Enhancing Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for a New Official Legal Information Generic Top-Level Domain

Leesi Ebenezer Mitee [1]

Abstract

This article examines the use of a new legal information generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) as a viable tool for easy identification of official legal information websites (OLIWs) and enhancing global public access to their resources. This intervention is necessary because of the existence of unofficial legal information websites with issues of reliability and the overdependence on Internet search engines (despite their limitations) as the only means of finding and accessing OLIWs. The existing findability difficulties create technical unavailability of available online legal information. This article proffers a workable solution to these problems through its proposal for the creation of <.officiallaws> regulated official legal information gTLD by ICANN. It develops a Legal Information Domain Name System (LIDNS) exclusively for the OLIWs of governments and intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) based on the proposed gTLD. The LIDNS extends the ramification of Internet governance within the ICANN framework in respect of official legal information as a universal public brand. The article argues that the gTLD will facilitate easy identification of official sources of online legal information to avoid the risk of relying on unreliable legal resources, enable direct access to OLIWs without the laborious use of Internet search engines, and enhance their findability even when the search option is used. It concludes that the resultant improved access to the available official online legal information will promote the people's right of free public access to legal information globally. This will help people to know the laws they are bound to obey (ignorance of which is no excuse), enhance justice under the right to a fair trial, and facilitate national and transnational legal research. It will also promote transparency and accountability in governance and engender the holistic actualisation of the environmental, economic, and social components of sustainable development, among other benefits.

Keywords: Right of public access to legal information; Official legal information generic Top-Level Domain gTLD; Legal information domain name system LIDNS; United Nations World Legal Information Organization UNWLIO; Legal informatics; Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ICANN; Internet governance; Free access to law movement; Legal information institutes


1. Introduction

The World Wide Web ("the Web"), as indispensable as it is in the twenty-first century information age, is also a massive junkyard of unregulated, unreliable and dangerous information. Such information is either merely inaccurate, inadvertently distorted, deliberately falsified, or mischievously created. Yet, the Web has unparalleled advantages for the global dissemination of every type of information. For instance, publishing legal information online is indispensable to the provision of free, adequate, comprehensive, and up-to-date public access to legal information that meets the need of its different users. [2] Such access is necessary for sustainable development and has profound human rights implications for justice and the rule of law. [3] The dilemma, created by the indispensability of the Web and the everyday danger that it poses to its billions of users worldwide,[4] has necessitated the quest for mechanisms that can help people identify genuine and reliable sources of online information. One of such interventions is the unprecedented creation of more than 1,000 new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) - a revolution that began with the current exercise which started in 2012. [5] Despite the proven importance of these new restricted gTLDs (e.g. <.health>, <.organic>, <.edu>, and <.physio>), [6] there is no such gTLD to help people identify the reliable and official sources of online legal information. The proliferation of third-party unofficial websites that publish legal information has exacerbated this problem. In addition, the volume of online legal information is so large, and its sources are so many and diverse, [7] that people waste many precious man-hours and energy searching for and researching items of interest, many times fruitlessly. This situation creates technical unavailability of the available online legal information. The solution to this problem lies in the development of a technical mechanism that will facilitate optimum findability of available online legal information resources and provide the eventual access to them. Findability of online information simply refers to the ease with which people can find or discover it. [8]

This article therefore aims to examine the use of a new regulated legal information gTLD as a viable tool for easy identification of official legal information websites (OLIWs) and enhancing national and transnational public access to official legal information. The discussion focuses on the OLIWs of governments and intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) that create legal information, and therefore have the legal and moral duty to provide free access to it. [9] Such access should be adequate for its different users, comprehensive, and up-to-date. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other third parties that provide free access to legal information have no such duty­; they deserve commendation for their noble voluntary service. Accordingly, the term "legal information" in this article refers to the laws and law-related resources made by governments and the said IGOs, which has been aptly defined as follows:

"Public legal information means legal information produced by public bodies that have a duty to produce law and make it public. It includes primary sources of law, such as legislation, case law and treaties, as well as various secondary (interpretative) public sources, such as reports on preparatory work and law reform, and resulting from boards of inquiry. It also includes legal documents created as a result of public funding." [10]

Any description of legal information as "official" in this article is a reference to its source which may be the website of a government or an IGO. It is not a reference to the status of any legal information, unless it is expressly stated otherwise. Such legal information still benefits from the presumption of reliability of only information from an official source, [11] even without digital authentication. "Unofficial" legal information is that which is published by any third party, i.e. neither a government nor an IGO.

This article builds upon the existing Domain Name System (DNS) operated by ICANN, that is used by nearly two billion websites worldwide, [12] including all OLIWs. The aspect of accessibility that is the focus of this article is the easy identification and location or discovery of OLIWs that are the official repositories of documents containing the stock of online legal information. This may be described as primary online access. It is not concerned with the format, architecture, and management of the said documents and their data, which provide another level of access to legal information. Several Semantic Web technologies and standards have been developed for such systems and processes, which include URN:LEX (Uniform Resource Name Namespace for Sources of Law) and Akoma Ntoso (Architecture for Knowledge-Oriented Management of African Normative Texts using Open Standards and Ontologies). [13] They are different matters than the subject of this article.

This article contributes to the existing literature in the following major ways. First, it develops a Legal Information Domain Name System (LIDNS) [14] for the OLIWs of governments and IGOs based on the proposed <.officiallaws> regulated generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) to be created by ICANN. This extends the ramification of Internet governance within the ICANN framework in respect of official legal information as a universal public brand. LIDNS will facilitate easy identification of reliable official sources of online legal information worldwide. Further, unlike the existing system, the LIDNS will make it possible for people to access OLIWs directly with their easy-to-remember and easy-to-guess domain names. This direct-access option introduces a new dimension to findability and accessibility of official legal information websites. This option will minimise the current overdependence on Internet search engines that is associated with the rigours of doing numerous searches which may not always be successful. The reasons include the fact that the proper use of search engines requires skills that many people may not have. [15] Even when the usual Internet search option is used, the proposed regulated legal information gTLD will still facilitate findability of OLIWs through its said identification feature. [16] It will thereby enhance public access to official online legal information globally.

Second, it articulates the need for the global promotion, regulation, and monitoring of public access to official legal information. This is because, although public access to legal information is not just a legal and constitutional right but also a human right, [17] many governments have neglected their legal and moral duty to provide the required free and adequate access. [18] This article therefore argues for the establishment of a new United Nations World Legal Information Organization (UNWLIO) [19] that will become the UN agency of intergovernmental character responsible for promoting, regulating, and monitoring public access to legal information worldwide. It will become the proper organisation to apply for the proposed <.officiallaws> official legal information gTLD and manage it for the public benefit of the whole world. [20] The article proposes a change to ICANN's current defective policy under which it delegated <.health> gTLD to DotHealth LLC, a private US company [21] that may use it for commercial reasons, instead of the World Health Organization (WHO) that is responsible for global health matters and standards. [22] The article contends that the existence of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for tourism that does not directly affect the life of every human being, justifies the establishment of the proposed UNWLIO because public access to legal information does. [23]

Third, this article reinforces the argument that the provision of public access to legal information is the legal and moral duty of every tier of government and every IGO that creates legal information. [24] It uses the historical records of the publishing of laws by kings (e.g. King Hammurabi of Babylon and King Henry VII of England), judicial decisions, statutes, constitutions, and international legal instruments to support this claim and the right of public access to legal information. [25] It argues that this duty should not be abdicated to third parties and that every government should manage and control its legal information databases without outsourcing it to any third-party whatsoever. [26]

The rest of this article comprises three Sections. Section 2 discusses the background to the evolution of the Web, the process of creating new gTLDs by ICANN, and the recent revolution in creating new gTLDs. It examines the duty of every government and every IGO to provide free and adequate public access to its legal information is necessary for the enjoyment of the right of public access to legal information is not just a legal and constitutional right but also a human right, and the importance of publishing legal information on websites. Section 3 makes a proposal for a new <.officiallaws> official legal information gTLD, and discusses its exclusive use, advantages, and implementation. Section 4 concludes that the proposal for the new <.officiallaws> official legal information gTLD will significantly improve public access to legal information and promote the right of public access to legal information globally, which will help to realise the numerous benefits of free online public access to legal information.

2. The World Wide Web and Public Access to Legal Information

This Section discusses the background to the evolution of the Web whose functionality is tied to domains, the process of creating new gTLDs by ICANN, and the recent revolution in creating new gTLDs. It examines the duty of governments and IGOs to provide free public access to their legal information and the right of public access to legal information. It concludes with the indispensability of publishing legal information on websites in this ICT age.

2.1 The World Wide Web and Top-Level Domains

Sir Timothy Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in March 1989. [27] That happened about two decades after the launch of the Internet in 1969 in the form that evolved to become what it is today. [28] The Web was launched as a resource on the Internet in the summer of 1991. [29] The World Wide Web Consortium defines the Web as follows: "The World Wide Web (WWW, or simply Web) is an information space in which the items of interest, referred to as resources, are identified by global identifiers called Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI)." [30] Hyperlinks are the navigational tools for accessing both internal and external resources on the Web.

Paul Mockapetris invented the Domain Name System (DNS) in 1983 [31] as a convenient mechanism that resolves easy-to-remember names (e.g. google) to their unique string of numbers called Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (e.g. 139.130.4.5). [32] IP addresses are like phone numbers that can be dialled from a saved contact name. [33] Before his invention, web addresses were the all-numeric IP addresses only, [34] which were difficult to remember. DNS is part of the critical Internet infrastructure that facilitates global access to online resources. The proposals in this article are based on DNS, the basic aspects of which are highlighted here.

A domain name is part of the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) commonly referred to as the web address, e.g. http://www.accesstolegalinformation.com . The domain name in this URL is <accesstolegalinformation.com>. The "string of letters following the last dot" in a domain name is the Top-Level Domain (TLD). [35] There are two main types of TLDs. TLDs based on the universal two-letter alpha-2 country code (ISO 3166) developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) [36] are referred to as country-code TLDs (ccTLDs), e.g. <.us> (United States). [37] TLDs with more than two characters that do not correspond to any country code are called generic TLDs (gTLDs), e.g. <.com>, <.org>, <.net>, and <.info>. [38] ICANN maintains an exhaustive database of TLDs. [39] A subdomain is a child domain that is attached to its parent domain which can be used to create a different website, [40] e.g. <http://search.accesstolegalinformation.com>.

2.2 The Process of Creating New Generic Top-Level Domains

The DNS within the ICANN framework is a crucial aspect of Internet governance. [41] The ICANN structure consists of several organisations responsible for executing different aspects of its functions, one of which is the formulation of policies on new gTLDs. [42] Creating new gTLDs based on sound policies has been crucial to the work of ICANN since its inception. [43] ICANN explains the goal of its revolutionary New gTLD Program thus:

"The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' (ICANN) New gTLD Program is responsible for introducing new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) into the Internet, which will result in the largest-ever expansion of the Domain Name System (DNS). The goal of this expansion is to enhance competition, innovation and consumer choice." [44]

Details of the process for creating and introducing new gTLDs into the Internet are contained in ICANN Bylaws, policy documents, fact sheets, and the latest edition of the gTLD Applicant Guidebook (AGB) that regulated the last exercise which took place in 2012. First, ICANN publishes the version of AGB that contains all the required details for the upcoming application exercise and announces an upcoming application period, specifying the opening and closing dates. [45] Second, interested applicants submit their applications to ICANN with the evaluation fee to cover the costs associated with the new gTLD programme which was $185,000.00 (USD) for the 2012 exercise. [46]

Third, ICANN evaluates all the applications that were validly submitted within the application window based on the criteria in the applicable AGB, which include initial evaluation (gTLD string reviews and applicant reviews [47]) and background screening. [48] Resolution of disputes is an intermediate stage of the process between evaluation of an application and execution of the registry agreement regarding any application involving disputes. [49]

Fourth, ICANN notifies all successful applicants after the evaluation exercise to enter into a registry agreement with it. [50] Fifth, after execution of the registry agreement and a successful pre-delegation test, ICANN delegates the new gTLDs to each registry operator. [51] Thereafter, a successful applicant is entitled to commence the process required for the delegation of the new gTLD into the DNS root zone database managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). IANA is the arm of ICANN charged with the responsibility for assigning the registry operators of TLDs (gTLDs and ccTLDs) and maintaining their administrative and technical details. [52]

2.3 The Recent Revolution in Creating New Generic Top-Level Domains

Before the establishment of ICANN in 1998, [53] the eight gTLDs that were in existence were <.com>, <.edu>, <.gov>, <.int>, <.mil>, <.net>, <.org>, and <.arpa>. [54] ICANN carried out its first round of application for seven new gTLDs in 2000 and the second round of seven gTLDs in 2004. [55] It launched four new gTLDs (<.cat>, <.jobs>, <.mobi>, and <.travel>) in 2005-2006. [56] The 2012 application round (the latest exercise) ushered in what has now become a revolution in creating new gTLDs in terms of number and diversity, [57] under which ICANN had introduced 1,227 new gTLDs into the Internet as of 31 August 2017. [58] General law-related new gTLDs introduced between 31 May 2014 and 26 June 2015 are <.attorney>, <.lawyer>, <.legal>, and <.law>. [59] According to the 2012 application round Program Implementation Review by ICANN, actions on all the new gTLDs applications are expected to be completed by the end of 2017, by which time those that were still pending, as of 31 December 2015, will have been concluded. [60]

In this dispensation of new gTLDs revolution, the name of almost anything can now be a gTLD, examples of which include the controversial <.sucks> [61] and <.monster>. However, according to ICANN, the goal of new gTLDs includes easy identification of online brands so that people can make informed choices of the websites they should trust. [62] The global need for easy identification of websites that provide reliable information that users can trust, render proper services, or sell genuine products is because there is no system of vetting contents before any information is published on the Web. This freedom to publish anything online has been grossly abused to the extent that the Web has become a dangerous environment for all categories of its users. That accounts for the unprecedented demand for brand-identifying new gTLDs as a positive response to ICANN's intervention that now empowers online users to choose websites they can trust, based on their domain names. For example, attempts have now been made to help people to identify reliable health information websites with <.health> and <.organic> gTLDs. There is no such attempt in the case of legal information to help it benefit from ICANN's specialised-gTLD intervention. There is therefore the need to address this situation because the provision of public access to legal information via websites is indispensable.

2.4 Public Access to Legal Information and its Provision Via Websites

Governments at all levels (federal, state, and local) that make laws have the legal and moral duty to provide free adequate access to their legal information; no third party has that duty. IGOs that have law-making functions (e.g. United Nations, European Union, Organization of American States, and African Union) and thereby produce legal information also have this duty. McMahon rightly refers to the duty as "a positive obligation on governments and courts". [63]

The courts have recognised this duty in several cases, including Tañada v Tuvera [64] and Victoria University of Wellington Students Association v Shearer (Government Printer). [65] Article IV, section 17 of the Constitution of the US State of Wisconsin authoritatively states that "No law shall be in force until published." Arnold-Moore rightly argues that this duty belongs to the government: "In a modern Western democracy regardless of the legal tradition, common law or civil, the government has a clear obligation to make the primary legal sources available to the public." [66] It is not the duty of non-governmental or any other third-party providers of free access to legal information.

This duty of every government and every IGO to provide public access to its legal information is necessary for the enjoyment of the right of public access to legal information that enables every person, organisation, and the State itself to know the legal principles that govern their conduct and activities. Mommers examines how the right is related to or derived from the principle of legality, freedom of speech, right of access to justice, and transparency of government. [67] Therefore, it is not just an ordinary legal right. The US Supreme Court recognised the right in Bounds v Smith [68] and Lewis v Casey [69] as necessary for the preparation of a prisoner's case in self-representation which is part of the constitutional right of access to courts, although they differed in the level of access. [70] It is also a human right, although it may not be so expressly stated in any international or regional human rights instrument. [71] It is a human right that is derived from its parent human right - the right to freedom of expression and the press [72] - that was first universally recognised in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [73] (1948). The same right exists at the international level in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [74] (1966), in several regional human rights instruments, [75] and in the constitutions of many countries. [76] The general right to freedom of expression and the press encompasses the right of access to public or government-held information, [77] a component of which is legal information. [78] Undeniably, legal information is a unique, all-important component of government-held information, [79] and the right of public access to it is therefore also a human right, just like its parent human right. In my article titled "The Right of Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for its Universal Recognition as a Human Right", I argue that the right is a human right, advocate that it should be recognised universally as such, make a proposal for a new United Nations Convention on the Right of Public Access to Legal Information , and discuss the contents of the Convention to aid its drafting. [80]

From the Code of Hammurabi the King of Babylon (1792-1750 BCE [81] ) which was inscribed on a basalt stele and kept in a conspicuous public place [82] to the fifteen-century London statute book [83] that was printed (with the possibility of mass production, following Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the movable-type printing press), there was always the quest for the best method of publishing laws for the benefit of citizens. [84] This trend continued, and ground-breaking developments in technology in the twentieth century took printing and publishing of laws to a whole new level. It enhanced mass production and easier distribution of all types of print publications, including those that contained legal information.

The invention of the electronic media and the Internet led to digitisation of print legal information by both governments [85] and private publishers. [86] Thereafter, the invention of the World Wide in 1989 [87] revolutionised global dissemination of all types of information. It led to the development of the first generation of legal information websites that provided free public access on a large scale. Its pioneers were Thomas R. Bruce and Peter W. Martin, both of Cornell University Law School (United States), who founded the Legal Information Institute in 1992. [88] Today, Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) constitute an overwhelming majority of the current members of the Free Access to Law Movement (FALM). [89] The contribution of these and other non-governmental providers of free access to online legal information worldwide for more than two decades now is immense.

The existence and importance of LIIs and other third-party free access providers should be seen in the proper context: their voluntary response to the neglect by governments to provide free adequate public access to their legal information. An extreme example of this neglect is that of the government of Vanuatu. Vanuatu has no legislation on its Parliament website. The website merely directs visitors to the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PACLII) for its legislation. [90] It is reiterated that every government owes its people the legal and moral duty to publish its legal information with free and adequate access that is comprehensive and up-to-date, and no government should abdicate this duty to any third-party whatsoever.

It is out of place and risky for any government to publish its official legal information on any website or database that is under the control of a third party, whether not-for-profit or commercial publishers. For example, Ugandan legal information is published by the Law Reporting Department of the Judiciary of Uganda on the Uganda Legal Information Institute (ULII) website. [91] Outsourcing official legal information to commercial publishers is fraught with legal and technical dangers relating to its ownership, copyright, management, and control. Examples of such situations include the ill-fated JURIS database of the US Department of Justice when West Publishing went away with its data in the database [92] and Sri Lanka's loss of access to its official online databases on LawNet website [93] when the hosting company it outsourced the databases to, went out of business. [94] Therefore, every government and every IGO that creates legal information should publish its legal information databases on its own website over which it has absolute ownership and control.

Publishing legal information on websites is indispensable to the provision of free and adequate public access to every category of information in this twenty-first-century ICT age. The right of public access to legal information (discussed above in this Subsection) can only be meaningful when access is free for every person, which is impossible without publishing legal information on websites. It is absurd that the government of Anguilla, for example, merely sells CD-ROM packages of its laws (already in electronic format) on its website instead of publishing them online with free access. [95] It thereby denies its citizens (and the whole world) their right of public access to their own laws because citizens are the rightful owners of laws. [96]

Undeniably, the use of websites is the most cost-effective means of disseminating legal information [97] and it is the only medium in which the law can be up-to-date. [98] It guarantees global reach, has the best navigational features and search functionality, and provides the best accessibility features for persons with disabilities. [99]

Websites use domain names as online addresses. Therefore, any improvement in the use of domain names, especially relevant gTLDs, to facilitate their discovery will enhance access to their resources and help people to know the websites they can trust. Online users of legal information resources will benefit immensely from such improvement, as discussed in the next Section.

3. Proposal for a New Official Legal Information Generic Top-Level Domain

This Section discusses the proposal for a new official legal information gTLD, its exclusive use, and unique advantages. It argues that the proposed regulated gTLD has good prospects and will be viable, and suggests its implementation.

3.1 The Proposal for the <.officiallaws> Official Legal Information gTLD

ICANN's exhaustive database of TLDs [100] shows that there is no existing gTLD specifically for legal information websites. The existing law-related gTLDs (mentioned in Section 2.3 above) are for general legal purposes. I therefore advocate that <.officiallaws> be created by ICANN as a new strictly regulated official legal information gTLD to help online users to identify official sources of legal information easily from their domain names and enhance public access to them.

It should be emphasised that ICANN should not create any other version of <.officiallaws> gTLD as a competing gTLD, e.g. <.officiallaw>. ICANN should discontinue its defective policy of creating new gTLDs that are likely to confuse people. This includes offering a word or phrase and its abbreviation as separate gTLDs, for example, <.edu> (a regulated gTLD created in the 1980s [101]) and <.education> (a non-regulated gTLD created in 2013 [102]). This policy creates identification confusion and contradicts ICANN's own goal of the new regulated gTLD regarding consumer choice. [103]

A possible new official legal information gTLD could have been <.laws>, but the existence of <.law> that ICANN had created and delegated to Minds + Machines Group Limited on 24 June 2015 [104] will affect its uniqueness and cause identification confusion. In addition, both gTLDs are so strikingly similar that it may not pass the gTLD string similarity review during the initial evaluation. [105] Even if it passes the review, it is likely to result in a dispute in the application process, the resolution of which may be both timewasting and expensive. [106] Another possible choice is <.legalinfo> (the short form of <.legalinformation>). However, <.laws> and <.legalinfo> have the deficiency of neither being unique nor explicit for the purpose of helping people to identify official legal information from their domain names. The proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD satisfies both identification requirements because it is not similar to any existing gTLD and it contains the phrase "official laws" that is evident to every person who sees it. It is therefore expected to serve its purpose of identification of official sources of legal information excellently.

This proposal is based on the practical importance and viability of the new legal information <.officiallaws> gTLD. It has nothing to do with any excitement that may be associated with the mere existence of new distinct gTLDs in the legal profession as a response to the new gTLDs revolution discussed in Section 2.3 above.

3.2 Exclusive Use of the Proposed Official Legal Information gTLD

The proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD is to be used exclusively by governments (federal, state, and local) and IGOs that create legal information (e.g. United Nations, European Union, Organization of American States, and African Union) for their OLIWs. All that is required is the proper public organisation (discussed in Section 3.4 below) to apply for the <.officiallaws> gTLD in the next new gTLDs application round. ICANN has categorically stated that it will undertake more application rounds: "ICANN plans to hold additional application rounds in the future. The exact dates for these future rounds are not yet available." [107] Like the latest 2012 application round, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2017, [108] ICANN will commence the exercise with publication of a new version of its gTLD Applicant Guidebook to regulate the whole process.

The default domain name to be associated with the new gTLD for each national official legal information website (NOLIW) [109] is the short name of a country, [110] e.g. <www.unitedstates.officiallaws>, <www.Japan.officiallaws>, <www.unitedkingdom.officiallaws>, <www.netherlands.officiallaws>, <www.nigeria.officiallaws>, <www.brazil.officiallaws>, <www.italy.officiallaws>, and <www.canada.officiallaws>. One advantage of using a country's short name is the presence of relevant keywords in the domain name that evidently identify its OLIWs, as discussed in Section 3.3 below.

Every country should also buy a second domain name that uses its universal two-letter alpha-2 country code (ISO 3166). [111] The code is used for several purposes, e.g. to identify international postal mail (parcels), to determine the nationality of machine-readable passport holders, for money transfers by banks, and to define the TLDs of countries (ccTLDs). [112] ICANN maintains an exhaustive database of ccTLDs. [113] The second domain names of the countries mentioned above would be <www.us.officiallaws>, <www.jp.officiallaws>, <www.uk.officiallaws>, <www.nl.officiallaws>, <www.ng.officiallaws>, <www.br.officiallaws>, <www.it.officiallaws>, and <www.ca.officiallaws>.

Domain names are cheap (details below in this Sub-subsection). Therefore, buying both versions will be no problem at all. It should be noted that the OLIWs of the countries with globally popular ccTLDs, e.g. United States (<www.us.officiallaws>) and United Kingdom (<www.uk.officiallaws>) will be more identifiable worldwide than those of other countries whose ccTLDs are largely unknown to foreigners. For instance, in the case of South Africa, <www.za.officiallaws> will not be as self-evident as <www.southafrica.officiallaws> to most people. This supports the preference for use of a country's short name, instead of its ccTLD, for its OLIW. It is a golden principle of effective communication, especially in legal communication, that clarity should never be sacrificed for brevity. [114] This is one instance when that principle should be applied to achieve the said identification goal.

Where a country uses the domain name containing its short name for the actual development of its OLIW, the second domain containing its ccTLD should be delegated to automatically redirect its visitors to the OLIW. It is a prudent and standard web design practice to buy different versions of a domain name and delegate them for maximum access to the website in use, to stop others from buying it, and to direct traffic to the one in use. For example, www.microsoft.net, www.microsoft.org, and www.microsoft.info (all of them owned by Microsoft) have been delegated to redirect their visitors automatically to www.microsoft.com. However, to benefit from both worlds, the domain name that is not used to develop the OLIW may be used to create a one-page website (webpage) that contains sufficient relevant information and a conspicuous link to the main website (the OLIW). But the danger here is that, unless this is expertly done, Internet search engines (especially the preeminent Google [115]) will consider it to be a mere doorway webpage [116] and penalise it. [117] That penalty may also adversely affect the ranking of the main OLIW in search engine results.

Like those of countries, the domain name of the OLIW of an administrative division within a country or that of an IGO would be its short name or universally known abbreviation (if any) sufficient to identify it easily, e.g. <www.texas.officiallaws> (the US State of Texas), <www.eu.officiallaws> (European Union), and <www.un.officiallaws> (United Nations). It should be noted that the domain name of a country's administrative division is an independent domain name that is not associated with that of the country itself, e.g. <www.texas.officiallaws> instead of<www.texas.us.officiallaws> which makes it a subdomain (mentioned in Section 2.1 above). This is necessary to avoid management problems associated with attaching a subdomain-OLIW owned by a state or local government to the parent domain owned by the federal government. Each level of government should own its domain name. Sharing domain will also create problems associated with using a subdomain name that will then require sub-subdomain names for all the different categories of legal information.

When the proposed <.officiallaws> official legal information gTLD becomes functional, governments and IGOs will be able to migrate their existing legal information websites to their new <.officiallaws> domain names over time. All that will be required immediately will be to buy the <.officiallaws> domain name and delegate it accordingly so that it will automatically redirect visitors who access it to the existing website during the transition. Countries without existing legal information websites will simply develop them from scratch, using their <.officiallaws> domain names. This will be quite easy to achieve because domain names are not expensive, as mentioned in Section 3.4 below.

The existence of the proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD in English language has the advantage of being in a language that provides a common universal standard for the common good of the whole world. This is because English has evolved as the global language. Crystal rightly states this fact in his classic book, English as a Global Language:

"English is now the language most widely taught as a foreign language - in over 100 countries, such as China, Russia, Germany, Spain, Egypt and Brazil - and in most of these countries it is emerging as the chief foreign language to be encountered in schools, often displacing another language in the process. In 1996, for example, English replaced French as the chief foreign language in schools in Algeria (a former French colony)." [118]

English has also been rightly referred to as "the de facto language of international communication today" [119] and "the language of the Internet." [120] Available statistics reveal that English is an established language that is more widely spoken in more countries (106) than any other language, [121] with its 1.5 billion speakers. [122]

It should be emphasised that the adoption of <.officiallaws> as the universal gTLD for official legal information websites globally has nothing to do with the superiority of any language and does not derogate from the linguistic aspect of the sovereignty of any country in any manner whatsoever. It should be properly viewed as the solution to the need for a common universal standard for purposes of enhancing global access to legal information from all countries. And English just happens to be that language.

Any country that may be hesitant initially to migrate its OLIWs to <.officiallaws> can still benefit from the proposed official legal information gTLD by simply buying its <.officiallaws> domain names and delegating them to automatically redirect visitors to its OLIWs, as explained earlier in this Sub-subsection. Countries that may prefer to use their Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) can do the same. IDNs are domain names that are in the character sets of languages (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, Greek, and Korean) other than the English-based American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) in which domain names originally existed and have continued to exist. [123] All that will be required to achieve this, is to buy the <.officiallaws> domain name as the second domain name and delegate it accordingly.

World Wide Web Consortium, the "international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web," authoritatively supports this dual-domain name solution. It states thus: "In practice, it makes sense to register two names for your domain. One in your native script, and one using just regular ASCII characters. The latter will be more memorable and easier to type for people who do not read and write your language." [124] That is the reasoning behind the multiple versions of the ccTLDs of South Korea (<.kr> and <.한국>) and China <.cn>, <.中國> and <.中国>), for example. [125] In this way, the OLIWs of every country worldwide can use the proposed <.officiallaws> seamlessly.

3.3 Advantages of the Proposed Official Legal Information gTLD

The proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD has major unique advantages. First, it will guarantee direct access to OLIWs without conducting any online search. The two methods of finding online resources are through direct access and Internet search engines. Kopackova, Michalek, and Cejna rightly state this as follows: "To find something on the Internet, someone must either know the exact URL address, which is sometimes too complicated, or the right keywords for searching." [126] Direct access will be possible because any person can remember or guess correctly the URL of the NOLIW of any country by simply entering its name with the <.officiallaws> gTLD in the address (or location) bar of a web browser, e.g. <www.netherlands.officiallaws>.

Based on the recommendation (in Section 3.2 above) that every country should buy both versions of its domain name, anybody who knows any country's said universal two-letter alpha-2 country code (also used for its ccTLD) can also access its NOLIW directly, e.g. <www.nl.officiallaws> (Netherlands). The two formulas for remembering the URLs of any NOLIW of any country are simply: NOLIW = country name + .officiallaws and NOLIW = ccTLD + .officiallaws. With time, people will be aware of the <.officiallaws> gTLD and find it quite easy to access NOLIWs directly. It will not be difficult to create such awareness through all the available social media, online informational publications, conferences, libraries, universities, and other research institutions. This concept applies to the OLIW of any administrative division of any country (states and local governments), e.g. <www.virginia.officiallaws> (the US State of Virginia) and <www.croydon.officiallaws> (London Borough of Croydon, United Kingdom). It also applies to IGOs, e.g. <www.unitednations.officiallaws> and <www.un.officiallaws> for the United Nations.

Direct access was originally the default method of accessing websites, which ICANN states as follows: "To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer - a name or a number." [127] It is not even necessary to enter "www" for domain names whose DNS records have been properly so configured. It is significant that renowned Internet security companies recommend direct access to websites that require sensitive information (e.g. banks) as one of the measures for preventing online phishing scams (fraud). [128]

Directly accessing websites with easy-to-remember domain names is easier, much faster, and more reliable than using Internet search engines. The reasons are: (1) Conducting reliable Internet search requires skills [129] and attitudes that most Internet users may not have. These include the right order of search terms and using the right keywords and phrases; [130] when to use quotation marks (""), plus sign (+), minus sign (-), and asterisks (*); [131] how to recognise authentic information; the patience to examine several search results pages; and searching by time frame. (2) There is no guarantee that the search engine results will show every item of interest because search results depend on several factors, including the indexed status of the relevant URL, [132] different search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo) [133] and their geographic variants (e.g. Google United States, Google United Kingdom, Google Australia), [134] search engine platforms (desktop/laptop versus mobile devices), [135] and search ranking of the relevant webpages usually determined by proper search engine optimisation (SEO). [136] Search engines evolved to complement, not supplant, the default method of directly accessing websites via their URLs as their location addresses. [137] Search engines are indispensable only when the exact URL is unknown or difficult to use, and to find information from unknown sources.

Second, even when the search-engine option is used instead of direct access, the proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD will still facilitate findability of OLIWs. The reason is that the use of the keywords "official" and "laws" plus the name of a country in the domain URL of its OLIWs (e.g. www.australia.officiallaws) is beneficial. For example, a search engine (including Google) will recognise the said www.australia.officiallaws as "Australia official laws" which will contribute (among other SEO factors) to the website appearing higher up in search results for such relevant search terms as "official laws of Australia", "laws of Australia", or just "Australia laws". [138] Although Google claims that the use of keywords in URLs is "a very small ranking factor" regarding the ranking of a website or webpage in search results, [139] recent experiments by SEO experts appear to confirm that its importance may be much more. [140] But even if it were truly "a very small ranking factor", its potential SEO benefit should not be discounted.

Third, the proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD will help people to identify official sources of legal information from official government and IGOs websites, the same way <.edu> has helped to identify institutionally accredited postsecondary educational institutions. [141] But unlike <.edu> whose significance may not be known to most Web users because it is not a complete word, <.officiallaws> has the additional advantage that it is self-evident to every person that it is for official laws. The <.officiallaws> gTLD will therefore serve excellently as a unique label or signpost for official legal information for the attention of the whole world. For example, the domain name www.canada.officiallaws tells a Web user that the website claims to contain the official laws of Canada. It is no different from the billboard in front of a building that helps someone to know they have reached their desired destination or informs passers-by that the original version of a known product is available inside the building. This is the reason reputed Internet security experts recommend proper examination of domain names to identify genuine websites and avoid accessing fraudulent ones. [142]

As revealed in some of the case studies on the actual performance of new gTLDs in use, [143] easy identification of genuine resources by members of the public is a major advantage of specialised regulated domain names like <.officiallaws>. [144] This is because the Web, as indispensable as it is, is also a huge junkyard of information from everybody, and this creates the problem of reliability and authenticity. OLIWs that use the proposed <.officiallaws> will therefore benefit from a click-activity phenomenon that researchers at Microsoft and Stanford University call "domain bias". It refers to "a user's propensity to click on a search result because it comes from a reputable domain." [145] With time, users of online legal information will recognise and remember <.officiallaws> as the trusted official legal information brand globally.

According to Roland LaPlante, the Chief Marketing Officer of Afilias (the registry operator of <.organic> new gTLD), ".ORGANIC sets the true organic entities apart and gives consumers a direct and easy way to find them online." [146] This validates part of the goal of ICANN's New gTLD Program, which is "to enhance . . . consumer choice." [147] Authenticity and reliability of legal information are crucial to every aspect of legal research, practice, adjudication, and publishing. The proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD is designed to introduce the much-needed paradigm shift towards legal information as a universal public resource from authentic official sources.

Unofficial sources of legal information usually lack the reliability required for reliance on them. Disclaimers on third-party unofficial legal information websites (including those of FALM) clearly state that their resources are not the official versions and are not to be relied upon. [148] Nigeria-law.org which is the most popular Nigerian law website (according to Google search results ranking, using search terms like "Nigeria law" or "Nigerian law") provides an example of the danger of unreliability of unofficial versions of legal information. The International Centre for Nigerian Law (ICFNL) owns Nigeria-law.org. For instance, its version of the Nigerian Constitution contains two reprographic errors in section 12 alone: "except" omitted in subsection (1) and "he" inserted in subsection (2):

"12. (1) No treaty between the Federation and any other country shall have the force of law [except] to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly.

(2) The National Assembly may make laws for the Federation or any part thereof with respect to matters not included in the he Exclusive Legislative List for the purpose of implementing a treaty." [149]

Also, section 1(1) of the Legal Education (Consolidation, etc.) Act on the Nigeria-law.org website is a mixture of its text and marginal note that forms an unintelligible provision:

"1. (1) There shall be a body to be known as the Council Establishment and of Legal Education (hereafter in this Act referred to as functions of "the Council") which shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal." [150]

In addition, all the marginal notes attached to all the original 320 sections of the Constitution are omitted, like other laws on the Nigeria-law.org website. They therefore misrepresent the authentic versions of Nigerian laws. The official and reliable version of the Nigerian Constitution is on the Federal Ministry of Justice website. [151] The said faulty Constitution and other laws on Nigeria-law.org website are used and linked to by individuals and organisations worldwide, including the World Bank, [152] US Library of Congress, [153] Stanford University, [154] New York University School of Law, [155] and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). [156] It is significant that the Nigeria-law.org resources are also among the databases of the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) [157] and Commonwealth Legal Information Institute (CommonLII). [158]

As mentioned above, it is noteworthy that Nigeria-law.org website's unreliable, insignificant, and out-of-date resources are among the databases of WorldLII and CommonLII. In addition, Nigeria-law.org [159] even has the Encyclopædia Britannica's The Web's Best Sites certification, which questions Britannica's claim that the selection of the worthy websites is based on their editors' review of "thousands of Web sites to ensure their quality and appropriateness." [160] The neglect by the Nigerian government to provide online access to its laws accounts for the global popularity of the Nigeria-law.org website, despite its inadequacies. It was the first website to publish some Nigerian laws, and it deserves commendation for its voluntary response to address a public need. But one would have expected the website to provide reliable legal information after all these many years of its existence and popularity.

With the nature of digital information and its vulnerability to reprographic errors from digitising print documents, fraudulent or accidental alteration, it makes good sense that only legal information from official government sources, whose integrity is preserved with the requisite authentication technologies, [161] should have official status with evidentiary value for all legal purposes. But even without such authentication, there is a presumption of reliability of only information from an official source. [162] The following statement by the Digital Access to Legal Information Committee of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) on official and unofficial sources of legal information is instructive:

"It is important to know if you are looking at an official or unofficial version of primary law. Researchers may find both official and unofficial sources of legal information useful, depending on the nature of the research and the reason for citing a particular primary authority. For example, when preparing a legal action or writing a scholarly paper, it is necessary to use the government-designated official source of law." [163]

The proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD will help people to avoid the error of using unreliable legal information websites by providing the much-needed universal official label for reliable legal information on OLIWs. There is a presumption of reliability of only information from an official source. [164] Over time, it will be ingrained in the consciousness of people that they have to look for official legal information websites that have <.officiallaws> in their domain names.

The pessimism of some authors on the importance of new gTLDs created by ICANN, based on the performance of a few gTLDs, [165] appears to lose sight of the overall information revolution that gTLDs have added, and will continue to add, to the evolving Internet infrastructure. [166] Further, the trademark issues associated with some new gTLDs [167] do not affect category-based gTLDs restricted to public services, like <.gov> and <.edu> (similar to the proposed <.officiallaws>) which serve their identification-enhancing purposes excellently. [168]

3.4 Implementation of the Proposal for the New Official Legal Information gTLD

With the current revolution that has created 1,227 specialised new gTLDs for all categories of online resources (as of 31 August 2017), [169] this proposal for a Legal Information Domain Name System (LIDNS) based on the <.officiallaws> gTLD is not expected to have difficulties with its implementation. With the global enthusiasm for unique gTLDs that the ongoing 2012 application round has generated, it can be reasonably expected that ICANN will commence another exercise not long after 2017 when actions on all currently pending applications will have been completed. [170] I mentioned in Section 3.2 above that ICANN has already revealed its plan to hold additional rounds of its New gTLD Program in the future.

The proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD promises to be viable and any investment in it by the proper registry operator is expected to be worthwhile and rewarding. In addition, as a public good, its true value is far beyond its financial return on investment, like the <.edu> gTLD. [171] The <.officiallaws> gTLD is expected to become the standard gTLD for all OLIWs throughout the world. As I earlier discussed in Section 3.2 above, countries that may be hesitant initially to migrate their existing OLIWs to the proposed <.officiallaws> domain names and those who prefer to use the IDNs in their non-English languages should still buy their <.officiallaws> domain names and delegate them to their OLIWs. In this way, the OLIWs of all countries in the world and IGOs will benefit maximally from the <.officiallaws> gTLD, which will facilitate an unprecedented global public access to official legal information.

Domain names are not expensive. For example, a domain name with the <.com> gTLD costs $9.99 at 101domain [172] (ICANN-accredited domain names registrar [173]). The same company sells a <.organic> regulated domain name for $74.99. [174] They are renewable annually, usually at the rate of the same purchase price, except for any slight increase due to changes in policy. That means, buying the proposed <.officiallaws> domain names will not be a problem at all to any government or IGO. It is only the so-called "premium domain names" (that speculators and cybersquatters buy to resell) that are expensive. Cybersquatting is the purchase of a domain name in bad faith with the intent of reselling it to the owner of the trade name in the domain name (usually at an unimaginably expensive price). It constitutes an infringement of intellectual property (trademark). [175] Regulated gTLDs like <.officiallaws> are only meant for verified purchasers (governments and law-making IGOs) who are entitled to use them for their OLIWs, and are therefore not susceptible to cybersquatting.

ICANN's policy on new gTLDs states that "[a]ny established public or private organization located anywhere in the world can apply to form and operate a new gTLD Registry." [176] It is necessary to emphasise that a private organisation cannot be the appropriate organisation to apply for and operate the proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD. It has to be a public organisation. This is imperative because of ICANN's policy error. ICANN has the duty to review its current defective policy that led to the delegation of <.health> gTLD to DotHealth LLC (a private US company that may use it for commercial reasons [177]) instead of the World Health Organization (WHO) that is responsible for global health matters and standards. It is ICANN's grave policy error that has generated justifiable global condemnation, [178] which must be avoided in the case of the proposed <.officiallaws> gTLD.

Perhaps, a new United Nations World Legal Information Organization (UNWLIO) [179] could be the ideal organisation. UNWLIO will become the United Nations agency of intergovernmental character that will be responsible for promoting, regulating, and monitoring public access to legal information worldwide in accordance with its constitutive document. Its membership could consist of all member States of the United Nations and all territories or groups of territories and all IGOs that make laws, as full members. All other international, regional, and national bodies (both public and private organisations) that have proven interests in legal information and whose aims are in harmony with the aims of UNWLIO could be affiliate members. Such a wide range of membership will provide the robust structure, funding, interaction, and expertise needed for achieving its noble global goals.

In addition, a global organisation is necessary to regulate global legal information standards and monitor compliance with them, the way the World Health Organization (WHO) does for health. [180] The reason is that the right of public access to legal information is a human right and has profound implications for justice and the rule of law (discussed in Section 2.4 above). For instance, every legal liability imposed on a person for contravening any inaccessible law whose full texts the person could not have known, amounts to the same injustice as if the liability were under any ex post facto or non-existent law. [181]

Despite its human-right status, many governments have neglected their legal and moral duty to provide the required free and adequate access. For example, the government of Anguilla merely sells CD-ROM packages of its laws (already in electronic format) on its website instead of publishing them online with free access. [182] It thereby denies its citizens (and the whole world) their right of public access to their own laws because citizens are the rightful owners of laws. [183] Nigeria, [184] Papua New Guinea, [185] and Tanzania, [186] for example, have only an insignificant number of their legislation online. Even the United States that is the world's leading democracy, is still grappling with issues of copyright in legal information and its value-added features (e.g. annotations produced by the government). Michael Carroll states this fact unequivocally: "Some states and municipalities in the United States assert copyright in their local legislation." [187]). The US federal government also charges fees for electronic access to its Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). Carl Malamud and others have been campaigning against all these impediments to free public access to legal information in the United States. [188]

Further, law is an integral part of human existence in every society and directly affects every human being worldwide. Therefore, if there can be a United Nations organisation for tourism - United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) - that does not directly affect every human being, then there should be no problem with establishing the proposed UNWLIO for promoting, regulating, and monitoring a human right that directly affects every person.

I suggest that UNWLIO should have a Global Code of Ethics for the Provision of Public Access to Legal Information [189] to promote the actualisation of the right of public access to legal information worldwide. Unlike the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism of the World Tourism Organization, [190] the regulatory mechanisms of UNWLIO should be binding on the Member States and organisations to achieve its human rights objectives.

In addition to its other activities and programmes, UNWLIO will be expected to organise the proposed World's Legal Information Day to mark the date of its creation (like the other days of the United Nations agencies [191]). This will promote global awareness of the importance of the right of public access to legal information and the duty of makers of legal information to provide free access to it. Such access should be adequate for its different categories of users (including persons with disabilities), comprehensive, and up-to-date. Because of the poor state of public access to online legal information, especially in developing countries [192] (e.g. Anguilla, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania, mentioned above in this Subsection), UNWLIO should have a Technical Assistance Projects for Public Access to Legal Information [193] that will help needy countries to develop capacity for adequate and sustainable public access to their legal information programmes.

Alternatively, an appropriate existing body within the United Nations systems can function as the organisation to apply for the <.officiallaws> gTLD to reduce the cost of establishing a new organisation like the proposed UNWLIO. Because the right of public access to legal information is a human right derived from the parent human right of access to public information (discussed in Section 2.4 above), the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [194] can become the applicant organisation. UNHRC's broad mandate to set universal human rights standards for States and monitor compliance therewith can accommodate this additional function.

Further, a third option could be the establishment of a World Legal Information Foundation (WLIF) [195] as a non-governmental organisation to perform the said functions. However, it will lack the possible coercive powers and universal influence of an IGO within the United Nations system that are necessary for implementing its policies worldwide.

4. Conclusion

This article has examined the use of the proposed <.officiallaws> strictly regulated official legal information gTLD as a viable tool for enhancing the findability and easy identification of the official sources of the available online legal information and the eventual free public access to them. It focused on the OLIWs owned by governments and IGOs that create legal information.

Public access to legal information is not just a legal and constitutional right but also a human right. [196] Its provision is the legal and moral duty of every tier of government (national, state, and local government) and every IGO that creates legal information (e.g. United Nations, European Union, and African Union). The historical records of the publishing of laws by kings (e.g. King Hammurabi and King Henry VII), judicial decisions, statutes, constitutions, and international legal instruments all support these claims. [197] Therefore, no government should abdicate this duty to third-parties, including the legal information institutes. [198] Every government should provide free and adequate access to all of its legal information directly, not through any third party whatsoever to avoid the dangers associated with such arrangements. [199]

The legal information domain name system (LIDNS) developed in this article is based on the proposed <.officiallaws> official legal information gTLD to be created by ICANN. [200] It will be used exclusively for the official legal information websites of governments and IGOs. [201] They alone have the legal and moral duty to provide free public access to their legal information which must be adequate, comprehensive, and up-to-date. [202] The proposed gTLD will meet the need for easy identification of authentic and reliable official legal information resources. [203] This is of immense importance because cyberspace is a limitless repository of information from different sources with all shades of reliability, [204] and there is a presumption of reliability of only information from an official source. [205] Over time, it will be ingrained in the consciousness of people that they have to look for official legal information websites that have <.officiallaws> in their domain names. Further, the universal and easy-to-remember domain names, e.g. <www.unitedstates.officiallaws> and its short form <www.us.officiallaws> (United States), will facilitate direct access to official legal information websites without performing numerous Internet searches that are sometimes fruitless.

Overall, the proposed <.officiallaws> official legal information gTLD will improve global public access to official legal information that has profound human rights implications for justice and the rule of law. [206] The right to a fair trial, for example, is based on the knowledge of the actual state of the law for a valid prosecution, defence, and judgment. Without adequate access to legal information, injustice may emanate from judgments given in ignorance of the current state of the law [207] and people are denied their right to know the laws they are bound to obey, ignorance of which is no excuse. Further, public access to official online legal information facilitates effective national and transnational legal research; [208] it is necessary for the holistic actualisation of the environmental, economic, and social components of sustainable development; [209] and it promotes transparency and accountability in governance, [210] among other numerous benefits.



[1] Leesi Ebenezer Mitee, HND Town Planning and LLB (Rivers State University, Nigeria); BL (Nigerian Law School, Lagos); LLM (The University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom); PhD Candidate, Tilburg University Law School, The Netherlands; Chief Lecturer in Law, Institute of Legal and Global Studies, The Port Harcourt Polytechnic, Rivers State, Nigeria. I thank, immensely, the following persons for their most valuable insightful comments on the draft of this Article: Prof. Dr. Ernst M. H. Hirsch Ballin, Tilburg University and University of Amsterdam / Asser Institute, The Netherlands; Dr. Sofia Ranchordás, Assistant Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law at Leiden Law School, The Netherlands and Affiliated Fellow of the Yale Information Society Project, United States; and Dr. Marc van Opijnen who is affiliated to the Publications Office of the Netherlands (UBR|KOOP). Any error is mine. My forthcoming peer-reviewed article, titled "Towards Enhanced Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for Official Networked One-Stop Legal Information Websites" (scheduled for publication in Volume 8, Issue 2 or 3 of European Journal of Law and Technology, 2017), is complementary to this article. Email: leesimitee@leesimitee.com

[2] Discussed in Section 2.4.

[3] Ibid. See Regina v Chambers [2008] EWCA Crim 2467, para 55-76 (UK) < http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2008/2467.html > accessed 12 September 2017); 'Chambers Review: Review of Confiscation Orders in Tobacco Cases' (The Crown Prosecution Service) < http://cps.gov.uk/publications/others/chambers_review.html; accessed 12 September 2017; 'Declaration on Free Access to Law' (Free Access to Law Movement, 2002) < http://www.falm.info/declaration/ > accessed 12 September 2017; Brian D Anderson, 'Meaningful Access to Information as a Critical Element of the Rule of Law: How Law Libraries and Public Libraries Can Work Together to Promote Access' (IFLA World Library and Information Congress, Columbus, Ohio, United States, August 2016) < http://library.ifla.org/1376/1/179-anderson-en.pdf > 12 September 2017.

[4] 'World Internet Usage and Population Statistics June 30, 2017 - Update' (Internet World Stats, 12 September 2017) < http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm >.

[5] Discussed in Section 2.3.

[6] Discussed in Section 3.3.

[7] Richard A Danner and Jules Winterton (eds), The IALL International Handbook of Legal Information Management (Routledge 2016) 71.

[8] Peter Morville, Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become (O'Reilly 2005) 4.

[9] Discussed in Section 2.4. Every government has the legal and moral duty to provide free and adequate access to all categories of its legal information, including customary law. For my discussion on the right of public access to the customary law of indigenous communities, see Leesi Ebenezer Mitee, 'Huricompatisation: The Concept of Human Rights-Compliant Public Access to the Customary Law of Indigenous Communities' (2017) (forthcoming peer-reviewed article).

[10] 'Declaration on Free Access to Law' (Free Access to Law Movement, 2002) < http://www.falm.info/declaration/ > accessed 12 September 2017).

[11] People v Melchor, Crim. No. 5023. First Dist., Div. One. 26 October 1965 (US) < http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2d/237/685.html; accessed 12 September 2017; Graham Greenleaf, Andrew Mowbray and Philip Chung, 'The Meaning of "Free Access to Legal Information": A Twenty Year Evolution' (2013) 1 Journal of Open Access to Law < https://ojs.law.cornell.edu/index.php/joal/article/view/11 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[12] 'September 2017 Web Server Survey' (Netcraft, 11 September 2017) < https://news.netcraft.com/archives/category/web-server-survey/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[13] Enrico Francesconi, 'Semantic Model for Legal Resources: Annotation and Reasoning over Normative Provisions' (2016) 7 Semantic Web 255 < http://content.iospress.com/articles/semantic-web/sw150 > accessed 12 September 2017; Pompeu Casanovas and others, 'Semantic Web for the Legal Domain: The Next Step' (2016) 7 Semantic Web 213 < http://content.iospress.com/articles/semantic-web/sw224 > accessed 12 September 2017; Guido Boella and others, 'D2.2 Legal XML-Schema (XSD)' (EUCases, 23 June 2014) < http://www.eucases.eu/fileadmin/EUCases/documents/D2%202%20Legal%20XML-scheme.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[14] The term 'Legal Information Domain Name System' with its abbreviation 'LIDNS' is my coinage.

[15] Discussed in Section 3.3.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Discussed in Section 2.4.

[18] Discussed in Section 3.4.

[19] The name 'United Nations World Legal Information Organization' with its abbreviation 'UNWLIO' is my coinage.

[20] Discussed in Section 3.4.

[21] 'Delegation Report for .Health' (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, 21 January 2016) < http://www.iana.org/reports/c.2.9.2.d/20160121-health > accessed 12 September 2017.

[22] Discussed in Section 3.4.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Discussed in Section 2.4.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Michael L Rustad, Global Internet Law (2nd edn, West Academic 2016) 5; 'A Little History of the World Wide Web' (World Wide Web Consortium, 29 August 2016) < https://www.w3.org/History.html accessed 12 September 2017.

[28] Barry M Leiner and others, Brief History of the Internet (Internet Society 2012) < https://www.internetsociety.org/sites/default/files/ISOC-History-of-the-Internet_2012Oct.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017. See also Barry M Leiner and others, 'A Brief History of the Internet' (2009) 39(5) Computer Communication Review 22-31 < https://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~almeroth/classes/F10.176A/papers/internet-history-09.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[29] W Theobald and H Dunsmore, Internet Resources for Leisure and Tourism (Butterworth-Heinemann 2000) 59.

[30] 'Architecture of the World Wide Web, Volume One' (World Wide Web Consortium, 15 December 2004) < https://www.w3.org/TR/webarch/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[31] David C Hay, UML and Data Modeling: A Reconciliation (Technics Publications 2011) 181.

[32] 'What Does ICANN Do?' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 25 February 2012) < https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/what-2012-02-25-en > accessed 12 September 2017.

[33] 'Glossary' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 3 February 2014) < https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/glossary-2014-02-03-en#d > accessed 12 September 2017.

[34] Rolf H Weber and Ulrike I Heinrich, 'IP Address Allocation Through the Lenses of Public Goods and Scarce Resources Theories' (2011) 8(1) SCRIPTed 69 < https://script-ed.org/article/ip-address-allocation-lenses-public-goods-scarce-resources-theories/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[35] 'Program Implementation Review' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 29 January 2016) 213 < https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/program-review-29jan16-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[36] 'Country Codes - ISO 3166' (International Organization for Standardization) < https://www.iso.org/iso-3166-country-codes.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[37] 'Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) < https://archive.icann.org/en/tlds/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[38] Ibid.

[39] 'Root Zone Database' (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) < http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db > accessed 12 September 2017.

[40] Jeffrey R Shapiro, Windows Server 2008 Bible (Wiley Publishing 2008) 207-208.

[41] Steven Malcic, 'Proteus Online: Digital Identity and the Internet Governance Industry' (2016) Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 1, 6 < http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1354856516664035 > accessed 12 September 2017; Mira Burri, 'Global Cultural Law and Policy and the Internet: A Tale of Parallel Worlds' (2016) 1(1) Arts and International Relations 148, 158 < https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2748050 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[42] 'What Does ICANN Do? (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 25 February 2012) < https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/what-2012-02-25-en > accessed 12 September 2017.

[43] 'gTLD Applicant Guidebook, Version 2012-06-04' ( Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 4 June 2012) < https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/agb/guidebook-full-04jun12-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017 (AGB).

[44] 'New gTLD: Fast Facts' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 26 January 2015) < http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program/materials/fast-facts-26jan15-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[45] AGB, s 1.1.

[46] AGB, s 1.5.1.

[47] AGB, s 1.1.2.5.

[48] AGB, s 2.1.

[49] AGB, s 3.2; Kevin McGillivray, 'Anticipating Conflict-An Evaluation of the New gTLD Dispute Resolution System' (2012) 9(2) SCRIPTed 195 < http://script-ed.org/?p=474 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[50] AGB, s 5.1.

[51] AGB, s 5.3.

[52] 'Root Zone Management' (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) < http://www.iana.org/domains/root > accessed 12 September 2017.

[53] 'What Does ICANN Do?' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 25 February 2012) < https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/what-2012-02-25-en > accessed 12 September 2017.

[54] 'New Generic Top-Level Domains: About the Program' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) < https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program > accessed 12 September 2017.

[55] 'New Generic Top-Level Domains Fact Sheet' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 14 April 2011) 1 < https://archive.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/factsheet-new-gtld-program-14apr11-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[56] 'ICANN' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) < http://archive.icann.org/tr/english.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[57] Tobias Mahler, 'A gTLD Right? Conceptual Challenges in the Expanding Internet Domain Namespace' (2014) 22 International Journal of Law and Information Technology 27, 28 < https://academic.oup.com/ijlit/article/22/1/27/697805/A-gTLD-right-Conceptual-challenges-in-the > accessed 12 September 2017.

[58] 'Current Statistics (Updated Monthly)' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 31 August 2017) < https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/statistics > accessed 12 September 2017.

[59] 'Delegated Strings' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) < https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/delegated-strings > accessed 12 September 2017.

[60] 'Program Implementation Review' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 29 January 2016) 10 < https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/program-review-29jan16-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[61] Chris Burt, 'FTC to ICANN: We Told You .Sucks was a Bad Idea' (The Whir, 2 June 2015) < http://www.thewhir.com/web-hosting-news/ftc-to-icann-we-told-you-sucks-was-a-bad-idea > accessed 12 September 2017; Chris Burt, 'Canada Responds to ICANN on Controversial .Sucks New gTLD' (The Whir,17 June 2015) < http://www.thewhir.com/web-hosting-news/canada-responds-to-icann-on-controversial-sucks-new-gtld > accessed 12 September 2017.

[62] 'New gTLD Fast Facts' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 26 January 2015) < http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program/materials/fast-facts-26jan15-en.pdf > accessed 17 April 2017.

[63] Ibid. For my discussion of the duty of every government and every law-making intergovernmental organisation to provide adequate and free public access to its legal information, see Leesi Ebenezer Mitee, 'The Right of Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for its Universal Recognition as a Human Right' (2017) 18(6) German Law Journal < https://www.germanlawjournal.com/ > (forthcoming peer-reviewed article scheduled for publication).

[64] 220 Phil 422 (1985), GR No. L-63915 24 April 1985 < http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1985/apr1985/gr_l63915_1985.html > accessed 13 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[65] [1973] 2 NZLR 21, 23 (SC) in David Harvey, 'Public Access to Legislative Information and Judicial Decisions in New Zealand: Progress and Process' (2002) 4 University of Technology Sydney Law Review 105, 108 < http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/UTSLawRw/2002/7.html > accessed 12 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[66] Timothy J Arnold-Moore, 'Point-In-Time Publication of Legislation (XML and Legislation): Automating Consolidation of Amendments to Legislation in Common Law and Civil Jurisdictions' (6th Law Via the Internet Conference, Paris, November 2004) < http://www.frlii.org/IMG/pdf/2004_frlii_conference_tja.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017. See also Tim Arnold-Moore, 'XML and Legislation' (2003) 29 Computerisation of Law Resources < http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/other/CompLRes/2003/29.html > accessed 12 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[67] Laurens Mommers, 'Access to Law in Europe' in Simone van der Hof and Marga M Groothuis (eds), Innovating Government: Normative, Policy and Technological Dimensions of Modern Government (TMC Asser Press 2011) 383, 389, 392-397 < https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-90-6704-731-9 > accessed 12 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[68] 430 US 817 (1977) < https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/430/817/case.html > accessed 13 September 2017.

[69] 518 US 343 (1996) < https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/518/343/case.html > accessed 13 September 2017.

[70] Jessica Feierman, 'Creative Prison Lawyering: From Silence to Democracy' (2004) 11(2) Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy 249, 264-269; Jessica Feierman, '"The Power of the Pen": Jailhouse Lawyers, Literacy, and Civic Engagement' (2006) 41 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 369, 375-377.

[71] Steven D Jamar, 'The Human Right of Access to Legal Information: Using Technology to Advance Transparency and the Rule of Law' (2001) 1 Global Jurist Topics Number 2 Article 6 < http://ssrn.com/abstract=1148802 > accessed 12 September 2017. For my argument that the right of public access to legal information is a human right, and my proposal for its universal recognition as a human right, see Mitee (n 63). I also discuss the contents of my proposal for the United Nations Convention on the Right of Public Access to Legal Information in that article.

[72] Jamar (n 71). See also Laurens Mommers, 'Access to Law in Europe' in Simone van der Hof and Marga M. Groothuis (eds), Innovating Government: Normative, Policy and Technological Dimensions of Modern Government (TMC Asser Press 2011) 383, 395. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[73] Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted 10 December 1948 UNGA Res 217 A(III) (UDHR).

[74] Example, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171 (ICCPR) art 10; African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (adopted 27 June 1981, entered into force 21 October 1986) (1982) 21 ILM 58 (African Charter) art 9.

[75] Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights, as amended) (ECHR) art 3.

[76] Example, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, s 39.

[77] Claude-Reyes v Chile, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 151 (19 September 2006) < https://iachr.lls.edu/cases/claude-reyes-et-al-v-chile> accessed 13 September 2017; United Nations Human Rights Council 'Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression' (2013) UN Doc A/68/362.

[78] Laurens Mommers, 'Access to Law in Europe' in Simone van der Hof and Marga M Groothuis (eds), Innovating Government: Normative, Policy and Technological Dimensions of Modern Government (TMC Asser Press 2011) 383, 384. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[79] Deaton v Kidd, 932 S.W.2d 804 (Mo. Ct. App. 1996) < https://casetext.com/case/deaton-v-kidd > accessed 13 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[80] Leesi Ebenezer Mitee, 'The Right of Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for its Universal Recognition as a Human Right' (2017) 18(6) German Law Journal < https://www.germanlawjournal.com/ > (forthcoming peer-reviewed article scheduled for publication).

[81] 'Code of Hammurabi', Encyclopædia Britannica (2017) < https://www.britannica.com/topic/Code-of-Hammurabi > accessed 12 September 2017.

[82] 'Law Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon' (The Louvre Museum) < http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/law-code-hammurabi-king-babylon > accessed 12 September 2017.

[83] London had a statute book around 1470 that contained legislation from 1327. See PR Cavill, The English Parliaments of Henry VII 1485-1504 (Oxford University Press 2009) s 6.1.

[84] Hammurabi placed his Code in a public place (the temple of Babylon's national god) for people to see, read, and know. See 'Code of Hammurabi', Encyclopædia Britannica (2017) < https://www.britannica.com/topic/Code-of-Hammurabi > accessed 12 September 2017. Henry VII, King of England, was interested in the widest publication of laws to enable the people, not only lawyers, to know them. See PR Cavill, The English Parliaments of Henry VII 1485-1504 (Oxford University Press 2009) s 6.1.

[85] Tom McMahon, 'Improving Access to the Law in Canada With Digital Media' (1999) Government Information in Canada No 16 < https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=163280 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[86] Xiaohua Zhu, 'Access to Digital Case Law in the United States: A Historical Perspective' (World Library and Information Congress: 78th IFLA General Conference and Assembly, Helsinki, Finland, August 2012) < https://www.ifla.org/past-wlic/2012/193-zhu-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017. See also 'The LexisNexis Timeline: Celebrating Innovation . . . and 30 Years of Online Legal Research' (LexisNexis, 2003) < http://www.lexisnexis.com/anniversary/30th_timeline_fulltxt.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[87] Discussed in Section 2.1.

[88] Ginevra Peruginelli, 'Law Belongs to the People: Access to Law and Justice' (2016) 16 Legal Information Management 107, 108.

[89] 'Members of the Free Access to Law Movement (Free Access to Law Movement)' < http://www.falm.info/members/current/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[90] 'Acts of Parliament' (Republic of Vanuatu) < https://parliament.gov.vu/index.php/icons/members-of-10th-legislature > accessed 12 September 2017. For my discussion of the situation in Vanuatu and other countries, see Leesi Ebenezer Mitee, 'Towards Enhanced Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for Official Networked One-Stop Legal Information Websites' (2017) (forthcoming peer-reviewed article (scheduled for publication in Volume 8, Issue 2 or 3 of European Journal of Law and Technology, 2017). This present article and the said forthcoming article are complementary.

[91] 'Law Reporting' (The Judiciary of the Republic of Uganda) < http://www.judiciary.go.ug/data/smenu/25/Law%20Reporting.html > accessed 12 September 2017. See Mitee (n 90).

[92] Beth Ford, 'Open Wide the Gates of Legal Access' (2014) 93 Oregon Law Review 539, 546-549 < https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/18816/Ford.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017. See also Gary Wolf, 'Who Owns the Law?' (Wired, 1 May 1994) < http://www.wired.com/1994/05/the-law/ > accessed 12 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[93] LawNet < http://www.lawnet.lk/ > accessed 12 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[94] Graham Greenleaf, 'Free Access to Legal Information, LIIs, and the Free Access to Law Movement' in Richard A. Danner and Jules Winterton (eds), The IALL International Handbook of Legal Information Management (Ashgate Publishing 2011) 215 < http://ssrn.com/abstract=1960867 > accessed 12 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[95] AnguillaLaws.com < http://www.anguillalaws.com/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[96] African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) 'Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa' ACHPR/Res.62(XXXII)02 (23 October 2002) < http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/32nd/resolutions/62/achpr32_freedom_of_expression_eng.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[97] Tom McMahon, 'Improving Access to the Law in Canada With Digital Media' (1999) Government Information in Canada No 16 < https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=163280 > accessed 12 September 2017; Daniel Poulin, 'Open Access to Law in Developing Countries' (2004) 9(12) First Monday < http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1193/1113 > accessed 12 September 2017; Graham Greenleaf, 'The Global Development of Free Access to Legal Information' 2010 1(1) European Journal of Law and Technology http://ejlt.org/article/view/17/39 accessed 12 September 2017. See also Harvard University, 'Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship' (2009) < https://cyber.law.harvard.edu/publications/durhamstatement#statement > accessed 12 September 2017.

[98] John Bahrij and Irene Shieh, 'Hong Kong Moves Towards Open Access to Authenticated Legal Information' (IFLA World Library and Information Congress: 79th IFLA General Conference and Assembly, Singapore, August 2013) < http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1007.5773&rep=rep1&type=pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[99] 'Accessibility: Assistive Technology' (Federal Register of Legislation) < https://www.legislation.gov.au/Content/Accessibility > accessed 12 September 2017; 'Listen to this Website with BrowseAloud' (Federal Register of Legislation) < https://www.legislation.gov.au/content/browsealoud > accessed 12 September 2017.

[100] 'Root Zone Database' (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) < http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db > accessed 12 September 2017.

[101] 'Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) < https://archive.icann.org/en/tlds/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[102] '.Education Registry Agreement' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 7 November 2013) < https://www.icann.org/resources/agreement/education-2013-11-07-en > accessed 12 September 2017.

[103] 'New gTLD Fast Facts' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 26 January 2015) < http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program/materials/fast-facts-26jan15-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[104] 'Delegation Record for .Law' (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, 26 May 2017) < https://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/law.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[105] AGB, s 2.2.

[106] AGB, s 3.4.7.

[107] "New Generic Top-Level Domains Fact Sheet" (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 14 April 2011) 2 < https://archive.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/factsheet-new-gtld-program-14apr11-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[108] 'Program Implementation Review' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 29 January 2016) 10 < https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/program-review-29jan16-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[109] The term 'national official legal information website' with its abbreviation 'NOLIW' is my coinage.

[110] Examples: 'Netherlands' instead of 'Kingdom of the Netherlands', 'United States' instead of 'United States of America', 'United Kingdom' instead of 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'.

[111] 'Country Codes - ISO 3166' (International Organization for Standardization) < https://www.iso.org/iso-3166-country-codes.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[112] 'Country Codes - ISO 3166' (International Organization for Standardization) < https://www.iso.org/iso-3166-country-codes.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[113] 'Root Zone Database' (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) < http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db > accessed 12 September 2017.

[114] Michele M Asprey, Plain Language for Lawyers (3rd edn, Federation Press 2003) 306-307.

[115] For recent statistics on the global dominance of Google search engine, see 'Search Engine Market Share Worldwide: Aug 2016 - Aug 2017' (StatCounter, 2017) < http://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share > accessed 12 September 2017; 'Mobile/Tablet Search Engine Market Share' (Netmarketshare, August 2017) https://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpcustomd=1 accessed 12 September 2017.

[116] 'Doorway Pages' (Google) < https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2721311?hl=en > accessed 12 September 2017.

[117] 'Webmaster Guidelines' (Google) < https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[118] David Crystal, English as a Global Language (2nd edn, Cambridge University Press 2012) 5.

[119] Yukio Tsuda, 'The Hegemony of English and Strategies for Linguistic Pluralism: Proposing the Ecology of Language Paradigm' in Molefi Kete Asante, Yoshitaka Miike and Jing Yin (eds), The Global Intercultural Communication Reader (Routledge 2014) 445.

[120] Slađana Živković and Nadežda Stojković, 'Cyberspace - Addiction or Not: A Limited Case Study of the Internet Addiction Among Student Population' (2013) 2 (11) Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies < http://www.mcser.org/journal/index.php/ajis/article/view/1474 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[121] 'Summary by Language Size' in Gary F Simons and Charles D Fennig (eds), Ethnologue: Languages of the World (20th edn, SIL International 2017) < https://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/size > accessed 12 September 2017.

[122] 'Most Widely Spoken Languages in the World' (Worldatlas, 2017) < http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-most-widely-spoken-languages-in-the-world.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[123] 'Internationalized Domain Names' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 25 February 2012) < https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/idn-2012-02-25-en > accessed 12 September 2017; Samantha Bradshaw and Laura DeNardis, 'The Politicization of the Internet's Domain Name System: Implications for Internet Security, Universality, and Freedom' (2016) New Media & Society 1, 13 < http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1461444816662932 > accessed 12 September 2017; Jay Jordan and Justin G Whitney, 'The Internet in "Their" Language: South Korea and the Internationalizing Web' (2016) 42 Computers and Composition < http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S8755461515300086 > accessed 12 September 2017; Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg, 'A Decade of Promoting Multilingualism in Cyberspace Through the International Normative Instrument: UNESCO's Recommendation Concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace (2003)' in Evgeny Kuzmin, Anastasia Parshakova and Daria Ignatova, Multilingualism in Cyberspace Proceedings of the Ugra Global Expert Meeting (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russian Federation, 4-9 July, 2015) (Interregional Library Cooperation Centre 2016) 34, 41 < http://www.ifapcom.ru/files/2016/UGRA_ENGL_BLOK_WEB.pdf#page=35 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[124] 'An Introduction to Multilingual Web Addresses' (World Wide Web Consortium, 9 May 2008) < https://www.w3.org/International/articles/idn-and-iri/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[125] 'Root Zone Database' (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) < http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db > accessed 12 September 2017.

[126] Hana Kopackova, Karel Michalek and Karel Cejna, 'Accessibility and Findability of Local e-Government Websites in the Czech Republic' (2010) 9:1 Universal Access in the Information Society 51, 53 < http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10209-009-0159-y > accessed 12 September 2017 (emphasis added). For my discussion on how the proposed <.officiallaws> legal information gTLD can be used to develop one-stop legal information websites to provide optimal findability, see Leesi Ebenezer Mitee, 'Towards Enhanced Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for Official Networked One-Stop Legal Information Websites' (2017) (forthcoming peer-reviewed article (scheduled for publication in Volume 8, Issue 2 or 3 of European Journal of Law and Technology, 2017). This present article and the said forthcoming article are complementary.

[127] 'What Does ICANN Do?' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 25 February 2012) < https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/what-2012-02-25-en > accessed 12 September 2017 (emphasis added).

[128] '10 Tips to Prevent Phishing Attacks' (Panda Security, 21 February 2016) < http://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/security/10-tips-prevent-phishing-attacks/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[129] Eileen Wood and others, 'Exploration of the Relative Contributions of Domain Knowledge and Search Expertise for Conducting Internet Searches' (2016) 57 The Reference Librarian 182-204.

[130] Eric Popkoff, 'Methods of Effective Internet Research' (Brooklyn College) < http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/economics/internetresearch.htm > accessed 12 September 2017.

[131] 'Research Tools' (Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 2009) https://fcit.usf.edu/internet/chap5/chap5.htm accessed 12 September 2017.

[132] 'Index Status Report' (Google) < https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2642366?hl=en > accessed 12 September 2017.

[133] Dogpile.com (in Collaboration with Researchers from Queensland University of Technology and the Pennsylvania State University), 'Different Engines, Different Results: Web Searchers not Always Finding What They're Looking for Online' (Dogpile, April 2007) < https://cdn1.inspsearchapi.com/dogpile/10.10.0.392/content/downloads/overlap-differentenginesdifferentresults.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[134] Ricky, 'Why Do I Get Different Google Results in Different Locations?' (LCN, 19 September 2014) < https://www.lcn.com/blog/get-different-results-google-vs-location-users/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[135] Erik Newton, 'Smartphone and Desktop Search Results Diverge Further' (BrightEdge, 5 December 2016) < https://www.brightedge.com/blog/smartphone-desktop-search-results/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[136] Sachin Kumar and Pratishtha Gupta, 'A Survey of Techniques and Applications for Search Engine Optimization' (2016) 8.2 Research Journal of Science and Technology 59.

[137] 'What Does ICANN Do? (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 25 February 2012) < https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/what-2012-02-25-en > accessed 12 September 2017.

[138] Christopher Hofman, 'Google Reads Coffee.Club as Coffee Club!' ( Key-Systems, 16 June 2015) < https://www.key-systems.net/en/blog/google-reads-coffee-club-as-coffee-club > accessed 12 September 2017.

[139] Barry Schwartz, 'Google: Keywords in URLs a Very Small Ranking Factor" (Search Engine Roundtable, 3 February 2016) < https://www.seroundtable.com/google-keywords-in-urls-a-small-ranking-factor-21577.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[140] 'Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015: Expert Survey and Correlation Data' (Moz, 2015) < https://moz.com/search-ranking-factors > accessed 12 September 2017. See also 'How Valuable is it to Have a Keyword in your Domain URL?' (HigherVisibility.com) < https://www.highervisibility.com/resource/research/how-valuable-is-it-to-have-a-keyword-in-your-domain-url/ > accessed 12 September 2017. Although this source does not have a date, it refers to a 2015 source.

[141] '.Edu Eligibility' (EDUCAUSE) < https://net.educause.edu/edudomain/eligibility.asp > accessed 12 September 2017.

[142] Greg Kelley, 'The One Mistake Companies Make that Leads Them to Fall Victim to Phishing Attacks is. . .' in Nate Lord, 'Phishing Attack Prevention: How to Identify & Avoid Phishing Scams' (Digital Guardian, 31 August 2017) < https://digitalguardian.com/blog/phishing-attack-prevention-how-identify-avoid-phishing-scams > accessed 12 September 2017.

[143] 'New Generic Top-Level Domains: Case Studies' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) < https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/announcements-and-media/case-studies > accessed 12 September 2017.

[144] Edward Nazzaro, 'Welcome to the New Internet: The Great gTLD Experiment' (2014) 1 Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 37, 48 < https://instituteformigrantright.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/welcome-to-new-internet.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[145] Samuel Ieong and others, 'Domain Bias in Web Search' (Microsoft, February 2012) < https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/domainbias.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017. See also Rand Fishkin, '15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs' (Moz, 24 February 2015) < https://moz.com/blog/15-seo-best-practices-for-structuring-urls > accessed 12 September 2017.

[146] 'Case Study: .Organic' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 6 August 2015) < https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/announcements-and-media/case-studies/organic-a4-06aug15-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[147] 'New gTLD Fast Facts' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 22 December 2016) < https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program/materials/fast-facts-22dec15-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[148] 'Disclaimers of Liability' (Australasian Legal Information Institute) < http://www.austlii.edu.au/austlii/disclaimers.html > accessed 12 September 2017; 'Disclaimers of Liability' ( World Legal Information Institute) < http://www.worldlii.org/worldlii/disclaimers.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[149] 'Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999' (Nigeria-law.org) < http://www.nigeria-law.org/ConstitutionOfTheFederalRepublicOfNigeria.htm > accessed 12 September 2017 (emphasis added to highlight the errors). I have taken and preserved the screenshot of the webpage as permanent evidence of the error as of today, 12 September 2017.

[150] 'Legal Education (Consolidation, etc.) Act' (Nigeria-law.org) < http://www.nigeria-law.org/Legal%20Education%20(Consolidation,%20etc.)%20Act.htm > accessed 12 September 2017 (emphasis added to highlight the errors). I have taken and preserved the screenshot of the webpage as permanent evidence of the error, as of today, 12 September 2017.

[151] 'Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999' (Federal Ministry of Justice) < http://www.justice.gov.ng/index.php/laws/constitution > accessed 12 September 2017.

[152] 'Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999' (World Bank) < http://publicofficialsfinancialdisclosure.worldbank.org/sites/fdl/files/assets/law-library-files/Nigeria_Constitution_1999_en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[153] 'Nigeria' (Library of Congress, 2016) < https://www.loc.gov/law/help/guide/nations/nigeria.php > accessed 12 September 2017.

[154] 'Nigeria' (Stanford University Libraries) < http://library.stanford.edu/africa-south-sahara/browse-country/nigeria > accessed 12 September 2017.

[155] Yemisi Dina, John Akintayo and Funke Ekundayo, 'Update: Guide to Nigerian Legal Information' (November/December 2015) GlobaLex < http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Nigeria1.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[156] 'Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999' (World Intellectual Property Organization) < http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=179202 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[157] 'Nigeria' (World Legal Information Institute) < http://www.worldlii.org/catalog/2163.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[158] 'Nigerian Legislation' (Commonwealth Legal Information Institute, 2005) < http://www.commonlii.org/ng/legis/num_act/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[159] 'The Law Library' (Nigeria-law.org) < http://nigeria-law.org/LawLibrary.htm accessed 12 September 2017.

[160] 'Getting Started', Encyclopædia Britannica < http://help.eb.com/bolae/index.htm > accessed 12 September 2017.

[161] For discussion on authentication of digital (legal) information, see 'About Us' (Govinfo) < https://www.govinfo.gov/about > accessed 12 September 2017; 'Authentication' ( US Government Printing Office, 13 October 2005) < https://www.gpo.gov/pdfs/authentication/authenticationwhitepaperfinal.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017; Claire M Germain, 'Worldwide Access to Foreign Law: International and National Developments Toward Digital Authentication' (2013) 9 Comparative Law Journal of the Pacific-Journal de Droit Comparé du Pacifique 185 < https://ssrn.com/abstract=2676279 > accessed 12 September 2017; Richard A Danner and Jules Winterton (eds), The IALL International Handbook of Legal Information Management (Routledge 2016) 14; 'State-By-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources: Executive Summary' (American Association of Law Libraries, 2007) < http://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/authen_rprt/executivesummaryreport.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017; 'IFLA Statement on Government Provision of Public Legal Information in the Digital Age' (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions , 14 August 2017) < https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11064 > accessed 12 September 2017. See also Mitee (n 63).

[162] People v Melchor, Crim. No. 5023. First Dist., Div. One. 26 October 1965 (US) < http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2d/237/685.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[163] 'Guide to Evaluating Legal Information Online' (American Association of Law Libraries, July 2016) < https://www.aallnet.org/mm/Advocacy/access/evaluatelegalinfoguide.html > accessed 12 September 2017 (emphasis added).

[164] People (n 162); Graham Greenleaf, Andrew Mowbray and Philip Chung, 'The Meaning of "Free Access to Legal Information": A Twenty Year Evolution' (2013) 1 Journal of Open Access to Law < https://ojs.law.cornell.edu/index.php/joal/article/view/11 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[165] Daniela Michele Spencer, 'Much Ado about Nothing: ICANN's New gTLDs' (2014) 29 Berkeley Technology Law Journal 865 < https://doi.org/10.15779/Z38FX30 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[166] Taryn Naidu, 'TechRepublic's Dismissal of Generic Top-Level Domains Overlooks a lot of Facts, not to Mention Nearly all SMBs' (2016) < http://rightside.news/techrepublics-dismissal-generic-top-level-domains-overlooks-lot-facts-not-mention-nearly-smbs > accessed 14 April 2017.

[167] Sheri Lyn Falco, 'Trademarks, Domain Names, and ICANN: An Evolving Dance' (2014) 26 St Thomas Law Review 191 < http://stthomaslawreview.org/articles/v26/2/falco.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[168] Edward Nazzaro, 'Welcome to the New Internet: The Great gTLD Experiment' (2014) 1 Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 37, 47-50 < https://instituteformigrantright.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/welcome-to-new-internet.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[169] 'Current Statistics (Updated Monthly)' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 31 August 2017) < https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/statistics > accessed 12 September 2017.

[170] 'Program Implementation Review' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 29 January 2016) 10 < https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/program-review-29jan16-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[171] Edward Nazzaro, 'Welcome to the New Internet: The Great gTLD Experiment' (2014) 1 Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 37, 48 < https://instituteformigrantright.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/welcome-to-new-internet.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[172] 101domain < https://www.101domain.com/ > accessed 12 September 2017.

[173] 'ICANN-Accredited Registrars' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 2017) < https://www.icann.org/registrar-reports/accredited-list.html > accessed 12 September 2017.

[174] 101domain < https://www.101domain.com/ > accessed 12 March 2017.

[175] Cayce Myers, 'Protecting Online Image in a Digital Age: How Trademark Issues Affect PR Practice' (2016) 3(1) Research Journal of the Institute for Public Relations < http://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/Cayce-Myers-FINAL.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017; 'About Cybersquatting' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 3 May 2013) < https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/cybersquatting-2013-05-03-en > accessed 12 September 2017.

[176] 'New Generic Top-Level Domains Fact Sheet' (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 14 April 2011) 1 < https://archive.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/factsheet-new-gtld-program-14apr11-en.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[177] 'Delegation Report for .Health' (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, 21 January 2016) < http://www.iana.org/reports/c.2.9.2.d/20160121-health > accessed 13 September 2017.

[178] Tim K Mackey and others, 'A Call for a Moratorium on the .Health Generic Top-Level Domain: Preventing the Commercialization and Exclusive Control of Online Health Information' (2014) 10:62 Global Health < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177061/ > accessed 13 September 2017; Tim Ken Mackey and others, 'Health Domains for Sale: The Need for Global Health Internet Governance' (2014) 16(3) Journal of Medical Internet Research e62 < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3961808/ > accessed 13 September 2017.

[179] The name 'United Nations World Legal Information Organization' with its abbreviation 'UNWLIO' is my coinage.

[180] 'About WHO' (World Health Organization) < http://www.who.int/about/mission/en/ > accessed 13 September 2017.

[181] Alan Brudner, Punishment and Freedom: A Liberal Theory of Penal Justice (Oxford University Press 2009) 186-87.

[182] AnguillaLaws.com < http://www.anguillalaws.com/ > accessed 13 September 2017.

[183] African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) 'Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa' ACHPR/Res.62(XXXII)02 (23 October 2002) < http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/32nd/resolutions/62/achpr32_freedom_of_expression_eng.pdf > accessed 12 September 2017.

[184] 'Search Documents' (Federal Republic of Nigeria National Assembly) < http://www.nassnig.org/document/acts > accessed 13 September 2017.

[185] 'Bills and Legislation' (National Parliament of Papua New Guinea) < http://www.parliament.gov.pg/bills-and-legislation > accessed 13 September 2017.

[186] 'Laws of Tanzania from 2002-2016' (Law Reform Commission of Tanzania) < http://www.lrct.go.tz/laws-of-tanzania/ > accessed 13 September 2017.

[187] Michael W Carroll, 'The Movement for Open Access Law' (2006) 10 Lewis & Clark Law Review 741, 746 < http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1043&context=facsch_lawrev > accessed 13 September 2017.

[188] Jason Tashea, 'Carl Malamud's Crusade to Fix PACER' (Technical.ly, 20 April 2015) < http://technical.ly/dc/2015/04/20/carl-malamud-pacer-dc-legal-hackers-meetup/ > accessed 13 September 2017. For the fees that PACER charges, see 'Electronic Public Access Fee Schedule' (Public Access to Court Electronic Records, 1 December 2013) < https://www.pacer.gov/documents/epa_feesched.pdf > accessed 13 September 2017.

[189] The name 'Global Code of Ethics for the Provision of Public Access to Legal Information' is my coinage.

[190] 'Global Code of Ethics for Tourism' (World Tourism Organization) < http://ethics.unwto.org/en/content/global-code-ethics-tourism > accessed 13 September 2017.

[191] See, for example, 'Official WHO Health Days' (World Health Organization) < http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/official_days/en/ > accessed 13 September 2017.

[192] Daniel Poulin, 'Open Access to Law in Developing Countries' (2004) 9 (12) First Monday < http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1193/1113 > accessed 13 September 2017; Graham Greenleaf, Philip Chung and Andrew Mowbray, 'Emerging Global Networks for Free Access to Law: WorldLII's Strategies 2002-2005' (2007) 4(4) SCRIPTed 319, 322 < https://script-ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/4-4-Greenleafetal.pdf > accessed 13 September 2017; Vallery Bayly, 'Legal Information and Human Rights' (McGill University, 31 July 2015) < http://blogs.mcgill.ca/humanrightsinterns/2015/07/31/legal-information-and-human-rights/ > accessed 13 September 2017.

[193] The term 'Technical Assistance Projects for Public Access to Legal Information' is my coinage.

[194] United Nations Human Rights Council < http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/AboutCouncil.aspx > accessed 13 September 2017.

[195] The name 'World Legal Information Foundation' with its abbreviation 'WLIF' is my coinage.

[196] Discussed in Section 2.4.

[197] Ibid.

[198] Ibid.

[199] Ibid. Every government has the legal and moral duty to provide free and adequate access to all categories of legal information, including customary law. For my discussion on the right of public access to the customary law of indigenous communities, see Leesi Ebenezer Mitee, 'Huricompatisation: The Concept of Human Rights-Compliant Public Access to the Customary Law of Indigenous Communities' (2017) (forthcoming peer-reviewed article).

[200] Discussed in Section 3.1.

[201] Discussed in Section 3.2.

[202] Discussed in Section 2.4.

[203] Discussed in Section 3.3.

[204] See, for example, Nigeria-law.org discussed in Section 3.3.

[205] People v Melchor, Crim. No. 5023. First Dist., Div. One. 26 October 1965 (US) < http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2d/237/685.html > accessed 12 September 2017; Graham Greenleaf, Andrew Mowbray and Philip Chung, 'The Meaning of "Free Access to Legal Information": A Twenty Year Evolution' (2013) 1 Journal of Open Access to Law < https://ojs.law.cornell.edu/index.php/joal/article/view/11 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[206] 'Declaration on Free Access to Law' (Free Access to Law Movement, 2002) < http://www.falm.info/declaration/ > accessed 12 September 2017); Brian D Anderson, 'Meaningful Access to Information as a Critical Element of the Rule of Law: How Law Libraries and Public Libraries Can Work Together to Promote Access' (IFLA World Library and Information Congress, Columbus, Ohio, United States, August 2016) < http://library.ifla.org/1376/1/179-anderson-en.pdf > accessed 13 September 2017.

[207] Regina v Chambers [2008] EWCA Crim 2467, para 55-76 (UK) < http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2008/2467.html > accessed 12 September 2017); 'Chambers Review: Review of Confiscation Orders in Tobacco Cases' (The Crown Prosecution Service) < http://cps.gov.uk/publications/others/chambers_review.html > accessed 12 September 2017. See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).

[208] Steven D Jamar, 'The Human Right of Access to Legal Information: Using Technology to Advance Transparency and the Rule of Law' (2001) 1 Global Jurist Topics Number 2 Article 6 < http://ssrn.com/abstract=1148802 > accessed 12 September 2017; Daniel Poulin, 'Open Access to Law in Developing Countries' (2004) 9 (12) First Monday < http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1193/1113 > accessed 12 September 2017.

[209] Jamar (n 208).

[210] Jamar (n 208); Poulin (n 208). See the discussion in Mitee (n 63).