May 16, 2009
"Creepy, crawly toxic software that contaminate our computers without our ever knowing it"
Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain and Internet security industry experts teach 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl about the dangers of computer viruses to the Internet in general and social networking sites in particular with emphasis on the Conficker Worm threat (Stahl's assessment: "I'm hearing Jaws music."). I can't recall a more wooden 60 Minutes performance by Stahl but at least it helps get the word out about what experts consider to be the most widespread worm in six years. View her 12 minute clip from this page, Wikipedia's Conficker entry, and Conficker Worm Google News search for latest developments. [JH]
May 15, 2009
Court Rules For Football in Washington Team Name Case
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has affirmed a ruling in favor of professional football against Native American plaintiffs over the Washington Redskin name and trademarks. The plaintiffs claimed the name is offensive, though the Court did not rule on that. Rather, it upheld the use of the latches defense and the ultimate dismissal of the case by the District Court. The suit was initiated in 1992. The plaintiffs included a person who was 1 year old at the time the Washington trademark was registered in 1967. The District Court applied latches over the 25 year delay in bringing the suit. An earlier appellate opinion held that the calculated time for latches should run from the time that person reached majority, starting in 1984, and reversed. On remand, the District Court still held that latches applied leading to the present appeal. The Court applied an abuse of discretion review based on D.C.C.A. precedent and upheld the latches defense. The most recent opinion is here, with complete references to the earlier litigation. CNN has a story here. [MG]
WolframAlpha Available Later Tonight
WolframAlpha, the computational search engine that creates data sets from search results on the fly will hp live tonight at 7 PM CDT. More from ChannelWeb. The previous "go live" was scheduled on May 18. [MG]
Into the Twittersphere We Go
Hat tip to Jim Levy (Nova) on Legal Writing Prof Blog who writes that the video "pretty much sums up the whole Twitter 'thang for me." [JH]
Should Developers Be Liable For Their Code? New EC Proposal Says "Yes"
Software companies could be held responsible for the security and efficacy of their products, if a new European Commission consumer protection proposal becomes law. Of course the industry's Business Software Alliance (BSA) is critical of the proposal but BSA spokesperson, Francisco Mingorance, does make points for why "digital content is not a tangible good and should not be subject to the same liability rules as toasters." The performance of a piece of software depends on the environment it operates in, how the code is updated, whether it is possible to adapt and modify the software, and whether the code is attacked. For more, see EC wants software makers held liable for code. Hat tip to Slashdot. [JH]
FY 2010 US Budget Available from GPO's FDsys
The authenticated electronic version of the Obama Administration's FY 2010 Budgetwas made available May 11th on GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys). The migration of information from GPO Access into Federal Digital System (FDsys) will be complete in mid-2009 according to the GPO. [JH]
Download Keeping Faith with the Constitution from ACS
Keeping Faith with the Constitution (American Constitutional Society, May 2009) presents a common-sense approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution and explains why it is the world's most enduring written Constitution. Authored by legal scholars Goodwin Liu, Pamela S. Karlan and Christopher H. Schroeder, the book shows how the Framers inscribed the fundamental values of liberty, equality and democracy into the Constitution and offers an approach to interpreting the Constitution that, as its Framers envisioned, applies the Constitution's text and broad principles to the changing needs and conditions of our society.
The companion volume, It Is a Constitution We Are Expounding: Collected Writings on Interpreting Our Founding Document, is an anthology of excerpts of some of the finest existing writing on methods of constitutional interpretation, taken from decisions of the Supreme Court and other judicial opinions and speeches, the scholarly literature, and other sources. It was edited by Pamela Harris and Karl Thompson, and includes a Foreword by Professor Laurence H. Tribe.
Both titles can be downloaded from the American Constitutional Society website. [JH]
States Strengthen Whistleblower Protection Laws
Many states are adopting new laws to protect their civil servants who report waste, fraud and abuse, according to a legal analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). While the level of whistleblower protection varies widely across the country, several states are enacting safeguards that surpass those afforded to federal employees.
“Whistleblower laws are a telling measure of transparency and accountability,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Christine Erickson, who compiled recent state legislation. “These laws open secure channels for public servants to communicate with their true employers – the citizens who pay their salaries.”
PEER has completed a detailed analysis of every state’s laws, ranking each on 32 factors affecting the scope of coverage, usefulness and remedies.
- See which states have the strongest and weakest whistleblower laws
- Look at breakdown of whistleblower protection provisions among states
- View highlights of recent state legislation
- Find out about the whistleblower law in your state
May 14, 2009
Google Adds Video to News
Google has quietly added another feature to its news aggregator, links to related video clips on YouTube. The integration of properties is pretty slick. Clicking on the YouTube link opens the video right on the main news page rather than taking the user directly to YouTube. Clicking on the embedded screen does that. The videos are posted by their respective sources with links by Google sometimes with ads at the YouTube page. Look for the tiny YouTube logos scattered on the page. They are hard to miss. [MG]
Party Law School Rankings
Students wanting to attend a top law school according to US News and SubtleDig's Party Law School Rankings should apply to Virginia, Berkeley and Michigan. Law librarians looking for a fun place to work take note. Here's SubtleDig's top 10 party schools with US News Law School Rank noted:
1 Arizona State (55)
2 Tulane University (45)
3 Seattle University (77)
4 Florida State (52)
4 University of Arizona (43)
6 University of Virgina (10)
7 UC Berkeley (6)
8 University of Michigan (9)
9 Arkansas - Fayetteville (94)
10 University of Alabama (30)
Method: "We spammed current law students with a “Please take our survey” email. We considered using the amount of responses per school as a factor in the rankings, as students with enough free time to answer such a frivolous email probably deserve recognition, but we were concerned about punishing schools for spam detection." Responses contributed 90% of the ranking. The other 10%? It was "based on the amount of bars and liquor stores within a one-mile radius of the law school" which produced a bias for schools located in large metropolitan areas. Obviously, this factor needs to be revised to produce more accurate statistics.
Privacy and Confidentiality Issues: A Guide for Libraries and Their Lawyers
Julie Graves Krishnaswami, Faculty Services Librarian and a Legal Research Professor at CUNY-Law, finds the format of ALA's recently published Privacy and Confidentiality Issues: A Guide for Libraries and Their Lawyers (Feb. 28, 2009) to be ideal for quick reference because this 98-page work is organized in a Q & A format. In her book review, she observes, "as an academic law librarian and legal research teacher, I enjoyed reading this text. It served as an excellent review of First Amendment principles as they apply to libraries. It also gave me greater insight into the daily functions of public libraries." Check out the complete reviewon AALL Spectrum Blog.
Aren't these book reviews a great feature on AALL Spectrum Blog? More reviews here. [JH]
Ambrogi Reviews 10 Free Sites for U.S. Case Law
Bob Ambrogi reviews the peculiar strengths and weaknesses of the following free case law sites:
- Fastcase, www.fastcase.com and Casemaker, www.casemaker.us
- FindACase, www.findacase.com
- PreCYdent, www.precydent.com
- The Public Library of Law, www.plol.org
- AltLaw, www.altlaw.org
- Justia, www.justia.com
- FindLaw, www.findlaw.com
- Public.Resource.Org, http://public.resource.org
- LexisONE, www.lexisone.com
- Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu
Recent Law Library Renovations Open the Premises to Natural Light and State-of-the-Art IT
Check out AALL Spectrum Blog for photos of recent library renovations completed at John Marshall Law School, Chicago [here] and Ohio Northern University College of Law [here]. At both academic law libraries, the renovations created a environment more conducive to researching and studying: natural light, IT upgrades, new furnishings. Never ever any easy task, the renovations at both law libraries have achieved excellent results. Congratulations to John Marshall and Ohio Northern law library directors, June Liebert and Nancy Armstrong, respectively, and their law library staff members. For more, see The Ninth Annual AALL Spectrum Architecture Series in the latest issue of AALL Spectrum. [JH]
Opening: Law Librarian I, Maryland State Law Library
Details on the the Maryland Judiciary website here.
May 13, 2009
Law School Exam Proctors Needed for Bathroom Patrol
The Syracuse Post-Standard is reporting that Syracuse University Law School has limited restroom breaks for 1Ls to one per final exam this year because students were suspected of using cell phones to text message. "During this exam period, we have received a significant number of reports from (first-year) students alleging academic dishonesty," read an e-mail sent by law school administrators. See SU Law school curbs bathroom breaks to flush out cheaters. [JH]
New Search Features From Google
Google announces new search capabilities at its Searchology event, including tools that manipulate search results into different data sets on the fly. Some of this is created when webmasters add code to their pages that allow Google to extract and display more relevant data in the snippets associated with a search result. The exampleon the Official Google Blog shows a result featuring a restaurant with review information, star rating, and text from reviews within the same snippet. That capability in reference to legal research may not be useful immediately.
Another feature allows for filters that can limit results to time periods and type of web page. The example here is a product review that limits the results to forums only, and published within the last week. I can see value here for tech related information, as a lot of practical knowledge on solving computer problems come through the forums. Typically they are scattered throughout the entire search result.
The more interesting search analysis tool is Google Squared. Rather than returning traditional search results, the feature organizes like data in a presentation form created on the spot. The post gives little information more than that, but indicates that Google will make it available later on this month through Google Labs. Google announced something similar at the end of April that allows a searcher to find and compare public data. It's possible to get unemployment data for a location and then add similar data from other locations. Google urged government sites to add code to its information so Google could extract information from databases, typically something no search engine can get to easily, if at all. The Center for Democracy and Technology issued a reporton this problem in December of 2007. This is Google's attempt at addressing it.
Google's Searchology announcements come right on the heels of publicity around WolframAlpha. This is a computational search engine that also pulls comparable data from around the world and assembles it in a unique presentation in response to a question. The interface is relatively sophisticated as are the breath of topics it covers numerically. WolframAlpha is not available yet, but the buzz is that it will go live soon. Look at the Examples entry on the WolframAlpha Blog to get a flavor. At first glance, the possibilities for it are intriguing. WolframAlpha isn't marketing itself as a better Google, but something that is not Google. That may make it something worth using. Consider Cuil, which got some publicity as a potential Google killer because it was created by ex-Google staffers who had different ideas about its search algorithms and display options. That got it some notice. As it turned out, the initial Cuil search results were spotty. The problems were fixed in time, but the traction with users is nil.
ChannelWeb notes the latest market share for search engines in the United States from Hitwise. For April, Google had some 73% of search, followed by Yahoo at 16.27%, MSN Search 1t 5.68% and Ask.com at 3.95%. Instead of being like Google, survival for some companies may hinge on offering something Google does not, or offering a better version of that capability. No one will be searching for restaurant reviews on WolframAlpha. [MG]
Kudos to Michelle Rigual
Michelle Rigual has accepted an appointment to become the next Law Library Director of the Dee J. Kelly Law Library at the Texas Wesleyan School of Law effective August 1st. Michelle has been serving as Associate Director of the University of New Mexico Law Library where she was responsible for the Library's day-to-day operations, overseeing Faculty & Public Services, Technical Services, electronic resources, and collection development. She joined the University of New Mexico law library faculty in February 2003 as a reference librarian and moved up the ranks serving as Head of Technical Services, and Assistant Director for Technical Services, Electronic Resources, and Collections. Michelle also served at Co-Interim Director at New Mexico. With this wealth of experience, the Texas Wesleyan appointment should come as no surprise. Congratulations Michelle. [JH]
Online Copyright and Wrongs Debate
The Economist has been holding an online debate since May 5th. The motion: "This house believes that existing copyright laws do more harm than good." Very interesting. Check out the opening arguments, rebuttals, and today, the closing arguments. Hat tip to Digital Koans. [JH]
Does the Google Book Settlement Create an Orphan-Works Monopoly?
Randal C. Picker (Chicago) address three issues that raise antitrust and competition policy concerns in The Google Book Search Settlement: A New Orphan-Works Monopoly? [SSRN]:
First, the agreement calls for Google to act as agent for rights holders in setting the price of online access to consumers.
Second, and much more centrally to the settlement agreement, the opt out class action will make it possible for Google to include orphan works in its book search service
Third, there is a risk that approval by the court of the settlement could cause antitrust immunities to attach to the arrangements created by the settlement agreement.
Hat tip to Christine Corcos (LSU), Media Law Prof Blog. [JH]
Cloud Computing Libraries and OCLC's "Web-scale Library Management Service" Strategy
Richard Wallis, Marshall Breeding, and Google associate product manager for Google Book Search, Frances Haugen discuss cloud computing and how it will influence libraries in this recent Library 2.0 Gang podcast. Cloudofdata.com's Paul Miller chimes in to provide an overview of this sometimes perplexing "cloud computing" phenomenon before the conversation moves on OCLC's strategy to move library management services to Web scale. See OCLC press release. "Interpreting the OCLC announcement, writes Richard Wallis, "it is clear that it is a approach to deliver hosted library management services from the cloud in direct competition to the traditional ILS vendors such as SirsiDynix, Ex Libris, Innovative, Talis, and even those that OCLC have consumed over recent years,"
The podcast is an excellent introduction to these topics and issues. More generally, see Where is the cloud? Geography, economics, environment, and jurisdiction in cloud computing by Paul T. Jaeger, Jimmy Lin, Justin M. Grimes & Shannon N. Simmons on First Monday. (As an emerging new technology ... cloud computing raises significant questions about resources, economics, the environment, and the law. Many of these questions relate to geographical considerations related to the data centers that underlie the clouds: physical location, available resources, and jurisdiction. While the metaphor of the cloud evokes images of dispersion, cloud computing actually represents centralization of information and computing resources in data centers, raising the specter of the potential for corporate or government control over information if there is insufficient consideration of these geographical issues, especially jurisdiction.) [JH]