Features - Guide to European Legal Databases

The most recent version of this article is available at http://www.llrx.com/features/europenew.htm.  You will be automatically redirected to that page shortly.

Mirela Roznovschi is the Reference Librarian for International and Foreign Law at New York University School of Law Library. She holds a M.A. from the University of Bucharest (Romania), a M.L.S. from Pratt Institute, and a Certificate in Internet Technologies from New York University. Her activities include monitoring and evaluating foreign and international legal databases on the Internet, training law faculty and students to use the Internet for legal research, advising developing democracies on the building of electronic law libraries, and training librarians from developing democracies. She is in charge of the library's home page, Guide to International and Foreign Law Databases. She also serves as a member of the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals Advisory Committee.

(Archived August 15, 1998)

Scout Report Selection


Table of Contents

Introduction
Search Engines
Search Tips
Indices, Guides, Journals, Dictionaries, Library Catalogs
European Legal Databases on the Internet
Constitutions
Copyright
Environment
Main jurisdictions (selective):

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Transnational/International Organizations
A. Council of Europe
B. European Union
I. Institutions
II. Databases
III. Indexes, Direcotries, Electronic Publications
 


Introduction

In the last two years, European legal databases in HTML format have emerged with a speed that has sometimes exceeded our updating tools. Many of them brought to the world's legal community a great amount of reliable primary and secondary sources. In this article, I will focus on databases in HTML format using Internet as a primary and unique carrier. Lexis/Nexis' and Westlaw's European legal databases are not reviewed, even though recently both providers launched Internet interfaces.

In the new electronic environment, librarians looking for European country materials (the majority civil law systems) need to be familiar not only with what information is available online, but also how to use the tools of legal research in the Internet context for locating substantive law efficiently. They also have to think about the reference question within a legal and cultural context in which legal concepts may have different meanings in comparison with the common law system.

European legal databases are mostly in vernacular, so we have to deal not only with foreign languages but also with nuances in different legal systems and cultures. The legal researcher has to know where and how to go online (depending on the reference question), decide what type of law or legal document he/she may want to find, and which is the better searching tool to use. Moreover, to be able to determine the path to follow in the context of a reference question, the searcher needs to understand the jurisdictional research territory, recognize patterns of research on the Internet, and its special syntax and concepts. The goal is to develop a personal research style which will reflect his/her expertise, practice and area of interest, and will be flexible and broad enough to develop in a timely manner a strategy for any research question.

Search Engines

1. Search Engines for International and Foreign Law

Infoseek is in my opinion the most powerful, accurate and current search engine in finding the precise answer to a legal query. Infoseek allows the researcher to narrow the search using quotes, commas, truncation, boolean operators, plus (+) and minus (-) signs to require or exclude a word, and the pipe (|) to search a certain set of results only. Using quotes whenever you search for a concept or for a title, the needed document will be in the first five entries (which doesn't happen with AltaVista, HotBot, LawCrawler, etc. using the same search strategy). Even if you are unsure about the document's name, good results can be obtained using boolean operators and narrowing the reasults as many times as needed. Infoseek also provides the capability to search in vernacular through interfaces for Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Sweden, the Nederlands.

AltaVista allows searching in 25 languages, but with law relevance. AltaVista ranks behind the following two search engines.

FindLaw is actually the LawCrawler Web search engine and LawCrawler "powered by Alta Vista" (Digital Equipment Corporation) under license. FindLaw narrows from the onset of the query according to the country or the world region. To search for Europe or a European country, go to "Main Index: Foreign & International Resources," and choose the region and then the country (Individual Country Search Pages). FindLaw refines the query with boolean and proximity operators, and other property value queries that include information about the file size and an abstract.

LawRunner (Internet Legal Resource Guide) is an index allowing search by country (even with the suffixes of particular countries i.e., .fr for France) using the same AltaVista search engine. ILRG uses boolean operators and an "exclude" field. Running a search through FindLaw and LawRunner, you may discover that both retrieve almost the same URLs in the same order. It is not coincidental as long as they use the same search engine.

HotBot has improved dramatically in the last year. For foreign law research I would rank it as the second best search engine, with the first being Infoseek.  Running the same query ("Corte di Cassazione"-- Italian Supreme Court) through search engines already mentioned, and judging the quality of the retrieved records according to the relevance of the first five entries I received the following results: Infoseek retrieved 238 Web sites with the best relevance; HotBot 2,717 matches with a secondary relevance; AltaVista retrieved 1,646 entries with no relevance; FindLaw 33 (non of them relevant); LawRunner 1,360 (as in AltaVista's case -- non relevant first five entries).

2. Database Search Engines

Any serious and reliable database has its own search engine. If a search engine browsing the entire Web locates the needed database, the database search engine will then logically locate relevant documents. Almost any database search engine has its own configuration. Rambler, the Russian search engine, can search using Latin characters in English and Russian. EUROPA, a mega database, has many search engines with a specific configuration for every database. There are also search engines specialized in more than one jurisdiction, utilizing the same language such as the French search engines called "Francophone search engines."  Ecila-Moteur de Recherche; Francité; MégaFrancité; Lokace; Nomade. Derecho is a great index but mainly an excellent search engine for Spanish law only.

Search Tips

The best service for translating online legal concepts into European Union languages is "Eurodicautom, a translator's best friend on the web," which has also an excellent definition feature. Do not rely on AltaVista online translations. These are word by word translations without any meaning.

Indices, Guides, Journals, Dictionaries, Library Catalogs

Notable in this category are Hieros Gamos Guide to International Law and the Meta-Index for Legal Research; The Legal List, a consolidated guide to law-related resources on the Internet; Yahoo, one of the best World Wide Web guides; Chicago Kent Lawlinks Index; and Index of Law Related Meta Indexes. I would also recommend using The World List: Non-US Law Related Resources for the Internet Users by Makoto Ibusuki, a guide relating to the law and government of over 60 countries; Law of Europe, indexed by Bradley J. Hillis; The Library of Congress GLIN Home Page with reputable developments on foreign jurisdictions; Foreign Laws by Subject at Washburn University; International and Foreign Materials at New York University School of Law Library; U.S. House of Representatives Internet Law Library.

There are also guides to legal resources such as the Law on the Internet Booklist (International) by the American Bar Association, which recommends guides to legal resources on the Internet published in different countries (Italy, U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, etc.) and the American Society of International Law Guide to Electronic Resources. Great information in the field is  also published by the followinng periodicals:  Europe, Database, Searcher, Law Library Journal, the American Society of International Law Newsletter, the AALL FCIL Newsletter and the European Journal of International Law.

Dictionaries -- 50 dictionaries can be found at A Web of Online Dictionaries. Eurodicautom (dictionary for EU legislation) is a friendly web query system for words/phrases/abbreviations in any official EU language and obtaining the legal equivalent in another. French Private Law Dictionary (DICTIONNAIRE DU DROIT PRIVÉ), by Serge Braudo, is also an excellent tool for French legal research.

Libraries -- "Gabriel" Gateway to Europe's National Libraries is the National Union Catalogues maintained by Europe's National Libraries (Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, England, etc). Other gates to European catalogs are The British Library and HYTELNET Library Catalogs maintained by Peter Scot.

What follows is a guide to the most requesteted European legal topics and jurisdictions, updated as of June, 1998. In the constatnly changing world of legal databases, we can expect URL modifications, migrations from one database to another, database mergers, and so on. To accommodate this reality, effective legal researchers have to develop good search skills and a knowledge of database reliability. But this is another story, which may have as a starting point the evaluation form for foreign and international databases, which I designed and use in my daily work

European Databases on the Internet

Constitutions

Copyright

Environment


Main Jurisdictions

(Selective; For comprehensive information look at my Guide on Foreign and International Materials)

Austria

  • Der Osterreichische Verfassungsgerichtshof - Austrian Constitutional Court. Decisions from 1980- via RIS - ( Republic of Austria - Office of the Federal Chancellor - Legal Information System).
  • Auswahl Juristischer Internetadressen im WWW - Selection of Legal Internet Addresses on the WWW.  Links to compilation of laws and decisions (Austrian laws and decisions, German laws and decisions, Swiss Supreme Court decisions); links to Austrian government bodies, etc.
  • JUSLINE - A fee-based electronic service offering counseling, Austrian legal forms, databases of Austrian attorneys and law firms.
  • NetLaw Austria - Links to Federal Constitution Law (Linz University), Penal Code (Salzburg University), Copyright Law (via Jusline), Draft Database Law Act.
  • Republik Osterreich Bundeskanzleramt - Rechtsinformationssystem - RIS (Republic of Austria - Office of the Federal Chancellor - Legal Information System) - Full text of laws and decisions. Austrian laws in German, Federal law, law of the individual federal states, Parliamentary materials; Constitutional and Administrative Court decisions and headnote (only in German).

Belgium

Denmark

England

  • United Kingdom Parliament. House of Commons and House of Lords - Judgements delivered since November 1996 appear online within 2 hours of delivery at the House of Lords. The path is House of Lords; Judicial Business; Judgments.
  • HMSO and Parliament - Full text and summaries of Acts of Parliament. Access to material published by HMSO (Her Majesty's Stationery Office) on the Internet, summaries and extracts of official material. Keyword search.
  • Times Law Reports (Times Web Page) - Contains English cases and also European Court of Justice and European Court of Human rights cases.
  • Government Information Service is a starting point for locating UK National and Local Government information published on the Web. The search system (Muscat FX) combined with a good indexing feature facilitates finding information on European institutions or European case law.
  • Her Majesty's Stationery Office contains Statutory Instruments (beginning 1997), Acts of Parliament (beginning 1996), Copyright unit, a good search engine.

France

Germany

  • German Federal Court -- Bundesgerichtshof --at Karlsruhe University
  • German Case Law at Wuerzburg University - Decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court (1951-), Federal Administrative Court (1953-), Information Bulletin related to the court. Headnote of selected cases in English.
  • Juristische Informationen im Internet is a comprehensive index to German legal resources on the Internet.
  • Juristisches Internetproject Saarbrucken - German primary legal statutes and court reports (Grundgesetz --Federal Constitution, Bundesgesetzblatt --Official Journal, Bundesverfassungsgerichts -- Federal Constitutional Court, 1996- ). Abstracts of the Constitutional Court Reports - English summaries of the official press releases from the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) (SAARBRÜCKEN); GLAW - detailed discussion in German of a wide range of Constitutional Court (BVerfG) cases, each with a brief English abstract (from Uni.Wuerzburg).
  • REFACT - The database contains virtually all important German laws (constitutional, environmental, civil, administrative, commercial, corporate, labor, cases, decrees, etc.), especially tax codes, tax regulations, decisions of the tax court dating back to the '70s. This compilation of statutes, tax case law, and commentaries (all in German and without official pagination), includes the German Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Reorganization Tax Act, the Corporate Income Tax Act and other major laws. Some of the laws have a search option by code and provide cross-references to other laws citing that particular code section. Laws come with a clickable index (Register), which is sometimes very detailed. The Civil Code can be searchable by sections. The published texts in REACT date from June 1997. Caveats: all statutory material can only be seen per article of the statute; the search engine is quite restricted (no boolean search); decisions of the Bundesfinanzhof are cited but their text is not available (fee based service).
  • Steuerrecht im Internet --German Taxation in the Internet contains US-German Tax glossary; double tax treaties US-Germany, etc.

Italy

  • http://www.gelso.unitn.it/card-adm/Italian-code/code.htm, The Italian Annotated Civil Code - Still under construction. Some articles have an English abstract.
  • Indici di Leggi - Provides links to 5 sites, with the Gazzetta Ufficiale (Official Journal) in full text or abstracts,   Environment Laws, Parliament, regional laws.
  • Italian Law on the Web - Good Index to Italian Law resources available on the Internet.
  • Informazione Giuridica via Internet is the gate for ITALGIURE - The Italian Supreme Court database, Parliament, etc.
  • IPSOA - Contains new laws, regulations regarding Italian taxation laws.
  • Minerva. Quotidiano di aggiornamento in linea sulla normativa europea, nazionale e regionale e sulla giurisprudenza fiscale e del lavoro. Newspaper containing tax and labor jurisprudence.

Norway

  • LOVDATA is the main provider of online Norwegian statutes in the vernacular (Supreme Court decisions, statutes in force, central regulations, local regulations, Legal Gazette Part I and II). Lovdata is a non-profit organization established in 1981 by the Ministry of Justice and the Faculty of Law of the University of Oslo.
  • Norwegian acts translated to English - Unofficial translations. Some acts may not be updated.
  • ODIN, Official Documentation and Information from Norway ODIN is the central web-server for the Norwegian Government, the Office of the Prime Minister and the ministries. [Odin pånorsk]

Russia

  • Russia on the Net - Legislation (or http://counter.rambler.ru/top100/ has a good search engine and links to legal available resources on the Internet.
  • Russian Federation at Bayreuth University has links to the constitution, civil code, laws and regulations (selected), governmental decrees, local laws (many not updated or unofficial). The Constitution, the Civil Code, some regulations are in English and German.
  • REESWEB at the University of Pittsburgh is a comprehensive index of electronic resources on the Balkans, the Baltic states, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Central Europe, the CIS, Eastern Europe, the NIS, the Russian Federation, and the former Soviet Union. The REESWeb is sponsored by the Center for Russian and East European Studies of the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Rambler has a good Index and an excellent search engine searching in Russian language and English.

Spain

  • Colex Data - The best Spanish legal database, Colex Data offers Codes, Jurisprudence, Laws, regulations, legal commentaries. Highly recommended by Spanish lawyers. Access by subscription only.
  • Softlex - Contains laws, codes, jurisprudence, bilateral treaties in vernacular, etc. Access by subscription only.
  • Boletín Oficial del Estado published by Ministerio de la Presidencia - Extensive Spanish government information.
  • Derecho - Excellent index of Spanish laws and search engine for Spanish law only.
  • LinkLex - Legislación española concordada - Legal texts, articles, regulations.

Sweden

  • Information Rosenbad is the name of the Swedish Government's new joint service point for communication and information. It is also the name of the Swedish Government's web site on the Internet. It has an English version. Laws, acts, rules, law summaries in vernacular and sometimes in English.

Switzerland

  • Swiss Federal Supreme Court - Decisions from 1975 to the present in German, French and Italian. Official citation and pagination as well as full-text search.
  • Systematische Sammlung des Bundesrechts -- Recueil Systematique du Droit Federal (Swiss federal law). Official site of the Swiss Government. Contains all federal laws with a search engine searching by law number. Free of charge at the moment. Texts can be viewed in html format or in pdf format (readable with acrobat reader) having its original structure and pagination. The database contains the Constitution, laws, ordinances in French, German, Italian.

Transnational/International Organizations (Council of Europe and The European Union)

A. Council of Europe

B. The European Union

I. Institutions

  • EUROPA is the umbrella platform for the home pages of all the institutions, their individual components and specialized agencies. Basic access to information is through the "Policy" section. The Directorates-General and Services address is http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs_en.htm.
  • EUR-Lex - The complete L and C series of the OJ, full text of legislation in force, treaties, judgments of the ECJ, COM documents in eleven languages for a period of 20 days after the date of publication.
  • Governments on-line
  • On the Record-- Official Documents from the Union (Green Papers, White Papers, Treaties, Treaty on European Union, Press Releases)
  • RAPID. The Spokesman's Service of the European Commission - Daily reviews of the EU as presented by the Institutions in their press releases, memos, speeches. Easy access to the latest from the Commission as well as the backfile to 1985 (for those materials that do exist that for back). You can use the username guest with the password guest. RAPID has a good search engine.
  • European Parliament EUROPARL (European Parliament Multilingual Web Service) offers information and documents on the activities of the Parliament, COM and OJ documents. The Parliament has opened the equivalent of EPOQUE to the general public. EPOQUE offers information on the status of legislative procedures having a variety of search options.
  • Court of Justice of the European Communities offers case law and proceedings starting with 1996.
  • I*M Information Market Europe is a medium for European Commission programs to stimulate the European electronic information services market.
  • Information Society Project Office (ISPO) was established to promote private and public activities in developing information society.
  • The U.S. Web Site of the European Commission offers information about the EU and the services of the Commission's Washington and New York delegations.
  • European Environment Agency
  • European Investment Bank
  • Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trademarks)

II. Databases

  • Celex - The database includes the full text of legislation published in the Official Journal of the European Communities in the L Series and citations to information in the C Series.
  • European Commission Host Organization (ECHO) offers free of charge access to more than 20 online databases in all Community languages. The search system was built using Harvest system and needs a WWW browser that supports the forms interface.
  • EURODICAUTOM is the multilingual terminological database of the Commission's Translation Service. Eurodicautom contains terms, acronyms, abbreviations. Includes terms of the European Council and the European Parliament. Coverage from 1976. Updated monthly.
  • CORDIS is the Community Research and Development Information Service providing access to 14 databases: News updated daily; Programmes for finding opportunities in any research areas; Projects for who is doing what; Com documents, etc.

III. Indexes, Directories, Electronic Publications

  • European Integration Online Papers - Includes a series of papers by prominent scholars. The Editor-in-chief is Dr. Michael Nentwich from the Austrian Academy of Science. Among the topics are the EU citizenship, governance, democracy, and social policy.
  • Eurointernet - A collection of WWW pointers relating to European integration. Information Resources Related to European Integration in the Internet provides you with a collection of Internet resources for all issues concerning the integration of Europe.
  • European Union Internet Resources - Links to Eu Servers and Institutions.
  • European Union Bibliography - A Research Guide to Primary and Secondary legislation, Treaties, policy documents, guide to EU citations.
  • Europa and Internet - European Documentation Center at Valencia University offers near 800 different links to EU.
  • Information Sources: Western Europe & the European Union at Columbia University.
  • IDEA - The Electronic Directory of the European Institutions allows search by persons, organizational entities, etc. in English, French, German.

Comments from Readers:

From:  Ruth Bird, Law Librarian, University of Melbourne, Grattan St Parkville Vic 3052    
Australia,
http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/lawlib/

Having read your excellent article in llrx, and visited your site, I wondered whether there may be some value in adding a link to our links, as we have a lot of Australian sites, including the States who are not participating in Austlii, and all the regulators.  http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/lawlib/links/index.html


From: Paolo M. Grossholz, resp.le politiche UE, Unione CTS Milano Confcommercio, July 16, 1998.

Dear Madam,
Your list pages for Europe (http://www.llrx.com/features/europe.htm) are very good! Congratulations!  May I suggest you to include this other ones for Italy.  

http://www.diritto.it/            http://www.axnet.it/buvette/

http://www.parlamento.it/parlam/leggi/home.htm (this is the place whereto find a good archive of Italian Parliament; the home page is -of course- http://www.parlamento.it/

http://www.agcm.it/ (the italian anti-trust authority)

http://www.consulta.themis.eu.org/ (the italian "supreme" court)


From:  Lyonette Louis-Jacques, July 16, 1998

The Law Library Resource Xchange (LLRX) at http://www.llrx.com/ has rapidly become a key current awareness resource for legal researchers. It recently published an article by Mirela Roznowski on European legal databases on the Internet (Mirela has compiled the most comprehensive links I am aware of web sites containing the full text of court decisions, legislation, etc. for countries at http://www.law.nyu.edu/library/foreign_intl/index.html).


From:  Rebollo, Robyn E., July 16, 1998

Mirela Roznovschi's overview of international Web sites is impressive. I would like to add another resource; the Department of Commerce's Business Information Service for the Newly Independent States. Home page for the Department of Commerce's Business Information Service for the Newly Independent States (BISNIS), the U.S. Government's one-stop shop for doing business in Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union. An excellent site that offers updated information
on Russian economic and financial developments. Also contains a wealth of resourceful links on Russia -Specific Information sites.  This is an incredible site that keeps researchers informed of new business activities and economic conditions of all the Newly Independent States.