Q&A with Tom Ginsburg on Indian Legal Website

“Believe it or not, some constitutions are actually copyrighted” – Professor Tom Ginsburg of the Comparative Constitutions Project

Conceived as a database of different constitutions, the Constitute Project not only provides digital copies of one hundred and seventy-seven constitutions from across the world, but also allows readers to search and compare these documents with respect to a specific subject. The Constitute Project itself was developed by the Comparative Constitutions Project, led by Zachary Elkins from the University of Texas, Professor Tom Ginsburg from the University of Chicago, and James Melton from University College London. In this e-mail interview with Bar & Bench, Professor Tom Ginsburg (pictured) talks about the origins of the project, the challenges in digitizing constitutions and the lessons learnt along the way.

Bar & Bench: A hundred and seventy-seven Constitutions, when we last checked - that is an incredible number. How did the idea behind this project come about?

Prof. Tom Ginsburg: Our project started some years ago at the University of Illinois, where a colleague and I decided to build a database of the contents of national constitutions.  We now have a database recording many important features for national constitutions for all independent states since 1789, and have looked at many hundreds of constitutions. Our intentions were mainly scholarly, but we also recognized that our work might have some potential implications for the public and for those who draft constitutions.  For Constitute, we used our database to help identify the locations within the written texts where particular provisions lie.

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