How Laws Get Online: Challenges in Free Law

In this webinar, LII Co-Directors Sara Frug and Craig Newton will help attendees understand various nuances in the codification of federal statutes and regulations, as well as identify issues recently or currently in litigation regarding when and how governments place private works into the public domain by incorporating them into statutes or regulations. Sara will discuss the process by which finalized statutes and regulations move from what is approved by governmental authority to the form, format and features that the bar and the public see when conducting research on LII, Justia, or for-profit legal research platforms like Fastcase, Westlaw, or Lexis. Craig will then discuss both recently decided and also pending litigation that may define clearer rules for what happens when private entities claim copyright on materials that become part of the public law that citizens are presumed to know. Lastly, the webinar will touch on the implications of these issues not just for today’s legal research tools, but also for the AI-powered applications that might assist lawyers in the near future.


  • Introductory Overview
    • Brief Introduction of the Presenters and Their Organization
    • Statement of Topics to Be Covered and Anticipated Takeaways

  • How Federal Statutes & Regulations Get Into Legal Research Platforms
    • Congress, Public Laws, and the US Code
    • Electronic Dissemination and Organization of Enacted Statutes
    • The Executive Agencies and the Rulemaking Process
    • The Federal Register
    • Finalized Regulations and the eCFR
    • State Laws and Regs: A Separate Challenge

  • Copyright and Public Access to the Law
    • The Government Edicts Doctrine
      • Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org
    • Incorporation by Reference: Model Codes and Private Standards
      • American Society for Testing and Materials v. Public.Resource.Org
      • UpCodes Cases
    • Do Commercial Legal Publishers Face Antitrust Liability When They Exclude Competitors From Licensing Primary Legal Materials?
      • Thomson Reuters v. ROSS Intelligence
    • Ramifications for Today and Tomorrow
      • Governmental and Other Free Websites for Accessing Statues and Regulations
      • The Impact of Open Access to Legal Materials on AI-powered Legal Research Tools
Topics covered include: Practice Skills
Duration of this webinar: 60 minutes
Originally broadcast: September 08, 2023 11:00 AM PT
Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Credits

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California CLE

Status: Approved

Credits: 1.0 General

Earn Credit Until: September 07, 2025

South Carolina CLE

Status: Approved

Credits: 1.0 General

Difficulty: All Levels

Earn Credit Until: December 31, 2024

Texas CLE

Status: Approved

Credits: 1.0 General

Earn Credit Until: January 31, 2025

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Sara Frug
Sara Frug Co-Director
The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School
Sara Frug is Co-Director of the Legal Information Institute, where she has overseen software engineering initiatives ranging from automated definition extraction for the U.S. Code and CFR, to publication of a comprehensive collection of U.S. state regulations, to linked data for regulated objects. She has been a panelist at the Legislative Data and Transparency Conference and a fellow of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. Before joining LII, she was a Research Associate at Harvard Business School. She is a graduate of Harvard College.
Craig Newton
Craig Newton Co-Director
The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School
Craig Newton is Co-Director of the Legal Information Institute. A member of the California bar, Craig previously represented clients ranging from some of the world’s best-known companies to pro bono litigants in a wide range of civil disputes with a focus on contracts, licenses, patents, and trade secrets. He is a graduate of Cornell Law School and the U.S. Naval Academy.
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