While not unexpected, the announcement by Eric Appleby that Maritime Law Book will be closing its doors in November , is still a bit of a shock.
No one has done more than Eric and his indomitable team at Maritime Law Book to transform the nature of the case law reporting in this country.
Unfortunately, access to free case law online and cost cutting by customers have combined to undermine the business model for Maritime Law Book, making its demise an inevitability.
Few will remember a time when access to case law was extremely difficult, if not impossible. With some exceptions notably Quebec judgments were written but not collected and distributed in any coherent fashion to the legal community.
In many cases, the decisions were simply filed at the local court house and forgotten. Legal publishers had access to the decisions of some judges and some courts, but not every decision and not every court. A few large large law firms had collection networks that gave them privileged access to photocopies of the most recent cases. A sole practitioner would appear in court to find his large firm counterpart citing a case of which the sole practitioner would have no prior notice. In the Maritime Provinces Reports a Carswell publication published one volume per year and the volume contained 40 to 50 cases from the four Atlantic provinces.
Maritime Law Book Co — Business in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
A New Brunswick lawyer might find less than five New Brunswick cases published in a 12 month period. But most of these judgments were not published anywhere. From his base in New Brunswick, Eric proceeded to remedy this situation by establishing the National Reporter System with law reports in every province of Canada, including for a time the short-lived Quebec Appeal Cases.
The National Reporter System website includes the following explanation:.
Each topic assigned a Key Number. For example Criminal Law Topic is the Key Number assigned to topics in every case involving sentences for robbery. This number can be used to quickly find, for example, all robbery sentencing cases without worrying about how to configure a search or what key words to use.
The key numbers are categorized under tiles, such as Criminal law, Family Law, Evidence, etc.
Most notably, Maritime Law Book made no claims to copyright in the full text of court decisions included in its databases and served as a source for its competitors to fill gaps in their online services.
Simply put print law reports are on life support at a time when competition on price between the major legal publishers and the numerous free services, has weakened every legal publisher.
The situation will worsen as lower revenue mean further editorial staff cuts and lower quality as inferior computer generated enhancements replace human intervention. It is a downward spiral for law report publishers. Will this decision by Maritime Law Book cause other publishers to rethink their decision to continue to maintain law report series, at least in print, if not online.
When the number of subscribers to a series reaches a dozen or less, surely the time has come to throw in the towel and abandon the pretence that law reports are viable in print. What happens next is the big question. Maritime Law Book has extended an invitation for offers for its databases. Characteristically that invitation is open to everyone and is posted on its website.
The collection is a gem.
For 48 years, case law worth reporting has been collected, read, edited, classified and published in print and electronic form in an even manner by a well trained and experienced team of editors. No other collection of case law matches the coherence of the collection of case law created by Maritime Law Book.
Canlii in particular should be desperate to get its hands on this asset. If these databases were integrated into its existing databases and updated thereafter in the same manner as before, Canlii would become truly competitive with the valued added databases of the major legal publishers.
The law societies and law foundations should acquire these databases and preserve them for future use. At the very least, the heritage of each province should be protected. Commercial legal publishers may wish to acquire the databases to fill in gaps that may exist in their online services and to limit the prospect of new or strengthened competitors.
To say that an online service includes all Maritime Law Report series would add marketing value to their service, even if most of the cases are already included in their collections. On a final note we need to acknowledge the transformative role played by Eric Appleby on the Canadian legal publishing scene.
Maritime Law Book Company
Few can match his accomplishments. Eric had a vision and relentlessly pursued it, challenging the major publishers to up their game. Fiercely independent and loyal to his roots in New Brunswick, Eric was ever the gentleman in the conduct of his affairs. Bravo Eric!
After 48 years of caselaw reporting, Maritime Law Book is closing in November Both print and online publications will end. Our 14 databases are now available for sale — see below. The cases with headnotes include our unique Key Number Index System.
Sales may be exclusive and will include the use of our topical breakdown. Alberta Reports , started , includes 25, cases with headnotes, plus 4, cases without headnotes. British Columbia Appeal Cases , started , includes 12, cases with headnotes, plus 3, cases without headnotes.
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British Columbia Trial Cases , started , includes 7, cases with headnotes, plus 39, cases without headnotes. Federal Trial Reports , started , includes 14, cases with headnotes, plus 17, cases without headnotes. Manitoba Reports 2d , started , includes 13, cases with headnotes, plus 2, cases without headnotes.
New Brunswick Reports 2d , started , includes 15, cases with headnotes, plus 3, cases without headnotes. National Reporter , started , includes 11, cases with headnotes, plus 4, cases without headnotes. Nova Scotia Reports 2d , started , includes 17, cases with headnotes, plus 4, cases without headnotes.
Ontario Appeal Cases , started , includes 13, cases with headnotes, plus 12, cases without headnotes. Ontario Trial Cases , started , includes 13, cases with headnotes, plus 38, cases without headnotes. Saskatchewan Reports , started , includes 19, cases with headnotes, plus 4, cases without headnotes.
Contact Eric Appleby, Pres.
Appleby, Pres. Maritime Law Book Ltd. PO Box Fredericton, N.
E3B 4Y9 Tel. Access to the the law is the first step, but as MLB did here and as others continue to pursue, facilitating understanding of the law is the logical next step.
How Maritime Law Works
I am extremely sad to hear of this development. Maritime Law Book has long been my favourite legal research resource. Recently Published Columns All Columns.
Justice Issues , Legal Ethics Denis v. Archives Complete Archives January Posted in: Legal Publishing. When simple access was the issue Few will remember a time when access to case law was extremely difficult, if not impossible. What happens next What happens next is the big question.
Bravo Eric Appleby On a final note we need to acknowledge the transformative role played by Eric Appleby on the Canadian legal publishing scene. We will entertain offers for a single database or any combination of databases.
The databases as of August 4, are: Alberta Reports , started , includes 25, cases with headnotes, plus 4, cases without headnotes.
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Colin Lachance. August 23rd, at am. Melanie R. August 23rd, at pm.