Obituary: A great champion of Open Access is no more
Daniel Hürlimann, Professor of Legal Informatics and IT Law at the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) and Attorney at Law by Laux Lawyers AG, passed away on 29 September. This was a great personal shock for us, his colleagues at BFH. This article will pay tribute to his achievements in the field of legal informatics.
Daniel Hürlimann studied law at the University of Bern and received his doctorate in 2009 with the dissertation “Suchmaschinenhaftung – Zivilrechtliche Verantwortlichkeit der Betreiber von Internet-Suchmaschinen”. in 2014, he founded the open access journal sui generis together with Marc Thommen, and in 2019 he founded sui generis Verlag with Marc Thommen, Wendelin Hess and Beat Müller. in 2022 he habilitated at the University of Lucerne with the habilitation thesis “Recht und Medizin am Lebensende – Menschenrechtliche Anforderungen und Regulierungsvorschläge”.
We experienced him as a very versatile, creative colleague, always open to new research questions, with a high level of expertise and a lot of energy. He was very well networked and was happy to share his networks with us, so that we were able to make new, interesting contacts through him. His work was characterised by the fact that he analysed topics comprehensively in relation to many aspects and from very different perspectives, arguing very clearly and understandably even for non-lawyers. He pointed out the limits of state action (e.g. in the case of welfare accommodation) as well as possible pragmatic approaches for the digital transformation of state action, where apparently laws from pre-digital times make this impossible (e.g. in the case of digitally executed signatures).
His great commitment to open access, i.e. open access to scientific and professional publications and to court decisions, was particularly outstanding. He achieved a great deal with his numerous, broad-based initiatives because he argued convincingly on the merits, provided many good examples, directly addressed the difficult challenges (such as the anonymisation of judgments) and also sought constructive discussion with the convinced opponents of Open Access. Thanks above all to him, there is much greater awareness in legal scholarship today of the shortcomings of the traditional system of keeping important documents under lock and key – be it that access is only difficult, or expensive, or even impossible. Where open access is already guaranteed, the specialist and research community benefits greatly from it. Open Access not only creates transparency, but also significantly supports the professionalisation of disciplines. Daniel Hürlimann has created great, lasting benefits for many with his successes in the cause.
In other contexts, too, we have experienced him as a committed innovator who forges new paths. For example, as a board member of eJustice.ch, he was the initiator of the Open Legal Lab in Magglingen this year. This brought together people with very different backgrounds, but especially lawyers and coders, and provided exciting impulses for future developments. When the results were presented, the participants of the Magglingen legal informatics seminar were very enthusiastic.
We are left with the task of continuing the developments initiated by Daniel Hürlimann, each in the area in which he or she has worked with him or builds on his or her work.