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Subject: Re: [legaldocml] FRBR and legislation

On 4/14/12 5:13 AM, Fabio Vitali wrote:
                                                                     I've seen things you people wouldn't believe,
                                                                   attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion,
                                              I watched the c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gates.
                                                                                                   Roy Batty, 2019

Dear Tom,

thank you for the interesting discussion and the amazing example (that I think should straightly in Monica's folder of pathological legal documents, of which she has now a sizable collection). I have several things to say in a complex order, and I am not sure how to organize it, but I'll try.

Sorry to take so long to get back to this, but things have been rather busy here. Your responses, however ordered, are most informative and useful.

I fear you have a dreamy and unjustified admiration for the legislative process in Europe. At least in Italy, this is just as messy and chaotic as you describe yours. We have Frankenbills (I love the term, and will use it as often as I can), we have reconciliation of separate bills, we have multi-topical bills, we have simultaneous versions of the same document. We have found a way to use/coerce/rape FRBR to deal with these situations.
This gets to the heart of my ultimate concern. Why go to the trouble of coercion? What does a legislative document standard gain from the incorporation of FRBR concepts? I've never really grasped how it helps us in any practical way. It gives librarians, who are in love with it, something they can relate to. But I am not sure how it increases the power, expressiveness, or usability of a standard.

Although as usual I have to confess to some confusion of my own. I'm working on a project that mostly involves modeling legislative document metadata. That's intextricably linked to XML encoding standards, because the most practical source of the metadata will no doubt be extraction from XML, so that one would want the XML documents to contain whatever values are needed, marked up in a useful way. But RDF gives us a way to much more expressively talk about legislative documents and their various relationships to one another (versioning or otherwise), in ways that could (for example) be tied to legislative events and so on. On that view, FRBR relationships are a kind of selection or mapping of a more extensive collection of document relationships that are much more closely conceptually and practically related to legislation (in other words, we do the coercion by mapping or querying). Anyway, trying to keep my head in both worlds is difficult, and it makes it if anything more confusing to think about what we gain by talking about FRBR when we're down on the bare metal of the legislation itself.

This is not me being snarky; it's me asking an honest question: What does FRBR get us?


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

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