App Review – “Canadian Law”

Canadian Law is an iPhone app, put together by Lunaform Software, a German based company. The cost is $4.99. The app’s purpose is a little more modest that its name suggests – it provides offline access to over 700 Federal statutes. This includes the full text of all statutes (but not the regulations) in English only. Once the app has been downloaded one does not need to be connected to the Internet to view and work with the statutes.

I reviewed the app on an iPad 2, but I expect that it works the same on an iPhone. As I worked through the features of the app it became clear how effective a touch screen is for quickly navigating through large volumes of text.

The real strength of this app is to allow you to quickly access and work with familiar statutes offline. If you know the provision you are looking for it takes seconds to pull it up by browsing through the list of statutes. Within an act it is easy to move from section to section. One can quickly and intuitively bookmark and annotate sections (with the notes feature) and refer to them later.

The currency date for most of the statutes I reviewed was May 30, 2011. The developer of the app told me that from time to time updates to the statutes will be provided through app updates in the App Store. They are also working on functionality that will allow the user to update online from within the app, but this is still in development.

The search box on the main screen is fairly basic and has limitations. The results are sorted:

i) by statute, where your search term is the first word in the name of the statute

ii) by sections, that contain your term in the marginal notes for each section (i.e. the description or title of each section which does not actually form part of the statute)

For example: searching for “inquir” brings up the Inquiries Act first, followed an alphabetical list of sections of statutes that contain ‘inquir” in their marginal notes. There is no truncation feature but searching for the root of your term seems to work well. The search however does not appear to be a true full text search. If a word appears in the text of a section, but not in the marginal notes it will not appear in the search results. For example s.4(1) of the Access to Information Act contains the word “notwithstanding” in the text but not in the marginal note – a search for “notwithstanding” will not find this section.

Overall I find the Canadian Law app to be a worthwhile purchase at $4.99. Despite the fact that the Federal statutes are available for free at the Department of Justice website and on CANLII, offline access and the ability to annotate, bookmark and do basic searching makes this a handy app when away from the office or when going online is not possible or convenient. As long as one keeps the currency in mind and is aware of the limitations of the search engine, this is a nice basic offering for users of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.



  1. I’ve been playing with this app for the past few days as well.

    There are lots of times in court when I’m in a “dead zone,” so having these statutes pulled up already on my iPad is really convenient.

    The settings also allow adjustment of text font and size, which allows for much easier reading on an iPad (as opposed to iPhone).

  2. Thanks for pointing out this app John.

    For offline act and regulations on my mobile devices, I prefer to download the pdf of the act or regulation from the Department of Justice Laws site for the Statutes of Canada.

    An online visit to what you anticipate needing, or your usually referenced act, from the official source in anticipation of being offline seems the best choice to me. With a currency date on the front page, a convenient reference to the last amendment date, a copy in both official languages and access for free to current and from the official source seems like a best practice to me. The Table of Public Statutes is also available.

    I like iAnnotate for viewing and marking up offline pdfs. Steps for this are outlined via a Slaw Tip today.

  3. You say you spoke with the apps developer? Did they discuss expanding the app to cover provincial laws?
    I am always curious to hear when statutory materials are reproduced in a commercial context, and whether permission for reproduction was obtained beforehand, or whether copyrights were considered at all. In the case of Canadian federal laws, anyone may reproduce them without permission. Essentially, the government grants permission not to have to ask for permission… but can laws really be treated the same as other works under the copyright regime?
    BC and Ontario (in different degree), stake claims in copyright to their respective laws. The BC Laws website claims that copyright in the “electronic version” of the laws specifically is owned by the Queen’s Printer, and then states that “All statutes and regulations are under copyright by the Province of British Columbia.” BC purports to grant narrow permission for personal or legal use one-offs, but claims it’s “illegal” to copy the laws for distribution without permission. Copyright information for the Queen’s Printer for Ontario also asserts ownership of copyright in laws, etc., but at least permits non-commercial reproduction more broadly. Commercial reproduction requires special permission.
    Sure it’s a different kettle of fish, but I enjoyed this article from the US perspective: Ending Copyright Claims in State Primary Legal Materials: Towards an Open Source Legal Operating System