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International law

Nicholas A. Robinson

The Internet provides direct access to many primary sources of Environmental Law. Nations increasingly provide their environmental statutes and regulations on the Internet. As specialist environmental law centers, universities, government agencies or other entities assemble and provide a jurisdiction’s environmental laws on the Internet, a world-wide service useful for legal research is maintained and expanded. For instance, the Environmental Law Alliance (E-Law), a network of public interest environmental law specialists, has been assembling texts of laws on the Internet since the early 1990s .

Use of the Internet’s facile access to these laws, however, should be guided professionally by two factors: (1) there must be a verification or authentication of the legal texts accessed via the Internet, and for this purpose either use of The Criterion for Environmental Law Internet Research or of an authentication by the duly designated official source of the statutory or regulatory text is needed; and (2) orientation and evaluation of the environmental laws is needed by way of expert commentary, provided here by the chapters of this treatise on Comparative Environmental Law & Regulation, published by Oceana Publications, Inc.,because without such expert commentary there is no way to assess whether what one finds on the Internet is complete, wholly relevant, or subject to complicating elements contained in other bodies of law not on the Internet or hyper linked to the legal references in use.

This treatise may be rendered more useful by reference to primary Environmental Law texts on the Internet, provided these two caveats are employed. In supplements to Comparative Environmental Law & Regulations, new or revised sources, or “sites,” of Environmental Law on the Internet will be critiqued and provided. The Universal Resource Locators (“URL”s), that is the addresses on the Internet or Internet source citations, will be provided for each jurisdiction’s Environmental Laws. Where additional research services are provided along with the primary legal texts, these will be evaluated and assessed in terms of The Criterion for Environmental Law Internet Research. Because the Internet is developing rapidly, these URLs and their appraisal will be in need of revision almost constantly; users are advised, therefore, to make their own independent appraisals of the URLs at any given moment of use, with reference to the terms of the Criterion. Indeed, as the Criterion itself is revised to take into account changes in the Internet or Environmental Law, there will be a need to reassess even those URLs previously considered.

Before providing the URLs for the Environmental Law of different jurisdictions, it will be useful to set forth the Criterion for Environmental Law Internet Research, since the URLs were selected initially on the basis of applying this Criterion, and must be re- evaluated regularly with reference to the Criterion.

THE CRITERION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL LAW RESEARCH

COMPARATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW URLsIn its initial stages, the Internet provided access to a wide range of information. The joke about the early phases of developing digitalized information on data-bases, “garbage in- garbage out,” was an apt description of the worst elements of what was passed as an Environmental Law source on the Internet. The user could not tell whether the text of a law was authentic, had been obtained from a parliament directly, or other official source, had been proof-read against an original text before being published on the Internet, was being maintained and updated regularly, and was secure against tampering or cyber-vandalism by computer hackers. Often, more than one source of a law would be posted on the Internet and there would be “small” differences among the texts such that one would not be able to rely on any of them with confidence.

This variability of the accuracy of the data presented on the Internet presents a challenge to those who would seek to use the Internet to access the texts of treaties, statutes, regulations or the acts of international or national and subnational governmental authorities. One of the strengths of the Internet, that is the ability to access the laws of jurisdictions remote from that of the user, is also a potential weakness in that it is difficult to gauge the accuracy of that foreign information.

Attorneys, diplomats, scholars, government officials, all would find the Internet an invaluable reference for accessing national legislation and treaties and other international legal instruments. Each has a professional obligation to ensure that the text of a law to be relied upon is accurate. Before making use of an Internet source for law, the user must make a due diligence inquiry in order to ascertain the quality and reliability of that source.

Establishing a reliable source for primary legal texts on the Internet requires a combination of substantive legal knowledge, technical expertise, use of quality controls systems, and process for authenticating the texts presented, and appropriate disclosures showing users how any given Internet site has been organized in light of these elements.

Pace University School of Law first developed a “Reliability Index” for this purpose in 1996 in connection with the preparation of the “Virtual Environmental Law Library” . This working set of criteria for Environmental Law references on the Internet then referred to a Committee on Environmental Law Internet Standards (CELIS) of the Commission on Environmental Law of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). CELIS is charged with conducting an annual legal peer review of Internet legal reference standards to refine and improve the criteria identified.

The following initial criteria for determining the degree to which one may choose to rely upon a legal text found on the Internet as authoritative has been assembled. This Criterion forInternet Legal Research is intended to provide guidance for each Internet user to form an independent judgement as to the reliability of a law found on the Internet. Following the annual review by The IUCN’s CELIS of these criteria any revision of them will be published and the updates also posted on the Internet through IUCN  and Pace University through its Center for Environmental Legal Studies, which is an institutional non-governmental academic member of IUCN, and others.

Reliability Indicators

In summary, the elements which may be consulted as guidance as to the reliability of the texts of laws found on the Internet may be considered under six headings, as follows:

  1. Authority of the Information Provider – If the treaty or statute is posted on the Internet by the official depository of a treaty or the parliament or justice ministry of a nation or province/state, then the Internet site may be deemed reliable as a primary source. There is still the possibility of errors in the digitalization of the text, but the official status of the document provider makes this unlikely. Where the official source goes further and actually certifies that the text is as adopted, then the source is deemed highly reliable. Eventually, a protocol for official certification of legal texts will be an essential element of the Internet, but it will take some years for this system to be accepted and even longer before it is universally used, and therefore the further elements of this Criterion provide important guidance on a continuing basis.
  2. Institutional Character of Information Provider – Internet sources can represent the work of a single individual, such as a student, or can be provided through an institutionalized system such as a University faculty or library. Some commercial sites on the Internet can have made a major investment in providing accurate data for a fee, and contractually guarantee the accuracy of the data. These secondary sources need to be evaluated carefully before they are relied upon. The Internet site should explain who has establish the service and how it is maintained; the absence of such an explanation should raise doubts as to the currency or future completeness and accuracy of the data presented. Specialized research centers and institutes that present legal texts in the field of their specialization, are usually very reliable. Advocacy organizations may take care to present a text related to their cause, but may not include all relevant related legal texts that might not support their cause, and these Internet sites need to be used more judiciously.
  3. Qualifications of the Individuals Maintaining the Information Site – Users of an Internet site presenting primary sources of law should be able to identify the persons who have established and maintain that service. If the Site discloses the names and qualifications of those individuals, the users can gauge how seriously they wish to relay upon the accuracy or completeness of the references. If a primary source of law is presented on the Internet by representatives of the authority responsible for promulgating or maintain that law, their official status constitute qualifications that can be deemed reliable. Libraries or University institutes or other expert entities that provide access to primary environmental law on the Internet as professionals may also been deemed reliable. Where the discipline or expertise of the individuals is the same as the subject matter of the Internet references provided, the degree of confidence in the Site may also be deemed high. Bar Associations, and scholarly or professional publishers that maintain an Internet Site may also represent a high degree of reliability, since they are in the business of providing such texts to be relied upon.
  4. The commitment to maintaining the Site – Users can assess the reliability of a Site from explanations of the technological capacity of the Internet Site and the systems to maintain it. The Site should disclose how often it is updated, whether it has a mirror system and tape back-up to ensure continued availability of the site in case of a systems failure of any kind, frequency of update or maintenance, and the systems used to maintain the site. More reliable Sites are those which are revised both on a regularly announced schedule and as events may warrant more frequently. The Site should disclose the hardware and software systems used to establish and to maintain the Site. Safeguard, such as “fire walls” to protect the integrity of the Site, should be indicated. Too many early sites on the Internet are not kept up regularly, or at all. Users need to gauge the permanence of a Site, and the likelihood that continued reliance on the Site will be a high expectation. If the Site is a governmental agency, is its funding for the Site regularly budgeted or ephemeral? Steady and dependable funding procedures will be preferable for reliability. Some confidence can be derived when a Site is maintained by a lead institution as part of a consortium, and other partner institutions can take on the task should the lead not be able to continuing doing so. The nature of the consortium obligations should be indicated.
  5. Document Integrity – The Site should explain the procedures employed to ensure that the primary texts presented are current and accurate. What was the source of the document? What steps where taken to verify the digitalized text against the actual original document. If an English (or other) translation is included, is there a certification as to the accuracy of the translation both by the legal expert fluent in the original language of the law and the translation, and by the translator? Has the Site establishing a hyperlink taken any measures to ascertain the reliability of the data provided through that hyperlink; if no such measures are taken, that disclaimer should be disclosed along with the identify of the Site to which the hyperlink has been made. The scope and character of any disclaimers should be weighed in evaluating reliability.
  6. Apostil – In due course, official sources of law will increasingly provide an authorization for Internet site providers to set forth a sort of virtual “seal” for the legal text provided on the Internet, certifying that the text provided by a given Site is in fact accurate. This official certification should be sought and presented when the jurisdictions or authorities concerned provide it. A provider or primary sources of law on the Internet should disclose if the certification is available yet or not.

Further general considerations

When applying the elements of this Criterion for Environmental Law Internet Research to any given Internet Site, it will be necessary to visit the Site periodically to test whether the Site can maintain standards such as these. The software for the Internet is evolving rapidly, and issues of authenticity and reliability will depend more on the substantive expertise of those who have established or maintain the Site than on the attractiveness or superficial representations as to the excellence of the Site. A Site that consistently upgrades over a longer period of time will earn the respect of users and be relied upon.

It is important when citing to the Universal Resource Locator (URL) for an Internet Site used as the source of a legal text that the citation include the date on which the URL was accessed, because Sites are revised and updated (or neglected and become obsolete and may even be removed from the Internet). In scholarship, it may be necessary to quote the text relied upon or to maintain a file, reference copy, in the event the URL is changed. Internet citation should have the following format:

{name of author or source, e.g. UN} {full title of document} {URL:e.g. <http://www.pace.law.edu>} {date of document} (Accessed: Date of accessing URL}.

The angle brackets < > are used to identify the specific Internet address. Other types of access, such as a gophers or a file transfer protocols (ftp), should be indicated in the URL whenever used. It is preferable to include the entire citation on one line, rather than inserting breaks.Although not focused on legal texts primarily, further discussion of citations may be referred to in William’s College’s CITING ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTS (Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA), accessible on the Internet at, or in the Modern Language Association’s CITATION GUIDE, accessible on the Internet.

Beyond these elements of the Criterion for reliability, issues of design and structure will be important in selecting Internet Sites for legal research. Internet Sites may been deemed more valuable for research if the texts of the laws provided at the Site are presented with their complete text, with the depth of any related laws or implementing regulations or other legal instruments; a comprehensive Site, or one with the necessary hyperlinks for comprehensive coverage, will be a more efficient reference. Sites that have efficient search engines, and indices or a thesaurus, will be more useful. Sites that are innovative in format, employing icons and graphics in ways that enhance the research value or ease of use, are make apt use of new technology, will win users confidence.

Finally, the Internet Society (ISOC) has developed guidelines for a code of conduct for users of the Internet. While the guidelines are not entirely germaine to legal research on the Internet, users should be familiar with them. ISOC’s “Internet Code of Conduct” can be accessed.

Critiques of this Criterion may be submitted for IUCN’s CELIS to the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, 214 Adenaueralle, Bonn 53113, Germany, or c/o the Center for Environmental Legal Studies, Pace University School of Law, 78 North Broadway, White Plains, New York 10603, USA.

It can be downloaded into the subsequent edition of the printed pamphlet, and again newly identified, reviewed and evaluated Sites will appear in the next interim virtual supplement by Oceana.

Updates on Environmental Law URLs

The volume of environmental law primary documents accessible through the Internet is expanding rapidly. This growth is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, but since there is no systematic way to identify the most authoritative URLs easily, without investing hours in “surfing the web,” these additional references will not be easily identified. This Pamphlet will be reissued at regular intervals in order to include new URLs; the sites will have been reviewed and evaluated in terms of the Criterion for Environmental Law Internet Research.

In the period between the publication of these updates, Oceana Publications will include supplementary URLs as they are identified, reviewed and evaluated. Readers will want to consult that “virtual” electronic supplement to this Pamphlet at Oceana’s Internet Site . All postings at Oceana’s URL for this pamphlet will be downloaded into the subsequent edition of the printed pamphlet, and again newly identified, reviewed and evaluated Sites will appear in the next interim virtual supplement by Oceana.

COMPARATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW URLs

This research guide to URLs providing primary sources of environmental law on the Internet is intended to complement the professional analyses provided in the chapters of Comparative Environmental Law & Regulation. Because identifying supplemental URLs or revisions to URLs is ongoing, Oceana Publications provides an electronic “Update” service through its own Internet Provider.

One valuable source to all law, including environmental law, on the Internet, is the “Global Legal Information Network” (GLIN) of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., USA. (URL: http://lcweb2.loc.gov.glin). The Library of Congress’ goal is, over the long- term, to provide access internationally to all the laws of the world. As different nations enter into agreements with the Library of Congress, they collaborate together to provide their laws through this “Global Legal Information Network.” The Network provides two search engines, one for the Member States participating in the Network, and another for the general public. This Network is presently growing slowly, but steadily. It is largely incomplete, but is already a useful reference and should be increasingly valuable in the future.

Another research system that provides a sophisticated architectural framework for environmental through which to link the laws of the various nations, their provinces and states, and local authorities, is the “Virtual Environmental Law Library” established by Pace University School of Law. (URL: http://www.pace.law.edu). This reference seeks to collaborate with University environmental law programs and others, internationally, to provide access to specific subjects within the extensive field of environmental law. This facilitates comparative analysis, as well as saves the researcher time by focusing access on research targets.

As primary sources of law, such as that of the Library of Congress’ GLIN, become more readily available, the value of the servers of environmental law on the Internet will be enhanced if their search engines reflect a sophisticated understanding of the substance, procedures, structures and systems of environmental law. This Research Guide will identify sources which are both accurate in the laws presented, and which have organized the access to these laws in highly professional and expert ways.

This treatise provides the listing of Internet environmental law materials here by State, arranged alphabetically. The current listing corresponds to chapters in this treatise. Future supplements will expand to include jurisdictions with analysis in the treatise as well as those for which the analysis is still in preparation.

Commonwealth of AUSTRALIA

Australia provides a most comprehensive set of federal and state and even local primary environmental law sources on the Internet. Institutions in Australia have rapidly established the Internet as a legal research service and done so with close attention to maintaining both professional and technical quality.

“Australian Environment On Line” provides environmental statutes provided by the federal Department of Environment, Sports And Territories. The GLIN also provides links to useful references..

AUSTRIA – AUSTRIAN REPUBLIC (REPUBLIC ÖSTERREICH)

Selected environmental laws of Austria are provided by the Austrian Environment agency, Umweltbundesamt.GLIN also provides coverage of Austrian environmental law..

Republic of BELARUS (Respublika Belarus)

The referendum of December, 1996, has reorganized the role of the parliament and the presidency of Belarus, in ways that requires fundamental changes to the constitution of that State. Most environmental law information is not available on the Internet, and that which is not current with the new political and legal developments. The University of Pittsburgh maintains a research service on “Russian and East European Studies” (REESWEB), which includes Belarus. Some reference to law can be found in a “Guide to Belarus” on the Internet..

Bermuda (See United Kingdom)

COSTA RICA

Environmental Law is quite advanced in Costa Rica, as our the legal references for this field. Internet access is rapidly developing. Costa Rica’s Constitution is available through Georgetown University.

CANADA

Environmental Law in Canada is very advanced at both the federal and provincial levels, and a great deal of it is available on the Internet, provided through a number of excellent references. Among the most useful references are the provision of Canadian law provided by the federal government, the references to selected environmental statutes through the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC), established under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Province of British Columbia. The CEC (also covering analogous Mexican and USA environmental laws), is arranged by subject matter and provides English, French and Spanish versions. Canadian law can be accessed through “West Coast Environmental Law”. The Constitution is available through Georgetown University. 

Peoples Republic of CHINA

The National Research Institute on Environmental Law of Wuhan University provides access to limited aspects of Chinese Environmental Law. A study by the World Bank of Chinese Environmental Law will permit providing more of China’s environmental laws on line in the near future. GLIN covers China, and has a separate coverage of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

CZECH Republic (Ceska Republika)

Czech environmental laws are well elaborated, but few are as yet available on the Internet. GLIN provides some basic references.

EUROPEAN UNION

Environmental law in the European Community is rapidly being elaborated at the Community level. Internet access, provided by the EC itself, to this body of law may grow slowly, however, because of the necessity to provide such laws in various languages. The texts of primary sources will be available otherwise. The European Commission provides access to information about legal structures and systems and texts, through the European Commission Host Organisation (ECHO). A guide exists for European Community policy and in “On the Record” offers lists of laws.GLIN also provides information about environmental law in the European Union. The University of Sheffield provides a thorough set of EU references 

The Republic of FRANCE (Republique Francaise)

Although France has a well elaborated system of environmental law, it is still difficult to access it over the Internet. Citations to environmental laws in The Journal Officiel are available but it is difficult via a gopher to find the actual texts. Access is facilitated through GLIN.

Federal Republic of GERMANY

The environmental laws of the Federal government and the Lander are increasingly available on the Internet. The University of Stuttgart offers a comprehensive collection of German law with FTP access.The Free University of Berlin offers an elaborate hyperlink system permitting access to all the various Internet servers in Germany, although not many at this point offer environmental law.

INDIA

The Union and State environmental laws of India remain difficult to access on the Internet. GLIN provides some basic references.

Basic environmental information is also available through Columbia University’s Area Studies program on “South Asian Resources Access on the Internet” (SARAI). Similarly, the National University of Australia provides information on the environment in India through its area studies. 

ITALY

The University of Torino provides the Italian Civil Code in Italian, and some laws.GLIN offers basic information on Italian environmental law.

JAMAICA

The environmental laws of Jamaica are not much accessible through the Internet. GLIN provides basic information. Jamaica’s Constitution is available through Georgetown University.

JAPAN (Nippon)

The environmental laws of Japan are somewhat accessible through the Internet Site of the Prime Minister’s Office.

KOREA (See South Korea)

MEXICO

The environmental laws of Mexico, arranged by subject, are accessible through the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) established under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).GLIN also provides access to environmental information and laws in Mexico.. Mexico’s constitutions are available through Georgetown University. 

The Kingdom of the NETHERLANDS

Environmental Law services on the Internet are expanding in The Netherlands. Some are subject-matter related, as in the coastal zone management conference held in The Netherlands, comparing different regimes. Most are accessible through GLIN.

PAKISTAN

Although the environmental laws of Pakistan are developing rapidly, they are not yet available on the Internet. Some access to information can be found through the Columbia University Area Studies program for “South Asian Resources Access on the Internet” (SARAI).GLIN provides some basic information on environmental law in Pakistan.The National University of Australia also provides information on Pakistan in its “Area Studies WWW Virtual Library”. 

RUSSIAN Federation

Environmental Law information for Russia is difficult to obtain generally. The Federal laws are accessible somewhat on the Internet, but the oblast and autonomous region laws are not. Ecojustist, a public interest law firm in Moscow linked to the ELAW network, provides some current Russian environmental law Bucknell University provides the Russian Constitution  The University of Pittsburgh’s “Russian and East European Studies” (REESWEB) resources has some reference to Russian environmental law.. GLIN also covers Russian environmental Law..

SINGAPORE

The Asia-Pacific Environmental Law Centre of the Faculty of Law of the National University of Singapore is assembling the laws of the States members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) for inclusion on the Internet, including the environmental laws of Singapore itself. The government of Singapore’s national computer board has an elaborate web site for information on the environmental systems in Singapore, as does the ministry of the environment, but neither as yet provides access to the texts of laws and regulations. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) provides the Constitution of Singapore.

SOUTH AFRICA

The South African environmental laws, and proposals for new legislation, are available through the University of Rhodes which hosts the Internet site for the Southern Africa Environment Project.

SOUTH KOREA

The National University of Seoul University College of Law provides access to laws of South Korea, including some references to environmental law. GLIN also includes environmental law asia information on S. Korea.

UKRAINE

Ukraine environmental law at the national and local levels is difficult top access. A public interest law center in L’viv, ECOPRAVO, linked to the ELAW network, provides current information. The University of Pittsburgh’s “Russian and West European Studies” (REESWEB) resources include some materials on Ukrainian environmental law. 

UNITED KINGDOM of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and dependencies

The United Kingdom’s environmental laws are accessible for England and Wales, for Scotland, for Bermuda, and other areas separately. The Internet access is expanding rapidly, but at present remains limited. The University of Sheffield provides a virtual library that provides links to some legal reference services.GLIN offers separate access for the components of the United Kingdom, such as Scotland , or England and Wales which share must the same environmental laws. Her Majesty’s Stationary Office is preparing the laws of the UK to provide on the Internet.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The federal statutes and regulations, and those for many of the States in the USA are available on the Internet. See the Environmental Law materials assembled by the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School for primary texts and hyperlinks to other references. The Federal Web Locator provides access to all US federal agencies and their regulations.

International Environmental Law

The national regimes for environmental protection are increasingly guided by a set of international framework agreements on environmental protection and resource management. The various States that have signed and ratified these international agreements implement them through their national environmental laws. Even where a State’s environmental laws are not available on the Internet, these multilateral environmental agreements can be found, along with whether the given national has adhered to the treaty. These are collected, with authentication by the treaty secretariats or depositories, by Pace University School of Law in its Virtual Environmental Law Library (VELL) under International Environmental Law.

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