This paper was originally presented at the World Library & Information Congress of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Helsinki, Finland, August 2012, as part of a panel on Promoting Global Access to Law: Developing an Open Access Index for Official Authenticated Legal Information, Part II. Europe. It focuses on worldwide access to the official word of the law, specifically to statutes, codes, regulations, court decisions, and international agreements in different foreign countries. The importance of improving global access to foreign law was highlighted at a 2012 joint European Commission/Hague Conference on Private International Law, with the hope for a global instrument to facilitate access to foreign law in civil and commercial matters. The paper discusses the challenges of digital law and the importance of authentication of official legal information worldwide. It retraces the history of what happened in the USA at the federal and state levels, in particular the successful information policy advocacy by law librarians that led to the enactment of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) in 2012. It highlights the role of law librarians in the digital age and their concern for the sustainability of the digital format. Much effort has been expended on moving legal information from a preserved state (print) to an accessible state (digital). It is important to ensure as well that accessible legal information has a preserved (official, authentic -- hence reliable) venue. The Conclusion mentions a few prospects for the future, and a possible role for IFLA to develop a set of standards to encourage governments worldwide to authenticate their official legal information. This might fit well with IFLA’s stature as the major forum to influence information policy at the international level.
Claire M. Germain, Worldwide Access to Foreign Law: International and National Developments Toward Digital Authentication, 19 Comp. L.J. Pac. 85 (2013), available at