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Subject: Re: [legaldocml] Legislative documents - extending usage

On 4/13/12 6:36 AM, Fabio Vitali wrote:
An accepted term for what you describe already exists: you want to build a **knowledge base** of facts and assertions about the legislative process and its actors. In 2012, the "cool" way to create a knowledge base is by using Semantic Web technologies, creating an OWL ontology and populating it. Alternatively, and more easily, you could create a (probably complex) maze of relational tables in a DBMS and populate them. There are differences in expressivity and flexibility in the two approaches, which can be discussed if you are interested, but basically that is the way to go.

Akoma Ntoso is a markup language for documents written in natural language. It does provide a way markup text, to comment and annotate its parts, and to make assertions about its content. It also provides tools to tie the assertions abut topics **contained in the document** to facts and assertions that are related, even if they are not contained in it, but provides no way to specify these new facts and assertions if they are **not contained in the document**. It does not provide a schema (a TBox), it does not provide for their storage, it does not provide for their retrieval and access. On the other hand, it does provide a naming convention for them (names are cheap).

Should we work on it? In my mind, doing legal ontologies is hard to do, hard agree on its result, and the domain that needs to be described is particularly complex and each specific legal domain (criminal vs. civil codes, individual countries, etc.) have incredibly different peculiarities that make agreement and standardization simply impossible.

Maybe the specific field of the legislative process, which is somewhat more restricted, could be easier to address, but I am still convinced that it is at least one order of magnitude more complex than an XML document standard about written, explicit, well defined legal documents.

 From my point of view, this topic is, at least for the moment, out of scope of the OASIS TC, even though I am more than willing to work on this issue personally (it is a research topic for me at the moment).
I agree. We're embarked on such a project for a government client right now and it is far from trivial. For starters, there are choices to make about the level of detail in the process that you want to model; whether you want to do a detailed model of every turn and twist of parliamentary procedure, debate rules, etc., model document workflow, or model in a way that ties the document stream to legislative milestones; there's interplay with versioning, etc. etc. etc. Simply trying to reduce the basics of the process to something like BPMN is daunting enough.

I will also shamelessly use your question as a chance to do a bit of self-promotion, informing you and everybody of a research-oriented call for contributions exactly on this topic, a Special Issue of the Semantic Web Journal on "semantic web and the legal domain", where ideas and contributions on exactly this topic are sought and appreciated. Details about the call can be found at http://www.semantic-web-journal.net/blog/semantic-web-journal-special-issue-semantic-web-legal-domain
Will look with interest. We're going to start releasing some blogged material on this soon-ish.

All the best,




This information is important because it gets referenced from Akoma Ntoso documents. A typical use case  is in a debate-record (hansard ) - the debate-record has the spoken words of different members of parliament ; If the member name was marked up correctly it allows you to pull out all speeches made by the member of parliament in that tenure of parliament -- However it doesnt give you any info about the particular Member of Parliament nor about that particular tenure of parliament.

Similarly if you had bills in Akoma Ntoso, and you had a bill tracking app built on top of that. Currently the information provided by the Akoma Ntoso document is just that the bill is in a committee on X date, its not possible to get information about the committee itself (or its composition which may be very relevant information ) .

What I am suggesting is that there may be some benefit in being to able to model non-document entities in Akoma Ntoso. I know now this can be done via proprietary metadata or modelling this extend metadata in RDF documents - but thats everyone unto his/herself. At least for legislative entities the entity model is essentially - groups having members and both groups and members having descriptive metadata.


Fabio Vitali                            Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly,
Dept. of Computer Science        Man got to sit and wonder "Why, why, why?'
Univ. of Bologna  ITALY               Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land,
phone:  +39 051 2094872              Man got to tell himself he understand.
e-mail: fabio@cs.unibo.it         Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), "Cat's cradle"

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Thomas R. Bruce @trbruce
Director, Legal Information Institute
Cornell Law School
http://www.law.cornell.edu/ @liicornell

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