Dissertation Information for Xiaohua Zhu
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: The access rights to digital legal information: A historical case study of Lexis
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the access regime of primary legal information in digital format from a historical perspective, using Lexis, an important legal information service, as the case to unravel the complexity of access rights and the legal information environment. The general research question that guides this study is: how have the access regimes of digital primary legal information in Lexis taken root and evolved from the late 1960s to the early 2000s in the U.S.? This study illustrates the changes of the access regime of digital legal information in light of the four sets of theories and normative claims--use regime, social construction of technology, mutual configuration of users and technology, and open access/open knowledge. Chapter 2 reviews the relevant literature. Chapter 3 explains the methodology. Chapter 4, by tracing the early history of Lexis from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, tells the story of how a new, computer-based, commercialized access regime emerged from the print-based environment and began to stabilize. In this story, various social groups shaped the development of Lexis as well as access rights to digital legal information in Lexis. Chapter 5 takes a step away from Lexis to describe the changes in the broad legal information environment in the 1990s. Central themes of this chapter are the public's changing expectations of legal information access and the government's role in disseminating legal information to the general public. Chapter 6 analyzes the destabilization of Lexis's access regime in the changed information environment as well as how Lexis stabilized/maintained the access regime using various strategies, including expanding access to previous non-users with certain conditions. Chapter 7 discusses the findings of the study in terms of each of the four theories/arguments. It also explains how the theories inform the data and how this study informs and contributes to the theories/normative claims.
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