What is UELMA? UELMA (“yoo-el-mah”) is the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act, a uniform law* that addresses the issues of trustworthiness and access raised by the increased electronic distribution of state primary legal materials through the provision of an “outcomes-based approach to the authentication and preservation of electronic legal material . . . to enable end-users to verify the trustworthiness of the legal material they are using and to provide a framework for states to preserve legal material in perpetuity in a manner that allows for permanent access.”** UELMA requires legal material that are only published in electronic form to be designated as official. Official information must then be (1) capable of authentication (i.e., the appointed government agency or official provides the user with a way to determine that the legal information is trustworthy as an accurate copy), (2) preserved (i.e., in print and/or electronic formats) and (3) permanently accessible to the public.
As of October 2014, the following twelve states have adopted the act: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Pennsylvania. UELMA was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly in January 2014 (HB 46 / SB 275), but was withdrawn from further consideration in February 2014. The full text of UELMA is available at http://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/2011Oct-UniformElectronicLegalMaterialAct-Final.pdf. If you are interested in learning more about UELMA, check out the UELMA Resources page (http://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/UELMA), available on the American Association of Law Libraries’ website.
Why is UELMA important? UELMA will help ensure that online legal information deemed official will be publicly accessible, free and reliable. This, in turn, will promote government transparency, promote acceptance by the courts of online legal sources and assist legal researchers. For more reasons why UELMA is important, check out this article by Judy Janes, the director of the University of California, Davis, Mable Law Library – http://aallnet.org/mm/Publications/spectrum/Spectrum-Online/uelma.html. Advocacy materials are available at http://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/UELMA. UELMA supporters include the American Association of Law Libraries (http://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/UELMA/testimonychart.pdf) and the American Bar Association (http://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/Formal-Statements/2012/lt013112ABA.pdf).
*In the United States, multiple legislative bodies may address the same area of law. The goal of uniform laws is to encourage uniformity throughout the United States by encouraging state legislatures to enact the same law. A uniform law is only a proposal until it is adopted by a legislative body.
**Prefatory Note of the Uniform Electronic Material Act.