BISAC Subject Headings

If you’re working on a simple taxonomy of legal topics, you might take a look at the Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) subject headings for law. A couple of U.S. public libraries have caused a fuss by abandoning the Dewey system (which, it’s argued, was always meant to be “middleware”) in favour of more user-friendly taxonomies, among them the Book Industry example, used at big bookstores.

By the way, note that the list is “governed by a copyright notice” from the Book Industry Study Group:

All rights reserved. No part of the attached documents may be distributed or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc.

I imagine, not being a copyright maven, that this sort of list is in a grey area, keeping company with compilations and tables of contents. I understand from some personal experience that it takes effort and creativity to elect a set of terms within a discipline and to order them. You’d be hard pressed, though, to prove that with a few twists here and there a list wasn’t arrived at independently — and, more to the point, perhaps, these are such broad terms and so basic to legal work and promulgation no one should be able to stand in the way of their free use. Which is why I think the routine overreaching of copyright notices like this one are silly and maybe harmful: “No part of the attached documents may be… reproduced in any manner whatsoever…”

Um… Jurisprudence. Property. Et cetera.

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