Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Access to data denied: why isn’t there a free database of UK laws?

In today’s Guardian, Heather Brooke asks why there isn’t an online database which would tell us what laws are in force.

On August 2, the government rolled out the second stage of a long-delayed project to make the consolidated law of parliament accessible to the people. So how does it look? The public – who paid for the whole project – can’t get a look in.

No free public access sites have been granted permission to view the current system and testers of the database – predominantly from commercial legal publishing firms – have been told not to share their login and password. Even so, some testers are not entirely happy with what they’ve found after logging on to the top secret database of our country’s laws.

Firstly, an astounding Crown copyright notice greets the reader: “The Statute Law Database and the material on the SLD website are subject to Crown copyright protection. The Crown copyright waiver that applies to published legislation generally does not apply to SLD because it is a value-added product.

No matter that the value was added by public officials at taxpayer expense…

We think you’ll be amazed at how your data is being kept from you.

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