Subject: Legal translation (announcement, call for comments)
From: Frank Bennett <>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2004 18:52:46 +0900

Dear all,

With some trepidation, I would like to introduce list members to a legal
archiving and translation project ("LAT") emerging at Nagoya University. This
note introduces the project, and offers a link through which you can comment
on the project proposal.

Our long-term aim is to see the creation of a structured database of the
statutes and regulations of many nations, available in current and past
versions, regularly updated in their original language, and translated into
English, on demand, to a high standard of quality. This is a very tall order,
and one that cannot be filled through a monolithic effort, whether private or
public.  We aim to kick things off by addressing the following needs:

Exchange Format
    A simple, uniform electronic format for statutes and regulations is needed
    to attract statutes and regulations into a common database. Once
    established, such a uniform format will reduce the cost of developing
    archive management tools for legislators and other value-added systems.

Database Implementation
    A reference implementation is required, both in order to illustrate the
    benefits of structured electronic storage, and to demonstrate that
    existing electronic source can be moved to this new storage format
    at a reasonable cost.  If successful, the existence of a reference
    implementation will stimulate skills development within governments,
    and encourage electronic dissemination in the standard exchange format.

Required License
    In most jurisdictions, a 50-year-plus period of copyright protection
    applies to most translations of law.  This is far longer than the
    typical legislative or ministerial revision cycle, and it impedes
    the re-use of existing translated text.  As translations have their
    greatest value when they are first issued, it should be possible to
    reward copyright holders for permitting the re-use of their text
    by others as a foundation for updates when the underlying statute
    or regulation is revised.

With a view to defining the exchange format and building a reference
implementation of the database, we are drafting a specfication document.  This
will be followed by a bidding process to gauge the costs of implementation.
Once we have an idea of the costs, we will put in funding applications, and
move forward to creating the software itself.

The specification document is available for comment here:

  (Visitors are able to issue themselves an ID and password in order to view
  the spec and comment on it.  No personal information is required.)

Interested list members are welcome to drop by for a look.  Your feedback will
be most welcome!

Frank Bennett
Associate Professor
Faculty of Law
Nagoya University