The Value of Halsbury’s Laws

Or rather the value of access to Halsbury’s Laws. That’s the issue that the English courts must decide in a breach of contract claim involving a Reed-Elsevier legal author and the Anglo-Dutch legal publishing conglomerate.

English silk, David Phillips is suing the English division of the publisher, trading as LexisNexis Butterworths, for £316,730 including interest and costs.

Legal publishers aren’t used to being sued.

The claim alleges that LexisNexis breached a deal with Phillips’ father a High Court judge who edited the Income Tax volume of Halsbury’s in the 1970s. I suspect that his Lordship didn’t think it appropriate that he be paid for this work, so instead he negotiated an agreement for a free copy of the legal tome and any new volumes of Halsbury’s Laws following work his father, High Court judge Mr Justice Phillips, did on the book in the past.

LexisNexis gave Phillips his free copies until 1998. Apparently, at this point the publisher made an oral agreement with Phillips that if he gave up his entitlement to copies of the written edition, he could gain free lifetime access to online editions.

But they cut off online access in 2006.

LexisNexis says it will defend the claim and does not believe Phillips has a case. I can’t discover where the figure of £316,730 comes from.

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