Legivoc – connecting laws in a changing world

Legivoc – connecting laws in a changing world by Hughes-Jehan Vibert, Pierre Jouvelot, Benoît Pin.


On the Internet, legal information is a sum of national laws. Even in a changing world, law is culturally specific (nation-specific most of the time) and legal concepts only become meaningful when put in the context of a particular legal system. Legivoc aims to be a semantic interface between the subject of law of a State and the other spaces of legal information that it will be led to use. This project will consist of setting up a server of multilingual legal vocabularies from the European Union Member States legal systems, which will be freely available, for other uses via an application programming interface (API).

And I thought linking all legal data together was ambitious!

So long as the EU was composed of civil law jurisdictions, I would not have taken odds on the success of the project but it could have some useful results.

One you add in common law jurisdictions like the United Kingdom, the project may still have some useful results but there isn’t going to be mapping across all the languages.

Part of the difficulty will be language but part of it will be at the most basic assumptions of both systems.

In civil law, the drafters of legal codes attempt to systematically set out a set of principles that take each other into account and represent a blueprint for an ordered society.

Common law, on the other hand, has at its core court decisions that determine the results between two parties. And those decisions can be relied upon by other parties.

Between civil and common law jurisdictions, some laws/concepts may be more mappable than others. Modern labor law for example, may be new enough for semantic accretions to not prevent a successful mapping.

Older laws, property and inheritance laws, for example, are usually the most unique for any jurisdiction. Those are likely to prove impossible to map or reconcile.

Still, it will be an interesting project, particularly if they disclose the basis for any possible mapping, as opposed to simply declaring a mapping.

Both would be useful, but the former robust in the face of changing law and the latter is brittle.

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