Here in the legal world, we love our acronyms.
The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) was approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) in July 2011. Uniform law commissioners are appointed by their states to draft and promote enactment of uniform laws designed to solve problems common to all states.
UELMA was inspired by a 2007 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) summit in which an AALL report found that "a significant number of the state online legal resources are official but none are authenticated or afford ready authentication by standard methods." The Act's purpose is to ensure that official online legal material has the same level of trustworthiness provided by traditional print law books, and has three requirements:
- Electronic legal material must be authenticated by providing a method to determine that it's unaltered.
- Electronic legal material must be preserved, either in electronic or print form.
- Electronic legal material must be accessible for use by the public on a permanent basis.
States will have to individually introduce and adopt the legislation, and will have the ability to choose which categories of legal materials to include in their legislation. The Act encourages inclusion of state constitutions, session laws, codified laws, and administrative codes. An excellent essay explaining the benefits of UELMA legislation is available from the AALL's Spectrum Online. Judy Janes writes,
"Ensuring the authenticity of legal information online also facilitates widespread transparency in government actions and government accountability to its citizens. Unlike the printed word, online publishing must be protected against tampering or accidental alterations. While states have the flexibility to choose specific technologies to publish online, there must be assurances that systems meet certain standards for security and authenticity."
AALL also published this list of frequently asked questions about UELMA.
The full text of UELMA, as well as all NCCUSL discussions on the Act, are available in HeinOnline's National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws database. This collection provides access to the full text of all Model Acts drafted, recommended, or endorsed by the Conference. It includes NCCUSL Archive Publications, Handbook of the NCCUSL and Proceedings of the Annual Conference Meeting, scholarly articles selected by our editors, and a bibliography of related documents.
Search for "Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act" using the main search bar at the top of the collection homepage. Results include all references to UELMA throughout the collection. Sort the results by volume date (oldest first) to follow the chronological discussion of the Act:
Matching text is highlighted in yellow within each result, and the binoculars icon can be used to expand all matching text pages.
The official website for NCCUSL offers this convenient map view of all states which have either enacted or introducted legislation pertaining to this act:
Thus far, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have enacted the legislation, while it's been introduced in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, and West Virginia. UELMA will only become more important as the world continues to move from print to digital publishing.
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