France Requires Online Publication Of Certain Laws To Be Valid

from the seems-like-a-good-thing dept

Laurent GUERBY writes in to point us to some news of a new decree from the French government, supposedly saying that all laws must be published on the prime minister's website to be valid (link in French, Google translation to English). Guerby's reading is that this means if the government does not publish all laws on the prime minister's website by May of next year, any unpublished law is no longer valid. Not knowing much French, it's not clear to me if that's actually the case, but I would love for anyone else to chime in on this. If true, though, it certainly makes sense, and makes you wonder why France hasn't been publishing laws online for years.

Reader Comments (rss)

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  1. icon
    Chris Maresca (profile), Dec 16th, 2008 @ 6:52pm

    As far as I read it...

    ... it's not about laws but about instructions given to state bodies by ministers and ministries. So, all the administrative regs that are rarely formally published.

    The sarcastic comment in the the French post suggests that bureaucrats have four months to gather and sort all the administrative orders ever issued.

    The other part of the post mentions how this is a blow to administrative secrecy and how everything needs to be public, able to be examined and findable.



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    James Carmichael, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 7:37pm

    As Chris mentionned, "circulaires et instructions" are not the French law per se, only a branch of it. Also, this act does not apply to provinces or municipalities, only the French 'Etat' (State).

    Still, a step in the right direction.

    Now if they were to do the same with all the laws, and have the server hacked...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 10:06pm

    Its simple. Its not the best idea. What happens when the sight gets hacked and some prankster changes or adds to the laws?
    The benefit of print is that there are multiple duplicate copies which can be verified.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 10:16pm


    If the point is transparency, you can simply say that all laws must be available to view online, barring being hacked. You can also have several websites carrying this information, instead of just one. I don't think anyone is saying that the print versions are going to be abolished. They're just saying that this information has to be available online as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Paul Brinker, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 10:17pm

    I doubt

    I don't think I site hack would count for anything, what you would need is a really good DOS attack to keep the site down for about 2 weeks before till about 2 weeks after the deadline. Then the state would have no laws.

    Really though, this should be policy everyplace, of course the laws should be written so someone knowledgeable of the field it covers should understand it too. Then lawyer stuff could be impossible for anyone to read, while other laws like health codes (which get wildly thrown out of wack) Would have to be written so a high schooler could understand them.

    And please help us for traffic laws vs what really happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Bunny, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 10:46pm

    Some companies own the copyrights

    Federal law seems fairly available to me, but in some states in the U.S. (I haven't done a full survey of all 50) they have a book publisher publish their laws, some of whom end up owning the copyrights to our otherwise public laws. This is a huge cash cow for them. The official publisher can then charge tens of thousands of dollars for a pile of books that law firms have to update every year. I wouldn't be too surprised to find that these companies will be opposed to full transparency of our laws on the internet, and possibly the states as well depending on their cut of the profits and their current financial health.

    Doesn't bode well for full transparency in the U.S., but other countries may be able to make good use of the resulting increase in civic participation if they don't face similar roadblocks.

    I for one would love to be able to google every law passed by my so-called public servants, who apparently are there to serve someone else's interest and to keep me ignorant about the laws they will then accuse me of breaking, but for which I am supposed to be cognizant of... *sigh*

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    St├ęphane, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 2:19am

    Journal Officiel

    The French government has already set up an electronic law publication system a few years ago, with a special website dedicated to the official (i.e. laws are applicable when they get on this site) publication of laws and also administrative documents : They have an authentification mecanism based on certificates and 2048 bits RSA keys. There is also another government site ( publishing all the law, but without certification nor legal value. The blog article you refer to is a new law requiring all administrations to publish their, well, administrative documents ("circulaires et instructions", maybe someone with some law background could explain it better) to a website depending on the prime minister, just like the journal officiel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Geography Teacher, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 5:58am

    Re: I doubt

    France is a country not a state mate. Its over in 'Europe' which is that bit east of 'England' (also a country) with lots of people who speak funny.

    They have their own president and everything. And a big tower that they copied from that hotel in Las Vegas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Geography Teacher, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 6:00am

    Re: I doubt

    France is a country not a state mate. Its over in 'Europe' which is that bit east of 'England' (also a country) with lots of people who speak funny.

    They have their own president and everything. And a big tower that they copied from that hotel in Las Vegas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Easily Amused, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: I doubt

    It is usually helpful to know at least the basics of a subject before correcting someone else, especially if you plan on being condescending about it.

    a snippet from wiki :

    In casual usage, the terms "country," "nation," and "state" are often used as if they were synonymous; but in a more strict usage they can be distinguished:

    * Country denotes a geographical area.
    * Nation denotes a people who are believed to or deemed to share common customs, origins, and history. However, the adjectives national and international also refer to matters pertaining to what are strictly states, as in national capital, international law.
    * State refers to the set of governing and supportive institutions that have sovereignty over a definite territory and population.

    As in 'Secretary of State', get it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Proper English, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: I doubt

    In proper english, France is a state, Spain is a state, the united states is a state, and Australia is a state. In fact every country is a state. But you speak American so you think state means provence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 3:47am

    It is not legislation which has to be on the Prime Minister's website, but simply documents interpreting legislation (the "circulaires") and the instructions given by ministers to the administration. None of those documents have any legal binding force and are not applied by Courts as legislation.
    It is a very positive move. Nobody will have to go to their local city hall (mairie) to know how Government interprets the law for its staff; everything will have to be online.
    It is also sensible to have it on the Prime MInister's website rather than on Legifrance which holds the Constitution, all legislation (parliament and government) and all courts' decision, because Legisfrance published documents having binding legal force or highly influencal.
    The decree translates as following: "The interpretative documents and instructions addressed by the ministers to all services and governmental organisations will have to be made available to the public on a website linked to the Prime Minister. They will be classified and categorised to ease use. Any document not on the website will be deemed non usable...."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Laurent GUERBY, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    As many people correctly guessed it's not about laws but about a part of government instructions to public servants.

    Instead of suing with FOIA-like laws to know what the government told your public servant to do, it's just much simpler to have those on the web in the first place and otherwise you argue they're not valid, end of story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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