I started off this column planning to write about free resources available from OUP. But then I started to think about the other on-line publishers, who also provide some limited content to non subscribers, and thought that this is something to be identified and shared in more detail. In a world where there is a rush to the monetization of knowledge, where we have a divide between the digital haves and have-nots , it is good to see that some of this knowledge is freely shared. For those with access to subscription resources, in law firms and universities, it’s sometimes hard to imagine being locked out of the riches that are at our fingertips. For non-subscribers these resources are often a totally no-go area because they rarely venture to publisher web sites.
There are many great free online legal resources available, and some types of materials, such as legislation in its various guises, parliamentary debates, treaties and NGO materials are easy enough to find on the internet. And of course we shouldn’t forget the Legal Information Institutes either, who do a good job providing caselaw for some courts in some countries.
Here then is an outline of some of the free services from the likes of OUP, Westlaw and Lexis.
OUP has two services that you may not know about. One is the Oxford Index, freely available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike, a useful resource because it not only searches OUP content to locate chapters and articles, it provides a very helpful abstract outlining the content of books and chapters. When I first saw it I thought that this would be a useful model for other publishers to use, not only because it covers OUP content, but because it also indexes the content of 14 other academic presses now hosted by OUP via University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO). It is sometimes tricky to write about something that is produced via your own institution without sounding a little like a spruiker for a product, but I think OUP are onto something worthwhile with this Index, and many lawyers outside of academia may not be aware of it.
A similar heads up applies to ORIL, the Oxford Law Reports on International Law. OUP’s law materials are mainly in the field of Public International Law, and they are available via subscription only; however, updates, via RSS feeds, are free. ORIL content will be incorporated into the Oxford Index once it undergoes an upgrade, later in the year.
Lexis has a series of US-centric blogs and news called Lexis Communities in a dozen areas of law such as bankruptcy, tax, international and patent law. Anyone can sign up for updates, there are podcasts and news headlines of new cases. On the UK Lexis site there is a blog about the Future of Law; they also run some Twitter feeds in the UK on legislation, cases, and the EU.
Westlaw offers the Legal News and Insight from the US, and provides newsletters for Bankruptcy Law, New York Legal, Securities Law, Legal news and a blog, Alison Frankel's On the Case. The Legal materials can be filtered by topic so this is another useful updater for folks in the United States, but I couldn’t readily locate any free updates for other jurisdictions.
Several European providers also have free updates. Beck Online provides recent legislative updates in Germany. Juris Classeur provides updates online and via emails to arrange of French legal topics including tax and social security laws.
LawNet from Singapore has a range of free resources including RSS feeds of caselaw, law reform and IP topics.
I am sure this just scratches the surface of free information provided by online commercial publishers in the legal field. With the resources they have, both people – eg, legal editors – and content, identifying ways to share some of the knowledge beyond the paywall, and implementing it in clever and useful ways, is definitely a trend worth noting.
 The American University in Cairo Press; University of Chicago Press; University of California Press; Edinburgh University Press; University Press of Florida; Fordham University Press; Hong Kong University Press; The University Press of Kentucky; Manchester University Press; Policy Press; and launching this year: Liverpool University Press ; The MIT Press ; Stanford University Press and Yale University Press.