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The Hammurabi Project: A large-scale repository of computable law
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README.md

Overview

The Hammurabi Project aims to create a large-scale repository of computable law. Using a specially-designed Python library, we want to codify law in machine-executable form, in one giant "rulebase," encompassing as much law as will fit.

Motivation

There are millions of pages of law - constitutions, statutes, regulations, case law, and interpretive decisions - with which citizens are expected to comply. This mass of material is logically complicated, difficult to contextualize, and based on an inaccessible vocabulary. Aside from the ethical issues caused by this complexity, it is inefficient as an information system.

Though not often thought of this way, law is inherently computational. It is a set of algorithms that prescribe how various computations are to be carried out. What is my standard (tax) deduction? Am I eligible for family and medical leave? On what day did I become liable for unemployment taxes? Determinations such as these are like mathematical functions: given various inputs, they produce corresponding outputs.

This is not to say that the law is entirely mechanical. It's not. It's rife with vagueness, ambiguity, and inconsistency. However, a large part of what makes the law inaccessible is its logical complexity: the way different facts and concepts relate to each other. And this aspect of law can (and has) been represented computationally.

The Hammurabi Project provides a vehicle for representing portions of the law in the Python programming language, so that the process of logical inference can be offloaded from human to machine. Once executable, it can be embedded into our computing infrastructure where it can drive other applications.

Project Scope

Hammurabi's purpose is to make law-related determinations - that is, to apply legal rules to a given factual situation and report the result. The repository is set up to accept law from any jurisdiction in the world, but with a practical focus on English-language legal materials and U.S. law specifically.

U.S sources of legal rules include: the U.S. Code, Code of Federal Regulations, federal and state case law, state stautes and regulations, Executive Orders, and IRS publications, among other sources. Rules from one of these sources tend to reference those of other sources. Hammurabi weaves all of these sources together in a single, integrated knowledge base.

Uses

Hammurabi could be used as:

  • The back end of a system that dynamically interviews users to help them answer basic legal questions.
  • The logic engine of a web service API that helps other computer systems process data about specific transactions.
  • A business logic component of an enterprise IT system, to help keep that organization in compliance with the law.
  • A way for government agencies to publish authoritative, machine-executable versions of the law.
  • The core reasoning module of consumer legal apps.
  • A policy simulation engine to experiment with the effects of hypothetical legal rules.

Getting Involved

This is obviously a very ambitious vision, one that will take years and many people to build and maintain. At present, we are laying the groundwork for that vision. We're looking for lawyers, programmers, testers, writers, and app developers to help us achieve it.

How You Can Help

  • Build out a rule set in Python
  • Write a specification page for a new rule set
  • Create test cases
  • Help build other components of the Hammurabi ecosystem
  • Spread the word

Current Project Focus

While we welcome contributions on any legal topic, our initial focus will be on data privacy laws from around the world. Please see our data privacy portal for more information on this effort and how you can participate.

More Information

Please see the project wiki for more information on this project.

Legal

Disclaimer

We are in the early stages of building Hammurabi. It is currently an experimental project that attempts to see what's possible, and not necessarily something that's ready for consumption by the public or an external information system.

AT PRESENT, THE HAMMURABI PROJECT SHOULD NOT BE USED TO PROVIDE LEGAL INFORMATION TO CONSUMERS.

When specific rule sets become mature enough to be released to the public, we will make that clear in our documentation.

License

The code in this repository is subject to a modified version of the MIT license. Please make sure that you understand its terms before using this software.

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