Select Public Domain Resources useful for Legal Educaiton and Research in Digital Environment

Public Domain Legal Resources

Open Access Resources for Law Students, Faculty, Researchers and Legal Practitionors

The web portal is a collection of metadata links of public domain and open access resources useful to legal education and research.  The purpose to create the web portal is to make aware students, faculty members, research scholars, government officials and law clerks about the existence of public legal information and open access resources protected under creative common licences.  The web portal is an effort to provides access of legal information of five major common law countries viz. Australia, Canada, India, Great Britain and United States of America.  Information resources of international organizations have also been indexed for better visibility of international laws and treaties.   These resources are also useful for law schools/ colleges having limited financial resources restricting subscribing costly databases. The web portal has been developed with a view to provide legal information resources available in public domain and under open access (Creative Common Licences) without consideration of any Monterey aspects and can be used for educational and research purpose, hence not liable for any breach of copyright.  In case of any objection by any organization/ individual, the noted link(s) would be excluded from the portal.

A review of the history of the term “public domain” shows that it has traditionally been associated with public land and has never had a universally accepted meaning in the context of information. Indeed, there is little in official public documents or even in the scholarly literature that deals definitively with this subject. Most legal scholars would define public domain information by what it is not; that is, any information that is not proprietary, the yin to the proprietary yang. But such a definition is insufficient, for it does not adequately characterize or describe what public domain information in fact is, and provides no basis on which to evaluate its positive role and its value to knowledge societies, especially in the context of economic and social development. 


The UNESCO Recommendation on Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace provides the following definition: “Public domain information refers to publicly accessible information, the use of which does not infringe any legal right, or any obligation of confidentiality. It thus refers on the one hand to the realm of all works or objects of related rights, which can be exploited by everybody without any authorization, for instance because protection is not granted under national or international law, or because of the expiration of the term of protection. It refers on the other hand to public data and official information Produced and voluntarily made available by governments or international organizations.”


Under this definition, information in the public domain covers two distinct notions: On the one hand, “public domain information” can be defined as what is left outside the scope of any form of statutory protection including intellectual property rights, the protection of national security or public order, privacy laws and obligations of confidentiality. (Text taken from UNESCO Policy Guidelines for Governmental Public Information contributed by Paul F. Uhlir) full text link  


Free Access to Law Movement is an outcome of Montreal Declaration during Law Via Internet Conference held at Montreal in 2002. 


Legal information institutes of the world, meeting in Montreal, declare that:


  • Public legal information from all countries and international institutions is part of the common heritage of humanity. Maximising access to this information promotes justice and the rule of law;
  • Public legal information is digital common property and should be accessible to all on a non-profit basis and free of charge;
  • Organisations such as legal information institutes have the right to publish public legal information and the government bodies that create or control that information should provide access to it so that it can be published by other parties.

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.


Publicly funded secondary (interpretative) legal materials should be accessible for free but permission to republish is not always appropriate or possible. In particular free access to legal scholarship may be provided by legal scholarship repositories, legal information institutes or other means. (Text taken from : Declaration on Free Access to Law Full Text Link)

Budapest Open Access Initiative launched by Open Society Institute, 2002 

IFLA Internet Manifesto on "freedom of access to information" and the removal of "barriers to the flow of information 2002".  

Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2003.

Directory of Open Access Journals, 2003

Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, 2003

Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities , 2003

The Public Domain of Digital Research Data , 2004

IFLA Statement on Open Access to Scholarly Literature and Research Documentation, 2004

Scottish Declaration of Open Access, 2004

Vienna Declaration: 10 Theses on Freedom of Information, 2005

The Salvador Declaration on Open Access: The Developing World Perspective, 2005

National Open Access Policy for Developing Countries, 2006

IFLA/UNESCO Internet Manifesto Guidelines, 2006

Principles And Guidelines For Access To Research Data From Public Funding, (OECD) 2006

Declaration on Access to Research Data From Public Funding, (OECD) 2006

Brussels Declaration on STM Publishing, 2007

Public Domain Dedication & Licence, 2008

Kigali Declaration on the Development of an Equitable Information Society in Africa, 2009

OpenAIRE (Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe), 2010

Open Access Journal Bibliography, 2010 

Bibliography on Citation Impact, 2010 

Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship 2010

DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books), 2012

IS4OA (Infrastructure Services for Open Access), 2012

BOAI10 Recommendations, 2012

SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics), 2014

Department of Biotechnology and Department of Science & Technology Open Access Policy for access to DBT and DST Funder Research, Government of India, December, 2014.

Re3data.org (Registry of Research Data Repositories), 2015

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Open Access Policy 2015

Players supporting Open Access to Research Scholarship

Created and Maintained by

Dr. Priya Rai
Deputy Librarian and Head, Justice T.P.S. Chawla Library
National Law University Delhi-110078

Dr. Akash Singh
Assistant Librarian Sr. Scale, Justice T.P.S. Chawla Library
National Law University Delhi-110078