June 9, 2009
UK For-Profit Law School Operator BPP Acquired by US Interests
BPP Holdings, the parent company of for-profit UK law school BPP Law School, announced on June 8 that it had agreed to be acquired for £303.5 million ($485.11 million) by Apollo Global according to Jeremy Hodges at LegalWeek.com. Apollo Global is a joint venture between US for-profit educational company Apollo Group and The Carlyle Group private equity firm. BPP Law School is a leading UK provider of skills-based instruction (particularly of the post-graduate law practice course, or LPC, and was among the first for-profit law schools to grant degrees in the UK. BPP appears to be Apollo Global’s second acquisition involving legal education, the first having been Mexico City-based Universidad Latinoamericana which offers the licenciatura degree in law. Hat tip to AmLaw Daily. [Rob Richards]
Stefanie Lindquist: Sotomayor Is Not an Activist Judge
Stefanie Lindquist (Texas), co-author of Measuring Judicial Activism (Oxford UP, 2009)(with Frank Cross (Texas)), applied the political science tools and activism classifications used in her book to SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor's published majority opinions since January 2001. Marcia Coyle reports on her findings in Sotomayor Is No Activist Judge, Says Author (National Law Journal, June 8, 2009). Check out the story for details.
More interesting as we approach the confirmation hearings is Lindquist and Cross' monograph, Measuring Judicial Activism. The authors' work is guided theoretically by the notion that, at its core, the concept of activism involves concerns over the judiciary's institutional aggrandizement at the expense of the elected branches. An important corollary idea is that such efforts are particularly "activist" when they further the justices' own policy or ideological objectives. From these core theoretical ideas, the authors identify specific empirical manifestations that reflect the expansion of judicial power. In particular, the authors evaluate the Court's exercise of judicial review to invalidate legislative and executive action. Lindquist and Cross also analyze the justices' willingness to expand the Court's power by granting litigants increased access to the courts and overruling the Court's own precedents. In these contexts, the book considers the extent to which these actions are consistent with the justices' ideological predilections. [JH]
SCOTUS Calls Time Out for Chrysler Sale to Fiat
In a one-sentence order, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the rulings of the bankruptcy judge allowing the Chrysler sale “are stayed pending further order of the undersigned or of the court.” According to published reports, SCOTUS delayed the sale of Chrysler's assets to Fiat pending further review of an appeal by three Indiana state pension funds and several consumer groups. Check out SCOTUSblog's insightful post, Ginsburg temporarily blocks Chrysler deal. See also Deal Book's post and the New York Times story, Supreme Court Delays Sale of Chrysler to Fiat. [JH]
Can You Copyright a Tweet?
When I first read this question in Mark Cuban’s blog maverick, my first reaction was: Why would you? On second consideration I thought, well, because you can, at least theoretically. After all, I never thought people could or would copyright blog postings, but they do. Just because tweets are 140 characters or less, does that make them a lesser citizen under the U.S. Constitution? The question was nicely considered by Attorney Brock Shine at http://www.canyoucopyrightatweet.com and Michael Martin on his Broken Symmetry blog.
I am the first to admit that none of my tweets would or should rise to the level that our founding fathers had in mind when they penned the constitution: “The Congress shall have Power [. . .] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Article 1, Section 8. My dissatisfaction with the 3D in Disney Pixar’s UP or expressed shock at the price increases at Thomson West on twitter are not going to “promote the science and useful Arts.” I have been complaining to West since forever and obviously it promotes nothing but more price increases.
Most tweets are not much different from a comment made on a street corner to a friend. But, what if the tweeter, like Mark Cuban, offers unique insight into a topic? Does that change the analysis? Or, what if the tweeter creates a group of single subject tweets? Could this constitute a ‘body of work’ that might enjoy protection similar to an article or book chapter? To date, a review of law journal literature and case analysis provides no insight. Even the EFF copyright tutorial for digital media and students at http://www.teachingcopyright.org does not address Twitter copyright issues. I guess when Thomson West decides to repackage our tweets and sell them to libraries for an outrageous price, we will have an answer. [VS]
e-Course Management Systems Critiqued
Blackboard’s e–learning system dominates the online learning software market except in law schools where TWEN is the major player, much to the chagrin of LexisNexis law school reps. In A Critical Examination of Blackboard’s e-Learning Environment (First Monday, June 2009) Stephanie J. Coopman (Professor of Communication Studies, San José State) critically examines the structure of Blackboard’s two online learning delivery systems, Blackboard 8.0 and Blackboard CE6. Coopman identifies ways in which the platforms both constrain and facilitate instructor–student and student–student interaction. In addition, she delineates features that sustain and challenge traditional power relationships in the classroom. Coopman's article concludes with implications for online pedagogy that may also be applicable toTWEN.
Can Web Tools Like Blogs Replace e-Course Management Systems? Check out Jim Levy's post on Legal Writing Prof Blog for his thoughts about the Chronicle's story, Colleges Consider Using Blogs Instead of Blackboard and a video on the topic. [JH]
GPO Annual Report Released
The theme of the GPO's annual report this year is energy conservation. Here's a snip about FDsys from GPO Sustainable Environmental Stewardship - Good Business, Good Government - Annual Report 2008:
While developing FDsys, GPO has focused on building an energy efficient, sustainable system. FDsys requires 80 servers to operate. GPO sought out the most energy efficient servers available. The agency chose servers that use 50-watt processors instead of the standard 80-watt processors. By using processors that require less consumption, GPO will realize energy savings of more than $12,000 a year.
GPO has made energy upgrades to servers in place that service the agency in all capacities. GPO’s Information Technology organization has completed a server upgrade to provide faster and improved search results for our Government publications on GPO Access. This modification eliminated over 20 separate servers, and resulted in about a 50% reduction in energy to support this application. All components of the retired servers will be recycled or used for parts within our current operation. These sustainable efforts in the transformation of GPO Access earned GPO international recognition as a finalist in Computerworld magazine’s “Best Practice in Green IT” Computing Awards in September.
Additionally, GPO plans to implement virtualization technology for servers once this technology proves to be reliable for our applications. Virtualization offers us the ability to share single physical servers to support multiple applications and operating systems. This will further reduce our Information Technology energy consumption by over 60%.
GPO has also adopted a Citrix thin client solution for several processes which has substantially reduced our energy use. These initiatives replaced nearly 60 desktop systems with Citrix, reducing our power consumption by over 75%. GPO is also adopting Microsoft applications that better reduce paper waste and individual desktop energy consumption.
June 8, 2009
CPE Solicits More Input on the AALL Competencies of Law Librarianship
Are the Competencies still relevant? (Yes) Are modifications needed. (Hell yes) Following the Continuing Professional Education Committee's moderated listserv discussion in April, CPE is now giving members the opportunity to continue the Compentiencies discussion on the AALL's Tool for Success in Today's Economy wiki. For more about the CPE project, see LLB Contributing Editor Rob Richard's interview of CPE Chair Julie Pabarja. [JH]
Monday Action by the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court issued five opinions this morning. The first is Republic of Iraq v. Beaty (07-1090). The issue in this case is whether claims against Iraq are authorized under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA). That act gives immunity to foreign countries in suits against them in U.S. court, with the exception of states designated as a sponsor of terrorism. The Act allows for waivers by the President under some circumstances. President Bush waived jurisdiction against Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion and subsequently again in 2007 under replacement legislation. Beaty an others sued Iraq for claims prior to the President's waiver and argued that among other points. The Court held that the waivers effectively strip jurisdiction from the federal courts. The decision was unanimous.
The next case is the one that gets the attention of press reports. It is Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc. (08-22). The question is whether a West Virginia Supreme Court justice should have recused himself when a civil defendant in a case before him should have recused himself when that defendant spent $3 million dollars to support his election. Massey lost a judgment at trial for tortious interference with a contract with a verdict of $50 million. The chairman of Massey donated some $3 million to elect Brent Benjamin to the Court knowing that the West Virginia Supreme Court would ultimately hear the appeal. This amount ws more than any Benjamin supporter and election committee spent on a combined basis. Benjamin denied three separate motions for recusal with the Virginia Supreme Court ruling 3-2 to overturn the judgment. The Supreme Court held it is a violation of due process for a judge to hear a case when he may have a personal interest in the outcome. The Court did not say that Justice Benjamin had a bias, but that the risk of bias was enough to trigger the due process clause in this case. The Court split 5-4 with Justice Kennedy siding with the liberal block of justices to provide the majority.
The third case is United States v. Denado (08-267). Denado was a Nigerian national serving in the U.S. Navy. He plead guilty to violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on advice of counsel with counsel's advice that the plea would not subject Denado to deportation. After discharge, the Department of Homeland Security began proceedings to remove Denado from the U.S. Denado filed a petition for a writ of coram nobis to the military courts to vacate his conviction on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The government opposed. The Court held that the military courts have jurisdiction to hear petitions under the All Writs Act.
The fourth case decided a procedural issue. The case is U.S. ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York (08-660). Eisenstein filed a qui tam action against New York City in the name of the United States. The U.S. declined to intervene and the District Court dismissed the claim and appeal was taken 54 days later. Under rule, the time for appeal is 30 days unless the government is a party, in which case the time is extended to 60 days. The Court held that since the government declined to intervene, it was not a party. The 30 day rule applied.
The last case is Boyle v. United States (07-1309). Boyle and associates were convicted under RICO, among other charges, for several bank robberies crossing state lines. Boyle requested a jury instruction that specifically required the jury to find a "structure" in the criminal enterprise. The trial court denied the instruction. The Court held that the there is a structural requirement for conviction, but the broad statement defining an enterprise by the RICO act does not require a specific instruction to that effect as long as there is evidence that the various associates function as a continuing unit.
In other significant action, the Court declined to hear an appeal challenging the constitutionality of the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy for gay members of the military. The case is Pietrangelo v. Gates. We are still waiting for word on whether the Court will hear the appeal by Indiana pensions challenging the sale of Chrysler to Fiat in current bankruptcy proceedings. [MG]
Update: Justice Ginsburg has stayed the sale of Chrysler "pending further order."
Suit Over Bib Sotware Dismissed
Ars Technica is reporting that Thomson Reuters lawsuit against George Mason University over Zotero has been dismissed. Zotero is an open source alternative (implemented as a Firefox plug-in) to TR's EndNote. The suit was based on GMUs participation in the development of Zotero when the university had a site license to EndNote. The contract prevented reverse engineering the software and Zotero included a feature allowing it to import EndNote reference styles. That's what prompted the suit. Expect an appeal. The article has links to the complaint. [MG]
Open Access Marches On
|Signatories to Open Access Statement|
The statement is signed by the directors of the University Press of Florida, University of Akron Press, University Press of New England, Athabasca University Press, Wayne State University Press, University of Calgary Press, University of Michigan Press, Rockefeller University Press, Penn State University Press, and University of Massachusetts Press.
Mike Rossner of Rockefeller University Press said that the press directors issued the statement as they wanted "to align ourselves with the stances taken by many universities -- by faculties and administrators -- on scholarly communication." Quoted in Inside Higher Ed.
Open Access News blog reported on June 4th that ten university press directors signed a position statement in support of free access to scientific, technical, and medical journal articles no later than twelve months after publication. The statement is further discussed on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog. This announcement should remind you of the November 7, 2008 Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship that was signed by many law library directors and called for elimination of printed law journals and adoption of a stable, open access model for law journals.
The Press Directors’ position statement is somewhat contrary to the position of the American Association of University Presses, their 112-member national organization. Executive Director Charles Lowery’s nine page PDF explains the AAUP position which is argued with the assumption that the reason academic law libraries support open access is to help meet shrinking budget lines. I do not think this is the only reason why academic library directors support open access, but the essay is worth reading to review different approaches to journal deselection choices such as combining a cost-per-page with a cost-per-use strategy.
AAUP filed a letter of support for the Fair Copyright in Research Works bill (H.R. 6845) which was reintroduced into Congress this past September (and seems to have died in the Judiciary Committee) prohibiting federal agencies from requiring fund recipients to give up their copyright in order to receive federal monies.
The American Association of Publishers also supports bills like H.R. 6845. At the site of their affiliate, Professional Scholarly Publishing, you can find key talking points surrounding the Fair Copyright in Research Works bill, and reposted statements from other organizations concerning retention of copyright in funded scientific works. The AAP also lobbied President Obama on the same. You can find their letter to him and Vice President Biden at this site.
At least one of the signatories to the position statement, Rockefeller University Press Director Mike Rossner, already makes Rockefeller journals available six months after publication. He has not found this practice of delayed free posting contrary to their business model. This position diffuses much of the discussion levied against open access. Hopefully, we will see more concrete support of an open access model that will result in more collections such as the Directory of Open Access Journals and BioMed Central, or direct access to journals via their own web sites.
To inform yourselves more fully on the benefits of open access, I highly recommend the SPARC pages on this issue. (VS)
Internet Use Triples in Decade, Census Bureau Reports
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2007 Internet and Computer Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey show that 62 percent of households reported using Internet access in the home in 2007, an increase from 18 percent in 1997, the first year the Bureau collected data on Internet use. [Press Release]
Sixty-four percent of individuals 18 and over used the Internet from any location in 2007, while only 22 percent did so in 1997. When looking at age groups, the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds who accessed the Internet was more than double (73 percent) that of people 65 and older (35 percent). Among children 3 to 17, 56 percent used the Internet.
Internet usage also varied by race and Hispanic origin; 69 percent of whites lived in households with Internet use, while the same was true for 51 percent of blacks, 73 percent of Asians and 48 percent of Hispanics.
Among households using the Internet in 2007, 82 percent reported using a high-speed connection, and 17 percent used a dial-up connection. Among the states, Alaska and New Hampshire residents had among the highest rates of Internet use from any location (home, work or public access) for those 3 and older in 2007. Mississippi and West Virginia had among the lowest rates of Internet use at about 52 percent. [JH]
ALA TechSource's New Website Now Online
ALA TechSource has launched www.alatechsource.org, a new electronic archive and delivery platform for Library Technology Reports (LTR) and Smart Libraries Newsletter (SLN). For more, check out the announcement post on ALA TechSource Blog. [JH]
June 7, 2009
UN Launches World's First Tuition-Free Online University
The UN Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development (GAID) has announced the launch of the University of the People, a non-profit institution offering higher education worldwide using open-source technology, open course materials, e-learning methods and peer-to-peer teaching. The only charge to students is a $15 to $50 admission fee, depending on their country of origin, and a processing fee for every test ranging from $10 to $100. The University is working towards accreditation. For more, see the GAID press release. Hat tip to LISNews. [JH]