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City Desk
5 July, 2010  
Unlocking the archive

Miles of shelf space liberated … Bold scheme to digitise first hundred volumes of the CLR … Open access for the uplift of humanity … Sponsors sought


imageThis week sees the launch of a new project from the innovative BarNet crowd.

Under the baton of Sydney barrister and BarNet principal Michael Green OpenLaw seeks to bring to everyone’s digital grasp the first 100 volumes of the sacred texts – the Commonwealth Law Reports.

The volumes will be scanned and text-checked and made available as pdf downloads to court libraries, BarNet’s Jade service, Austlii and the National Library of Australia, whose council is now chaired by Spigelman CJ.

Green says readers will be able to access High Court judgments from 1903 to 1959 on iPads, Kindles, phones, laptops and other devices beyond the wildest contemplation of the judges in the first half-century of federation.

The service will be free, but to meet the costs of creating this online archival wonderland the OpenLaw project is seeking sponsorship and support from lawyers.

The fundraising target is between $100,000 and $150,000 and volumes can be individually sponsored (with naming rights) for $1,000 a pop.

Already there are sponsors from the Sydney bar for six of the 100 volumes to be scanned: Gregory Burton, Richard Weinstein, Patricia Lane and Sarah McNaughton. Green and BarNet have also stumped-up as well to get the show off the ground.

It’s an innovative way to bring these ancient items of judicial reasoning freely into the digital era.

The latest high-powered scanning technology allows reproduction at “archival quality”.

Thomson-Reuters already provides a commercial version of the first 100 CLRs for its subscribers, but Green says his intention is to “unlock the common legal heritage and enhance freely available important legal material for the benefit of society as a whole”.

The One to 100 project, as it is called, promises “a significant advance on the quality and accessibility of presently available scans of these High Court decisions”.

OpenLaw is in the process of tracking the life histories of the headnote writers. Green told Justinian:

“We are also working with a well known copyright collecting society to implement a scheme which respects and remunerates any extant copyright. For example, Bennet Langton passed away in 1928, so his works are now well out of copyright. We are paying a percentage of amounts received to cover any extant claims.”

You can check it all out HERE.