MLZ site translator: US Code at the Cornell LII

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MLZ has added a site translator for the US Code published by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University to its repertoire. This is more than just another pretty URL. Founded in 1992 by Peter Martin and Thomas Bruce, the Cornell LII was the first supplier of legal content to the Web. In addition to the US Code, the Institute publishes a companion online edition of the Code of Federal Regulations, a broad swath of US Supreme Court decisions, and important reference resources. The LII content is offered free of charge at the point of delivery, but it doesn’t get there by magic: the editorial work behind the site is critically important to sound government, and this lab really does deserve our support.

Cornell LII banner

The translator works in the usual way. When viewing a provision of the Code, an official-looking building icon will show in the browser address bar as shown to the right. Clicking on the icon will add the provision as an item in your MLZ database (see below). When viewing a list of provisions, a folder icon will show instead. At higher levels (lists of subchapters and the like) the translator is inactive: it cannot be used to grab the entire content of the US Code in one go—something you definitely would not want to do in any case.

Cornell LII banner

Downloaded provisions will appear as individual items in your MLZ database, ready for syncing, annotation, tagging, enrichment with Related links to other items, and citation into documents using the MLZ legal styles. As shown to the right, the translator adds numbered attachments to downloaded provisions. These are of two types: the text of the provision itself (always attached as number [0], immediately below the parent item); and a list of revisions made to the provision (attached as links, beginning with number [1]). For early revisions, the links will lead to an apology page, indicating that the content is not available. [1] In this case, Statutes at Large at your local library is your friend. More recent revision links lead to the entry of the revising Act in the Thomas service maintained by the US Library of Congress.

Cornell LII banner

The first attachment contains the text of the provision, attributed to the Cornell Legal Information Institute, and linked back to the original copy on the LII site. While statutory text is not subject to copyright under US law, under both best practice and common etiquette this attribution and link information should be preserved when reproducing the text content, for two reasons. The Code is critically important instrumental text that is the result of a complex publishing process, and proper attribution preserves the connection to the original Acts of Congress. Beyond that, attribution helps to remind the community that keeping the Code online in this brilliantly accessible form requires commitment of time, talent and resources by the LII and its staff.

That’s the short story on this item. Next up in our dance across the laws of the world will be Mongolian legislation. Stay tuned!

[1] Note that this is due to limitations in publicly available resources, and beyond the control of the LII.

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One Response to MLZ site translator: US Code at the Cornell LII

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