Bulgarian Legal Information Systems

March 13, 2009

I read the judgment in {i}Apis-Hristovich v Lakorda{/i} (Case C-545/07), the latest case on database right and its alleged breach, with initial impatience. Lakorda’s modules had a number of similarities in style to those of Apis, notes and links that were on the Apis system were mirrored on Lakorda’s, Lakorda’s database creators had worked for Apis and, perhaps crucially, a series of ‘unpublished judgments’ which were published only by Apis were on the Lakorda system too. All seemed to point to copying.

I longed for the robustness in the judgment that one might have found in an English, Australian or US court judgment – a heavy hint that the defendants really should put up their hands and dig into their pockets. (ECJ and ECHR judgments rarely entertain with studied and learned rudeness – I miss that.) But I did begin to wonder whether the Court’s patience might be justified.

While readers may be surprised to learn that I am not an expert on Bulgarian legal information systems, I do know something about legal information systems – having been involved in their design, development and use. I know for example that ‘unpublished judgments’ are rarely collected by the legal publisher one by one, they usually gain the light of day by dint of the legal publisher being contacted by someone, usually a court officer, with a disk full of them that he or she has kept in a drawer for years and has made use of for internal purposes. So it is no great stretch to imagine that Lakorda too met ‘the man with the disk in his drawer’. Furthermore, I know that most legal material dictates its own links and notes – for example, you don’t need to copy from another to know that a reference in a case to s. 114 of the CJA 2003 should usefully link to that part of your database that contains s. 114. And of course styles and methods of display are standardised in publishing houses so ex-employees will leave believing that the style they used is right (and usually they believe that any other style is a form of heresy, but that’s another story).

So maybe there is hope for Lakorda when the case goes back to the Bulgarian Court. I don’t fancy their chances though, do you?