by universities, or from any other authority. In the University example researchers or appointed editors would be responsible for the final work submitted to the University for publication.

●  Information submitted for publication should be in a form that facilitates dissemination (digitised) allowing for immediate conversion and publication.

●  Submissions should be authoritative (capable of being cited in an acceptable way). Any citation method/mechanism should be vendor neutral.

●  Publications or submissions for publication as the case may be, should be free of charge to anyone who wishes to obtain them.

●  Publication on the Net should be without restrictions on re-use and without license fees. With the proviso that in re-use the authorship and integrity of the text is maintained whether reproduction is in full or in part. 34

●  Digital signatures may be used to authenticate texts.

In considering this model, bear in mind that the net today, without additions is able to support this model. Storage is inexpensive. Input, can be by authorised submissions from any location on the Net, collection of such input can be largely automated. Authorised submissions once made to a particular database are automatically published with indexes being automatically updated.

It is easiest to start at the top of a hierarchy, but equal interest at the individual level reinforces the sustainability of the model, e.g. a researcher's wish to publish his work. The structure once in place looks after itself. It is self-sustaining.

 33. Suggestions are derived through generalisation and some modification from the “AustLII Technology and politics of Law on the Net”, Graham Greenleaf, Andrew Mowbray, and Geoffrey King. Paper prepared for the 4th International Conference on Substantive Technology in the Law School and in Practice, University of Montreal, Quebec, 3-6 July 1996.

 34. It is not possible in this text to enter a discourse on the subject of copyright, beyond mention of the fact that copyright law holds good for the Net. However copyright notices are provided as examples. Two alternative simple provisions for the individual author:
“Copyright [Author's Name]. This document may be freely reproduced.”;
“Copyright [Author's Name]. Reproduction and distribution are permissible for non-profit purposes only. No substantive changes of any kind are to be made to this document without the author's written consent.”
States have more complicated interests. Reproduced here are the relevant provisions of British “CROWN Copyright” permission for free publication. It is suggested that organisations with professed harmonisation of law objectives should be at least as liberal in their approach to relevant materials:
“2.1 Reproduction without permission or charge
2.1.1 For the following specified types of Crown material, English language reproduction in any media, other than the uses described at para 4.3, is permitted world wide, without prior permission and free of charge.
* Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments and Statutory Rules and Orders.
* Press Releases from Departments, Agencies or other Crown bodies. While these are obviously for unrestricted use at time of issue, they may also be freely reproduced thereafter, singly or in compilation (but NOT for the sole purpose of providing a commercial Press Release service per se).
2.1.2 Such reproduction is subject to the following conditions being complied with:
(i) reproduction takes place within a value-added context; i.e. where the Official text has had value added to it by compilation with other related text, analysis, commentary, annotation, indexing or cross-referencing (this may be taken as covering both commercially published and in-house databases);
(ii) that an acknowledgement of Crown copyright is featured as well as a statement of the source. The copyright acknowledgement will generally be in the following form: Reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO;
(iii) the material is reproduced accurately and in a fashion and context which is in no way misleading as to the intended meaning and application of the material;
(iv) specific permission should be sought for translations or adaptations.
2.2 Reproduction for which prior permission is necessary
2.2.1 Prior permission must be sought, and fees and royalties may be charged, for the reproduction of any Crown material not specified at section 2.1.1 above.
2.2.2 The Copyright Unit may waive or reduce fees in respect of applications for use of Crown material for professional, technical or scientific purposes where profit is not a main purpose of reproduction. Consideration of reduction or remission of fees will also be given to reproduction in works of scholarship, in the journals of learned societies and similar non-profit-making bodies, for educational purposes, and in other cases where the need for the fullest dissemination of official information is paramount and outweighs any other considerations. ...
6.3 In general, all Crown and Parliamentary copyrights are reserved and, notwithstanding particular privileges allowed in this letter, will be exercised in appropriate cases.” CO(P) 48/1022 (23 September 1996)

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