In the United States today, digital versions of current decisions, bills, statutes, and regulations issued by federal and state governments are widely available on publicly accessible Web sites. Worldwide, official (defined as “authoritative,” or “the official” word of the law) legal information issued by international organizations and foreign governments is also becoming available on the Web. However, there are currently no standards for the production and authentication of digital documents. Moreover, the information is sometimes available only for a short time and then disappears from the site. No guidelines exist either to promote a uniform way to cite to digital legal materials.
This article examines the contents of legal data and information on the Internet, with a special focus on the United States. It then evaluates the quality of the data, its impact on legal research and access to legal information, and addresses some issues raised by the digital medium, such as its reliability and permanent access concerns.