Law is Code, and We're Here to Open Source It

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 23, 2011 from 10:00 – 10:45am in B201


Anyone can show how to save the world. We tell how to receive unsolicited love letters while doing it.


“You are a true pillar of democracy.”

“I love you.”

Who wouldn’t want to get emails like these? We’ll show how it’s done. First half, presentation. Second half, questions and discussion.

Presentation Outline

  • A New Model: Open Sourcing our Laws
    • Not an entirely new idea
      • Kohel Haver, first person to ‘open source’ the ORS.
    • There is plenty out there, ready for the doing
    • Examples
      • […]
    • Legal Issues to Consider
      • Federal legal documents: public domain
      • State and local governmental legal documents: quasi public domain
  • This helps so many people in different groups
    • Increasing access to the legal system, e.g. for
      • The person who got into a car accident
      • People who want to link to, discuss, and debate our laws
      • Law students, lawyers, and law librarians
    • Students and non-wealthy lawyers are exploited by the old, existing research system.
      • “It’s awful; it’s terrible.”
  • Enabled by Open Source Tools
    • HTML Parser — Nokogiri
    • Web Crawling — wget, curl
    • Specialized web browser — Lynx, specially hacked
    • Text File Manipulation Tools — find, grep, awk
    • Text editing — emacs, vi
    • Web Server Stack — Linux, Apache, Ruby, Rails
    • Communication — Wordpress
  • Unique Benefits to this Type of Project
    • Many, e.g.:
      1. Immense good will
        • “People never get sick of hearing about your site’s updates. It
          must feel pretty freakin’ good that your site is so desirable.”
        • “It’s pretty cool that you can get away with stuff like that. People
          actually do want to know when there’s something new.”
      2. It can pay for itself.

Speaking experience