Do you speak legal?

Legal language: why it is peculiar but necessary

“Implied”, “principle of proportionality”, “level of creation”, “scope of protection”. Vocabulary that is juggled in legal fact sheets and lectures like a performer in a circus and that can quickly make a conversation drift into incomprehensibility for legal laymen. And yet they are necessary. Admittedly, some more than others – but necessary nonetheless. In this article, I would like to explain why they exist and thus provide a gentle introduction to the treatment of future legal topics and set the tone for this column.

From the field of research data management, we know that a resource such as a dataset needs to be tagged with terms in order to be identified and understood. These terms that describe the resource are called metadata. Depending on the scientific domain, this metadata is summarized in different vocabularies. Legal language is no different, with the difference that the resources are not data records but legal phenomena. Legal language now categorizes and formulates specific terms for the description of legal phenomena. This is important because the respective terms have legal consequences. For example: in the context of copyright law, the level of creation determines whether a person’s performance can be categorized as a work and thus enjoys the protection of the Copyright Act. This term also has no synonym or other context, so it is tied to the underlying definition.

But what does this mean for the research community? Does every knowledge creator need to acquire a glossary of legal vocabulary? We at FAIRagro say – don’t worry! Our trained lawyers will act as translators for you! Our aim is to translate legal topics into German and create awareness and understanding of these topics. Be it through our helpdesk ( or through workshops and training courses tailored to the needs of our community.

by Lea Singson, FAIRagro Helpdesk (FZI Karlsruhe)



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