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ICLR Reduces Cost of Queensland Reports Print E-mail

qld-reports-intro.jpgIn a significant step towards reducing the cost of accessing the authorised law reports, the Queensland Council of Law Reporting has decided to reduce the cost of annual subscriptions to the Queensland Reports in printed format by about 70%.

From 2015, the standard subscription rate will be only $132 per annum (inc. GST and postage). The same rate will apply to the bound volume subscription (which was formerly $420 per annum for two bound volumes) as to the loose parts subscription (which was formerly $526 per annum for 12 monthly instalments and index pages).

This new approach seeks to adapt the publishing model for authorised reports to their changing role in modern legal practice.

As the Chairman of the ICLRQ, John McKenna QC, explains:

“We have found that most barristers now commence their legal research with online searches of the case law. After identifying the key authorities, however, they find that the best way to master these cases is to study them in a printed format.

This trend suggests that Council’s focus should be on providing online access to a full set of the Queensland Reports at the lowest sustainable cost, and that we should treat our printed law reports as a supplementary service to our online customers.  In fairness, this supplementary service should simply seek to recoup to the Council the supplementary cost of printing and distributing these volumes.

As the Council operates as a charity, these supplementary costs are very low indeed.”

This development was welcomed by the President of the Bar Association of Queensland, Shane Doyle QC:

“The rising cost of legal practice, including the cost of access to published law reports, is a matter of great concern to the profession. Unless corrected, these rising costs could undermine the ability of an independent Bar to continue to provide high quality representation to a wide range of ordinary Australians.  

The high cost of law reports has led many to become heavily reliant upon the collections of unreported judgments which are available free of charge on the web.  However, as the courts have recently signalled, this is not an acceptable solution.  It is critical that steps be taken to ensure that the authorised reports of Australian case law are affordable by the whole of the legal profession.

I am delighted that Queensland is the first jurisdiction to take a significant step towards solving this problem.”

The reduction in subscription costs to the Queensland Reports is only one component of a wider range of changes being introduced by the ICLRQ to meet this problem.

During 2014, the ICLRQ’s remaining warehouse stocks of printed reports are being made available to subscribers at a heavily discounted rate, to assist practitioners in completing their sets of the Queensland Reports.  Subscribers will have the opportunity to either:

  • acquire a complete set of the Queensland Reports (including its predecessor reports from 1859) at a price of $3300 (inc GST and local delivery in Brisbane) – being an effective price of about $25 per volume; or
  • seek to complete their partial sets of Queensland Reports, by acquiring missing segments or odd volumes at a similarly low price.

The ICLRQ warns, however, that this is likely to be the only opportunity for practitioners to complete their set of Queensland Reports from ICLRQ stocks. Once all apparent customer demand for back volumes has been satisfied, the ICLRQ is planning to discard its remaining stocks of individual back volumes because of the high cost of storage. After that has occurred, missing volumes will only be available to customers through a print-on-demand service – at the prevailing market price for that service.

In 2015, the ICLRQ will be seeking to improve online accessibility to the Queensland Reports in two important respects.

First, the ICLRQ is in the course of undertaking a major digitisation project, with a view to capturing an entire set of the Queensland Reports (including its predecessor reports from 1859) in high-quality images and data.  As a result, it expects that a full set of this case law will be available online from January 2015.

Secondly, and more significantly, the ICLRQ has been seeking to develop a better model for the online publishing of authorised reports.   As the Chairman of the ICLRQ explains:

“Under the present model, authorised reports of modern Australian judgments are available only on premium quality websites operated by commercial publishers.  These services helpfully incorporate the authorised reports into a fully integrated collection of law reports, journals, case citators and legal commentary. However, these services are available only to subscribers.

Under the model which we favour, these premium services would be complemented by a more basic online collection of authorised reports, to be published directly by the courts or their associated councils of law reporting, at the lowest sustainable price.

The main object of this model is to ensure that all practitioners and litigants  – regardless of their resources – have ready access to the core legal materials which are required for use in court.

In the longer term, it is also hoped that this model will enhance the general functionality of online legal research websites, by ensuring that all online citations of case law can be readily linked to the full text of the authorised reports of those judgments.”

In January 2015, the ICLRQ is hoping to bring this model into operation in Queensland. In conjunction with the Supreme Court of Queensland Library, the ICLRQ is developing a new website which is intended to provide low-cost public access to a basic set of all Queensland case law  - including a full set of the Queensland Reports. For as long as it is feasible to do so, it is proposed that this website will be available to all users free of charge.  Further information about this website will be released before the end of the year.

All enquiries about subscriptions to the Queensland Reports or purchasing back volumes should be directed to the Secretary of the ICLRQ, Mr Jason Rogers, at Jason.rogers@queenslandreports.com.au.

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