Update, 12/24/2018: In response to OffeneGesetze, the German Ministry of Justice has announced that it will create a digital legislative process in the coming years. The ministry is creating a platform on which federal law gazettes „can also be freely printed, searched and re-used“. There should be unrestricted access, the Justice Minister Katarina Barley said.

The Federal Law Gazettes are the central documents of German democracy. To pass a law, it has to be published in the Law Gazette. At OffeneGesetze.de they are now freely accessible for the first time. On the portal we provide the documents free of charge and for free re-use.

So far, Federal Law Gazettes have only been available via the website bgbl.de of the Bundesanzeiger Verlag. The private publisher charges subscription fees for basic functions, such as searchability or printing of law gazettes. The publisher prohibits re-use of the documents with reference to his self-proclaimed database rights.

Copyright law must not stand in the way of democracy. Official data and documents must be freely accessible to all. If the Ministry of Justice does not ensure this, civil society must step in. That’s what we are doing.

The formerly state-owned Bundesanzeiger Verlag was privatised in 2006. In a controversial procedure the Dumont publishing house secured the company. The Ministry of Justice keeps the exact terms of the federal government’s cooperation with the publisher secret. In addition to distributing the Federal Law Gazette, the publisher was also commissioned to operate other government platforms, such as the Transparency Register for beneficial ownership, without a call for tenders.

The functions of OffeneGesetze.de, such as the complete download of all federal law gazettes since 1949, make it possible for the first time to analyse the text of the law gazettes and trace changes in laws of recent decades. In addition, individual documents can be linked and searched in a different way than before. On the official website of the Bundesanzeiger Verlag, for example, the first Federal Law Gazette, the promulgation of the Basic Law in 1949, is only available as a slate image scan.

The platform was created by Stefan Wehrmeyer, Johannes Filter and Arne Semsrott.

Press contact: Arne Semsrott, arne.semsrott@okfn.de, Tel.: 030 57703666 0