• http://www.tenoids.net Elmer Masters

    You may also want to check out Wex, a collaboratively built, freely available legal dictionary and encyclopedia using MediaWiki with content licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License. It is a Legal Information Institute project and already contains a lot of good information and links into the LII’s extensive collections.

  • Shane

    When do we get a wiki-government? I want the Open Source movement to tackle the budgets and the law-books at the local, state, and federal level to root out the pork, excess, and inefficiencies.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    The budgets and the law-books are pretty much already Open Source – it’s not like (with rare exceptions) they’re a secret.

    The problem is:

    1) Generally, nobody wants to read them for fun.

    2) The people who can benefit, hire people (aka “lawyers” and “lobbyists”) to read them and make changes advantageous to payer.

    The pork is there because somebody *wanted* it – not a bug because of a misunderstanding or ambiguity in the spec.

  • http://wiki-law.org/mwiki/index.php?title=Democracy_2.0:_Main_Page Aaron

    Shane. Wiki-government has been launched on the Wikilaw website. We have called it democracy 2.0. We have had over 64,000 page views over the past week.

    Here’s the link: http://wiki-law.org/mwiki/index.php?title=Democracy_2.0:_Main_Page

    Its an amazing social experiment, which we are hoping to transform into an effective filer of social norms. The filtering of social norms, in turn, will hopefully lead to more effective and efficient laws.

    Please spread the word, together we will be able to change the way our government operates.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Aaron, There’s probably little point in me playing grinch, but here’s a simple example of the problem:

    Someone edits wiki-law draft copyright law to say “Limited terms means limited term. Only 50 years”. A bunch of other people say “We agree! Wonderful! Only 50 years!”. Now what?

    There’s a huge difference between tapping into people’s desire to rant about “The Way Things Should Be Because I Say So!!!”, and having any sort of real-world impact whatsoever.

  • http://www.wiki-law.org Aaron

    Seth, I agree with you. We believe that their are a fininte number of laws and accompanying variations that people will impose on themselves. Over time, these laws will naturally cluster into groups.

    As such, the first goal of Democracy 2.0 is to get people to get together and becomes accustomed to writing laws in a collaborative setting: write out the variations in laws, and watch these laws cluster. We think this is the first step to developing social norms.

    Our next step will be to develop of a voting systerm to further filter these social norms. We are currently working on such a system with the help of our growing community.

    With a large community and a voting system, Democracy 2.0 has the potential to effectuate change.

  • http://www.glome.org Trevor Hill

    Great idea, guys. I think your next project should be a Wiki-Medicine site, where average Joes can help collaboratively develop medical doctrine without the oppression of entrenched academic and corporate interests, or of the snobbish elitism of “doctors” or so-called “experts”…


  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Aaron, the problem is that it’s a lot easier to write out a fantasy, especially when it has no reality-check. Right, laws cluster into groups – very roughly, there’s the Libertarians, and Christian Nation Under God, and Islamic Sharia law (all of which have various flavors), etc., etc. Now what? You don’t need a wiki to discover this. As a practical example, there’s a cluster that wants copyright to be infinite, another which wants it finite (in practice as well as theory). We have discovered this.

    How does having another net-argument, in wiki form, effectuate change? I submit it just wastes energy by dressing up old rants in new hype.

  • http://mayamoose.blogspot.com miss moose

    Great site – although I would love to see a Canadian branch as well. I am a canadian law student so I only have limited US legal knowledge. I did however upload the patent/IP knowledge I learned this summer at an international IP program at oxford.

    So Lessig I am looking forward to your contributions on the copyright side!

  • http://www.wiki-law.org Aaron

    While some people might rant on Democracy 2.0, I think your characterization overly simplifies the aggregating power of a wiki. Monarchial blogs simply lists rants. Wikis allow for aggregation of rants. The process of aggregation distinguishes Democracy 2.0.

    True, the process of aggregation clumps ideas into specific political persuasions, i.e., liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist. However, since there is no centralized control over a wiki, the process of aggregation also fuses together the ideas of users who possess a more moderate position on the given piece of legislation, extreme positions of people who oppose the legislation, or news ideas reached through debate.

    What is the result of aggregation: a more balanced piece of legislation? Balance. Such legislation will probably appeal to the special interest groups and politicians sympathetic hoping to solve the social problem the legislation addresses.

    From personal observation, I believe many people feel disenfranchised from the current political process. Democracy 2.0 may be more engaging than other more static forms of ranting. If Democracy 2.0 brings more people into political debate, I would consider it a worthwhile endeavor.

    The above does not even take into account the filtering power of a voting system. Our voting system will grant registered users the power to �vote� or �un-vote� a given piece of legislation throughout the course of its develop. Those pieces of legislation with the most votes or those pieces of legislation that recently generated a high volume of votes will be moved to a more prominent part of the webpage, allowing for further editing and refinement.

    Under such a system, the system incentivizes users to maximize the total number of votes for a given piece of legislation. Users will try to collect the most votes by reaching compromises, adding exceptions, and refining the language of a given piece of legislation. If the legislation devolves through this process, people can remove their votes, eventually resulting in the legislation being removed from its once prominent position on the website.

    Moreover, the process of moving high �vote� and rapidly developing legislation, focuses users on high quality, often edited pieces of legislation. As a result, most of the rants will remained buries in the wiki.

    Now, imagine under such a system, if one piece of legislation, which users have maximized to reach 1,000,000 votes. Let�s further assume that such a piece of legislation does not exist in the country. I would assume that Washington and other policy makers in this country would taken notice.

  • http://www.wiki-law.org Aaron


  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Regarding “I think your characterization overly simplifies the aggregating power of a wiki.”

    Well, basically, I think a wiki has very little political power, and has been imbued by hucksters (no offense intended) with supposed magic power. All it does is provide a revision-tracking system for group edits. If the group is dumb, it doesn’t make them any smarter. If the group is poor, it doesn’t make them rich. If the group is politically powerless, it doesn’t give them power. If they are all well-intentioned, it may provide a good way to draft a consensus document.


    I keep asking this question: We have one cluster of people who think the term of copyright should be infinite (in practice). We have another cluster of people who think the term should be a practical finite number. Now what? We know this. We know the arguments, basically. How does writing it in a wiki do anything at all?

    To reply: “What is the result of aggregation: a more balanced piece of legislation?” – No, the results can be two polarized outcomes, or driving out one group at the expense of the other. Which brings us back where we started.

    “Our voting system will grant registered users the power to “vote” or “un-vote” a given piece of legislation throughout the course of its develop. Those pieces of legislation with the most votes or those pieces of legislation that recently generated a high volume of votes will be moved to a more prominent part of the webpage, allowing for further editing and refinement.”

    Yes, and many people will vote that they shouldn’t pay taxes and government should give them pork. That’s popular.

    It’s very easy to write a fairy-tale. Sorry, again, I don’t intend to be mean. But my experiences with activism have make me aware it’s extremely hard.

  • Aaron

    I don’t think scholarly research on group decision-making supports your argument that the quality of group decision-making depends on the intellegence, socio-economic status of the members of a group. Although in a popularized form, James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds provides a good overview of recent findings. Slowly, these findings are shaping our world. For example, you find a thread of this in article about Google’s 10 Golden Rules . . . http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10296177/site/newsweek/

    I did not agrue that a wiki innate possesses political powers. A wiki creates a community. I think its hard to dispute that a large community lacks political power.

    I don’t disagree with you that polarization will occur. Clusters will form, i.e., your example of infinite or finite lenghts for copyrights. However, when the system incentivizes “vote” maximization, the more fringe laws, let’s say the one advocating for infinite lenghts for copyrights, will not generate the widespread support of the community. If it does not generate the widespread support of the community, it will not get recognition, and will wallow in the site’s backwaters.

    So, even if polarization initially occurs, vote maximization encourages more edits and provides an incentive for the community to reach a more “popular” and moderate position. More moderate positions will not be polarized.

    Moreover, under such a system, even if people vote for laws, such as people shouldn’t pay taxes and government should give them pork, that might not be a horrible thing. These decision might be symbolic of a more systemic problem with government, i.e., an overfunded government (hence, the desire to lower taxes) or a government who is not fulfilling its redistributive function (i.e., the demand for pork). (I question whether a demand for pork would even becomes popular on such a site, because of its localized scope.)

    I also don’t see why this makes a difference, every law distilled by Democracy 2.0 doesn’t have to be enacted.

    Americans will begin to demand their voice back in society. Just like music in the 1960s, an internet experiment (maybe a refined version of Democracy 2.0), will begin to change the political fabric of this country. Times are a changing.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    “I don’t think scholarly research on group decision-making supports your argument that the quality of group decision-making depends on the intelligence, socio-economic status of the members of a group.”

    My argument is “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. People without a clue don’t get one if they write their clueless material on a wiki. And much more dangerously, PEOPLE WHO DON’T TAKE POLITICAL ACTION tend to confuse writing on a mailing-list/blog/discussion forum/wiki/folksonomical-tagging-metasocial-network, to other relatively powerless people who share their views, with taking political action.

    Actually, the scholarly research on group decision-making is quite complex, and my argument would be rendered there as the dangers of “groupthink”. And way too many people are enamored of the idea that, in very rare circumstances, a bunch of wrong answers with a bifurcated distribution of errors can sometimes be signal-processed to extract a correct answer. They then hype this very minor quirk into a whole political philosophy of “twenty jackasses make an expert”.

    It sells. I understand that it sells. I grant you are well-intentioned. I don’t want to be too harsh. But anyone who lived through the Great Net Bubble of a few years ago knows crowds are *not* wise.

    “Slowly, these findings are shaping our world”

    You say that like it’s a good thing :-(. That is, marketing to the popular with disregard to the accurate is NOT a world which should be shaped (in my view).

    “I think its hard to dispute that a large community lacks political power.”

    Many large communities lack political power. Organizing is *hard work*.

    “Americans will begin to demand their voice back in society. Just like music in the 1960s, an internet experiment (maybe a refined version of Democracy 2.0), will begin to change the political fabric of this country. Times are a changing.”

    “Come senators, congressmen
    Please heed the call
    Don’t stand in the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There’s a battle outside
    And it is ragin’.
    It’ll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-changin’.”

    Particularly ironic given the tilt of senators, congressmen today.

  • http://www.openpolitics.ca anon

    You may want to check openpolitics.ca (CC by-nc-sa) out. It is a wiki service devoted to debates and news regarding politics in Canada. It has been instrumental in sparking a debate on the theory of open politics and its relationship to the structure of a political party, electoral system, and duties of government.

  • anon

    The site doesn’t make it clear if it’s focus in on american law, or law worldwide.

    In the preamble on the site, it states that it wishes to become the “largest in the world”, which seems to imply that its content is not be restricted to laws of the US. But, in fact, after I was browsing its content a bit, I found no international distinctions in its articals.

    It is a slight upon history (or an unintended admission that the US is unusually and tragically litigious) if they imply that a discussion on US law, all 300 or so years of it, could potentially eclipse any discussion on the many systems of law particular to other jurisdicutions despite some of those having been developed over thousands of years.

  • aaron

    Focus is on U.S. now and eventually worldwide. Takes time to build a community. If community overly broad, collapses under its own weight.

  • ACS


    The problem with Wiki Law is the same as the problem with most wiki sites, it is completely up to the public. Now lawyers more than anyone else know that the last thing you want to do is allow the public to draw conclusions about anything. There is no guarantee that what is written will be anything more than mere opinion – as most law is- and the value of that opinion is subjective. Take our esteemed hosts views with respect to Grokster!!

    My greatest fear is that someone will rely on wiki-law and only realise that it is incorrect at the end of a cross examination.

    Relax, Im sure the people that contribute to wiki law won’t be held responsible whatsoever.


  • fed-up

    Wiki-law is just another manifestation of the intellectual dishonesty that is pervasive among ip “scholars”. Witness the propaganda machines of Lessig, Jaszi, Boyle, etc.

    Democracy 2.0 is just a different bludgeon to push anti-author copyright reform.

  • anon

    Propoganda machine? Umm. . .

  • http://www.constitution.org Jon Roland

    Link to Wiki-Law did not work as of 2007/03/25 21:27 CDT, so can’t examine the site, but I am wondering if this site will enable people to collabotratively develop legal pleadings in actual cases (with the parties, case, and court identifications redacted). There is a real need for people with actual court cases who can’t affort a lawyer to get competent legal help, anonymously (to avoid the “unauthorized practice of law” problem, among others). There is a danger of getting bad “legal advice” through this system, but with participation by enough good lawyers (quickly enough for those on a deadline), there is a greater danger for those unable to afford a “licensed” lawyer, who, as a member of a State Bar, is a member of what amounts to a racketeer-influenced and corrupt organization that enables the gang of its members to prey on the public.

  • Supremacy Claus

    Check all postings for readability level. Any submission should be rejected if scoring above the 8th grade, that of the owner of the law, the public. Let the author reword the submission into short, simple, declarative sentences and resubmit. This is not censorship of content, but quality control of language.

  • http://www.metagovernment.org Meta

    There is a wiki government (or there is about to be):


  • http://www.spoon.cx/~larcher/blog/ larcher

    is Wiki-Law still around?
    I’m getting 404′s for the whole thing, even the top page ( “The requested URL / was not found on this server.” )

    aha, or maybe it’s just WikiLaw now (de-hyphenated) .. that seems to work

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