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Ready to mine free online legal materials in Singapore? Not so fast!

Amendments to Copyright Act might support better access to free online legal materials in Singapore by robots. I survey government websites to find out how friendly they are to this.

I have been mulling over developing an extensive online database of free legal materials in the flavour of OpenLawNZ or an LII for the longest time.  Free access to such materials is one problem to solve, but I'm also hoping to compile a dataset to develop AI solutions. I have tried and demonstrated this with PDPC's data previously, and I am itching to expand the project sustainably.

However, being a lawyer, I am concerned about the legal implications of scraping government websites. Would using these materials be a breach of copyright law? In other countries, people accept that the public should generally be allowed to use such public materials. However, I am not very sure of this here.

The text steps highlighted
Photo by Clayton Robbins / Unsplash

I was thus genuinely excited about the amendments to the Copyright Act in Singapore this year. According to the press release, they will be operational in November, so they will be here soon.

Copyright Bill - Singapore Statutes Online
Singapore Statutes Online is provided by the Legislation Division of the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers
The Copyright Bill is expected to be operationalised in November 2021.

[Update 21 November 2021: The bill has, for the most part, been operationalised.]

Two amendments are particularly relevant in my context:

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