Lagen.nu is a non-profit, volunteer-run web site which provides access to legal information concerning the swedish legal system. It contains all statutes published in the main collection of statutory law, SFS (Svensk Författningssamling), an archive of case law from the swedish supreme court, the supreme administrative court, and a number of special courts, a large archive of preparatory works, a number of precental administrative decisions from a number of government agencies and regulations from several other government agencies. It also contains commentary on a number of the most important statutes, as well as important legal terms. These commentaries are written by law students and practicing lawyers.
Like any legal system, swedish law can be daunting at first. The style of writing has changed considerably from the oldest laws (from 1736) to the ones written today, and the terms used, as well as the structure of the regulation, often needs to be explained to be understandable. This understanding is what a typical legal education provides. But since the law applies to everyone - not just the legally trained - there is a need for an explaination of the statutory text. We provide this in the form of a law commentary for the most important statutes.
For each important section of these statutes, a brief explaination of the section is written. This can include descriptions of terms used, guidelines for balancing opposing interests, notes on how the section have been referred to in important legal cases, and hypothetical examples of it's application. It frequently refers to other parts of the law that one needs to be aware of when analysing the particular section.
Legal terms are often used in many different section commentaries. In these cases, it's often more effective to just mention the term in the section commentary and link it to a separate page, containing a more detailed description of the term, so that a reader not familiar with the term can learn more about it. This also keeps the statutory law commentary brief for readers who are familiar with the term.
The commentaries have so far mainly been written by law students. The text of the commentaries are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. Anyone who is knowledgeable about a certain statute is welcome to apply for writing its commentary.
The actual writing is done using the Mediawiki system, the same web-based wiki application that Wikipedia uses. The text is written according to certain conventions (such as prefixing the commentary for an individual section with a headline consisting of that section's number). When saving the text of a legal commentary, it gets weaved together with the statutory law text and presented alongside of it. The text of pages that describe legal terms are combined with legal cases and statutes using or defining the same term.
Swedish legal information
As a civil law country, swedish law is primarily concerned with statutory law. The main legislative powers are the parliament (Riksdagen) and the government (Regeringen) - each of these institutions can adopt statutes which are published in the main official collection of statutory law, the Svensk Författningssamling (SFS). The statutes enacted by the parliament are referred to as laws, and the statutes enacted by the government as ordinances.
Whenever a particular statute is changed, this is done by adopting a new statute (the change statute) that states what sections of the old statute (the base statute) are to be changed, and how. In SFS, only these base statutes and change statutes are published. In practice, consolidated versions (texts where the actual texts of the base statutes have been changed according to subsequent change statutes) are used by lawyers and courts, but these texts are not officially binding.
Lagen.nu uses consolidated versions of the statutes, available from the governments legal databases. These versions, which are in a non-structured plain text version, is parsed and analysed to get a XML version of the text that represents the true structure of the statue, divided into chapters, sections, paragraphs and so on.
Court decisions are also an important part of swedish law, particularly the decisions from the supreme courts. The National Courts Administration makes available an archive of over 10 000 court decisions. These are available with the full text of the verdict as well as some metadata (such as which statutory law sections the verdict is based upon, earlier cases referred to, and keywords for the issues in the case).
There are other sources of legal information in the Swedish system - particularly preparatory works for the statutes are often used when interpreting the statutes themselves, and courts often explicitly refer to these preparatory works. Certain administrative agencies have the power to create binding statutes concerning issues in their area. Some administrative agencies have the power to make legally binding decisions for certain issues, and these decisions are often referred to, particularly when doing legal investigations in areas where there's a dearth of supreme court decisions (such as consumer rights - not many consumers have the time and resources to appeal a case all the way to the supreme court). These sources are not yet present at lagen.nu.
We actively want people to use and reuse the legal information and functionality found at lagen.nu. We make this possible in four different ways.
The actual statutory text are not copyrighted. The text of the legal cases are copyrighted, but may be reproduced by anyone as long as the text is not improperly changed and the author (in this case the National Courts Administration) is credited.
Lagen.nu makes these texts available in a structured, XML-based format (specifically XHTML with embedded RDFa metadata). They can also be downloaded in bulk. The metadata used in the system (for example titles, dates, case numbers, and links between cases and statutes) is expressed using RDF, and the entire metadata set (comprising over a million RDF triples) can be downloaded in bulk as well.
To run a web site like lagen.nu on a volounteer budget, a lot of things need to be automated. There is a fairly complex code base to do things like downloading all statutes and legal cases, parsing the raw data, structuring it and formatting it for presentation. This is done mainly in python (around 25000 lines) and XSLT (around 2500 lines). The code is licensed under a BSD-style license and can be fetched from GitHub - everybody who wishes to build a similar site, or just to find out how we have done certain things, are welcome to check it out.
If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.