Open Access to Legal Scholarship: Dropping the Barriers to Discourse and Dialogue
This paper focuses on the importance of free and open access to legal information, not only to primary sources of law, but to legal scholarship and commentary on the law. It argues that full understanding of authoritative legal texts requires access to informed commentary as well as to the texts of the law themselves, and that free and open access to legal commentary will facilitate cross-border dialogue and foster international discourse in law. The paper discusses the obligations of scholars and publishers of legal commentary to make their work as widely accessible as possible. It considers the potential benefits and drawbacks of electronic law journals and legal databases, as well as the uses of newer short forms of legal scholarship. Examples of institutional and disciplinary repositories for legal scholarship are presented and critiqued, as are the possible impacts of recent initiatives to promote all-electronic publication of legal scholarship, such as the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship.