A coworker is suggesting to have laws versioned in a system we're building by using the name of the document and the date of change, under the supposition that names of documents will remain the same between versions. This system needs to handle laws from lots of countries, as well as international regulations from organizations like the EU etc.

It is my experience that laws do not keep the same name in all versions for all particular lands, so to implement this would require extra administrative work. I am wondering if anyone can say how prevalent keeping the same name between versions of law is. Or cast light on versioning problems regarding laws from multiple countries.

  • 5
    The developer-oriented response to this (which is why I'm not posting it as an answer) is that adding another unique identifier (e.g. a GUID) which is not a publically used value (such as the name) requires a negligible cost/effort and completely undercuts the entire problem situation. Rather than guess at whether laws could/would change or not, the better option is to simply avoid it altogether. Because even if someone here answers that they don't change, who says that'll still be true tomorrow?
    – Flater
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 11:58
  • 1
    I'm not clear what you are asking. There are elaborate and detailed standards for identifying legal documents, the most popular of which is the Blue Book. legalbluebook.com
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 14:56
  • @ohwilleke I just heared of that book the first time. Does it's system work for international contexts, e.g. EU-laws, German federal laws, German state laws, German municipal "Satzungen"?
    – K-HB
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 20:41
  • @K-HB it has extensive international coverage, although it probably isn't 100% comprehensive. Also, the system is easily adapted by analogy to novel sources. FWIW, I used to be the lead international citation editor for the Michigan Journal of International Law.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 21:54

1 Answer 1


Names of documents get changed. I'll give some examples of important German laws, other countries may differ.

  • ortographie changes: "Civilprozeßordnung" 1870, today known as "Zivilprozessordnung"
  • the name of the state changes: "Strafgesetzbuch für das Deutsche Reich" 1871, than known as "Reichstrafgesetzbuch", today "Strafgesetzbuch"
  • there is a widely used short form: "Gesetz über den Aufenthalt, die Erwerbstätigkeit und die Integration von Ausländern im Bundesgebiet" (2004), known as "Aufenthaltsgesetz" (the name used when it was published: "Gesetz über den Aufenthalt, die Erwerbstätigkeit und die Integration von Ausländern im Bundesgebiet(Aufenthaltsgesetz – AufenthG)", BGBl. 2004 I, 1950)

In addition the question of the correct name (and content) of a law can be complicated/disputed. One example of the German lawyer Thomas Fuchs (kind of fanatic researcher on the real texts of law): The "Gewerbeordnung". This law was published 1869 as "Gewerbeordnung für den Nordddeutschen Bund" and renamed 1883 as "Gerwerbeordnung für [das Deutsche Reich]" (with brackets!). Today everyone (including the parliament making amendments) just calls it "Gewerbeordnung".

Things to add:

  • Different laws can have the same name. In the German states this happens often (sometimes the name of the state is in the title, sometimes not). Also Germany and Austria.
  • Different laws of the same state have the same name. Laws amending other laws often have no creative name, but are called "Gesetz zur Änderung ..." (law to alter ...). These names repeat, so normally you only refer to such laws by date "Gesetz vom ..." (law of ...).
  • Laws belong to more than one state. E.g. the Allgemeines Deutsches Handelsgesetzbuch of 1861 were law in the member states of the Deutscher Bund. It continued to exist when the Deutscher Bund dissolved 1866. In the Deutsches Reich (Germany) it were replaced by the Handelsgesetzbuch (HGB) in 1900. When Germany annexed Austria 1938 it were replaced there too. The (than) Austrian HGB were heavily altered and renamed to Unternehmensgesetzbuch in 2007. In Liechtenstein the ADHGB is still in force. At all times the law was amended, so things get complicated.
  • exactly, this is why I believe the name cannot be used. a nickname or identifier needs to be used.
    – user254694
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 14:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .