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Evaluation of ITL Commissioned by The Law Faculty, University of Tromsø [unofficial translation from Norwegian]

1. Introduction

2. Research

3. Teaching Material

4. Development of an information System

5. Conclusion





SiSU Metadata, document information


SiSU Manifest, alternative outputs etc.

Evaluation of the International Trade Law - WWW

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Evaluation of ITL Commissioned by The Law Faculty, University of Tromsø [unofficial translation from Norwegian]

1. Introduction

I have been asked to evaluate the project "International Trade Law" on World Wide Web (WWW), that is initiated and run by Ralph Amissah

No clear criteria for this evaluation has been given.

By way of introduction I would say that this WWW service is extremely useful, and I have myself used it in many occasions quite independent of the evaluation I shall make here. International law materials that might otherwise require (considerable) effort to obtain is in this way made available at ones own workplace.

Internet has in recent years had very strong growth. The history of Internet begins in the latter part of the sixties. Originally it was established by researchers for the American defence, and was known as ARPANET. Norway was connected to ARPANET as early as 1972, as the first region outside the USA. In 1984 the military part was separated, and the Internet of today was formed. But the net was still used* by military and research institutions. It was in 1991 that the net was opened for private and commercial interests, which made possible today's rapid growth of services on the net.

World Wide Web service is perhaps the most popular service on Internet, and is the one that has the greatest potential for development. The service is not old. It was developed at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, CERN. The prototype was made in 1991, in 1992 it was presented at a number of conferences and products started to appear. In October 1993 there were 200 known WWW servers in the world, and it was first in 1994 that it became really known. The service took off and growth of this service today is near explosive. In the fast expanding Internet many believe WW to be the most important service, and the service with the greatest potential.

I present this background on the service to show that despite the large expansion of WWW on Internet, it is a young service. With the large expansion* WWW has today, it is easy to forget that the technology has not been available outside the technical research environment for more than two years. Presentation of information on Internet via WWW is still characterised as being pioneer work. According to the information available to me ANANSE'S home-page was presented on the net in October 1993, making this service amongst the first 200 or so in the world. The project is in this way a pioneer project not only as regards legal information but also with regard to use of the technology more generally.

WWW is a system for linking together information through hypertext. A WWW server presents not only information that is made on the server, but also gives references to information on other servers. A reference to another "page" in WWW brings the page and presents it for the user. If one starts from "International Trade Law" in Tromsø, and for example clicks on World Bank, one is connected to that server where their information is to be found. This could be in Tromsø, Australia, California, or at another location. In the chosen example (naturally) it is located in the USA. Users need not know where the information is taken from, and need not understand that the information is collected from another location than the server one is connected to. Similarly users who are originally connected to another server that wish to look more closely at "International Trade Law" will be connected to Tromsø.

Construction of WWW implies that responsibility for updating of information is decentralised. In a system like ANANSE one will seek to ensure that references there are updated, but one will not have control over the updating of the information that one does not oneself maintain. In the example above the service availability is dependent on the availability of the World Bank's information, and not what is done in Tromsø. An evaluation of the work done in Tromsø can therefore not be based on an evaluation of the quality of the information that is available from that source.

WWW is an information channel that is constantly being used for additional types of information, including legal information. In Norway there are as far as I know, three information providers in particular have distinguished themselves with legally relevant information: Statens Informashonstjeneste (State Departments Information Service) with its presentation of public documents, first amongst these** the NOUs (‹http://odin.depno/html/noforvalt/offbub/offpub.html)›, Lovdata who make Norske Lovtidend (the Norwegian Law Journal) available through WWW (‹http://www.lovdata.no)› and the University of Tromsø. In addition there are institutions that present themselves through WWW, this includes the Law Faculty of the University of Oslo and Institutt for rettsinformatikk (Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law) but this is a presentation of information and not of legal material.

A shortcoming of today's WWW is that there are no established satisfactory systems for payment of the services that are offered on the net. There is ideological disagreement as to how payment should be made for such services, but in this context one does not have to go into this. Absence of payment systems mean that commercial information providers do not offer their services via WWW. There is intense work being done to establish effective payment systems, and it is expected that such systems will be established in the not too distant future. Then this information form will most likely become important also for computer based services that are distributed in other ways, and for periodicals etc. that do not wish to make their material available free of charge.

Internationally there are more providers of legal information, but there are few that have distinguished themselves: Cornell Law School and the University of Tromsø. This is the reason to claim that this project has placed the Law Faculty of the University of Tromsø on the world map.

A closer evaluation of the project can in my opinion be done on four sets of premises.

As an academic research project, and then within the legal information technology tradition.

As the development of teaching materials

As the development of an information service, and

as running and maintenance of an information service.

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( International Trade/Commercial Law & e-Commerce Monitor )

W3 since October 3 1993
1993 - 2010

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hosted by The University of Oslo, Norway, since 1998
in fellowship with The Institute of International Commercial Law,
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Ralph Amissah

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