Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute has been providing and promoting “open access to law since 1992.”  To celebrate the LII’s 20th anniversary, the Law Via The Internet conference was held at Cornell [and I went].

Twenty-hours ago, I was still at the conference, so I’m still sorting out my thoughts. Two immediate impressions are that 1) Cornell University is a lovely campus which is putting on an excellent performance of fall this year and 2) the organizers of the Conference did an excellent job.

Access to information is not a simple concept. For starters, there is physical access to information and intellectual access to information.  Therefore the conference presented lots of information on access to information. On the physical access side, I heard about how hard it can be to get legal information [it doesn’t grow on trees], how hard it can be to turn a legal document into a usable format and then the hardest question how hard it can be to make legal information accessible forever. On the intellectual access side, one theme was the need to explain/provide context for legal information in addition to providing access. This theme played out in multiple dscussions of annotation.

As far as new tools go, I’m not even on the open source learning curve [beyond recognizing the words Linux and Open Office] but obviously anything you can do with a proprietary tool, you can do with an open source tool.   But let me pass along thanks to Clay Shirky, one of the keynoters [check him out]..


Rap Genius allows anyone who creates an account to post songs and also to post annotations/explanations of songs. According to Shirky, Marc  Andressen  who wrote the first popular web browser invested in this website because he saw this as a potential platform for all kinds of  annotation. But as Shirky pointed out,  some creative users had already figured this out and posted   the Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact.   Pat ourselves on the back-we users are so clever.