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July 29, 2010

legislation.gov.uk

I woke up this morning to find a very excited flurry of posts in my Twitter stream pointing to the launch by the UK National Archives of the legislation.gov.uk site, which provides access to all UK legislation, including revisions made over time. A post on the data.gov.uk blog provides some of the technical background and highlights the ways in which the data is made available in machine-processable forms. Full details are provided in the "Developer Zone" documents.

I don't for a second pretend to have absorbed all the detail of what is available, so I'll just highlight a couple of points.

First and foremost, this is being delivered with an eye firmly on the Linked Data principles. From the blog post I mentioned above:

For the web architecturally minded, there are three types of URI for legislation on legislation.gov.uk. These are identifier URIs, document URIs and representation URIs. Identifier URIs are of the form http://www.legislation.gov.uk/id/{type}/{year}/{number} and are used to denote the abstract concept of a piece of legislation - the notion of how it was, how it is and how it will be. These identifier URIs are designed to support the use of legislation as part of the web of Linked Data. Document URIs are for the document. Representation URIs are for the different types of possible rendition of the document, so htm, pdf or xml.

(Aside: I admit to a certain squeamishness about the notion of "representation URIs" and I kinda prefer to think in terms of URIs for Generic Documents and for Specific Documents, along the lines described by Tim Berners-Lee in his "Generic Resources" note, but that's a minor niggle of terminology on my part, and not at all a disagreement with the model.)

A second aspect I wanted to highlight (given some of my (now slightly distant) past interests) is that, on looking at the RDF data (e.g. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/24/contents/data.rdf), I noticed that it appears to make use of a FRBR-based model to deal with the challenge of representing the various flavours of "versioning" relationships.

I haven't had time to look in any detail at the implementation, other than to observe that the data can get quite complex - necessarily so - when dealing with a lot of whole-part and revision-of/variant-of/format-of relationships. (There was one aspect where I wondered if the FRBR concepts were being "stretched" somewhat, but I'm writing in haste and I may well be misreading/misinterpreting the data, so I'll save that question for another day.)

It's fascinating to see the FRBR approach being deployed as a practical solution to a concrete problem, outside of the library community in which it originated.

Pretty cool stuff, and congratulations to all involved in providing it. I look forward to seeing how the data is used.

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Comments

Very interesting stuff, indeed! I ought to take a closer look at leglislation.gov.uk.

If you're interested, I'd suggest you take a look at João Lima's paper titled "An Adaptation of the FRBR Model to Legal Norms" [1], as well as his thesis "Modelo genérico de relacionamentos na organização da informação legislativa e jurídica" [2] on adapting FRBR for legal norms:

[1] http://www.e-p-a-p.com/dlib/9788883980466/art4.pdf
[2] http://repositorio.bce.unb.br/bitstream/10482/3398/1/Tese_Joao%20Lima.pdf

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