August 4, 2009
FSF Offers Petition to Free the Kindle
The Free Software Foundation is circulating an online petition demanding that Amazon remove DRM and DRM-like features from the Kindle. Ars Technica has an interesting story on the petition, catalogs the considerations with vendor lock-in, and makes the obvious prediction that the petition will have no effect on Amazon's business model. As the Google Book Settlement has shown us, the publishers are not going to easily offer concessions to consumers in their rights bundle for e-books. The petition is here. The Ars story is here. [MG]
CRS Looks at a Cash For Clunkers Program, in 1996
The Cash For Clunkers program is nothing new. The Congressional Research Service analyzed the issues in 1996. They found benefit for the environment and as a method of economic stimulus. The report also notes opposition to these programs from the repair industry and other cars are frequently the source for used parts. The report is here, from the UNT CRS Report Collection. [MG]
A "Librarian" to head LC
Library Journal is reporting that long-time head of the Library of Congress, James Billington, who recently reached 80 years of age, is stepping down. LJ identified Carla Hayden, Director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, as the front runner for this prestigious and important post. Hayden has ties to the President's political stomping grounds in Chicago and, like Sotomayor, would be the first woman of color to hold the post. She is also the first woman period to hold the post. And only the second degreed librarian. The most recent librarian to hold the post was Laurence Mumform (1954-1974). Of course, LC and Enoch Pratt says it is just a rumor. We'll see. (VS)
Time for an AALL Senior Law Librarians Caucus or Why Our Post-West Party Bar Tab Was $150 Before Tips
The world’s older population (65 and over) is increasing by approximately how many people each month in 2008?
The answer is "d" according to the Census Bureau's An Aging World: 2008. The estimated change in the total size of the world's older population between July 2007 and July 2008 was more than 10.4 million people, an average of 870,000 each month.
This factoid is just a lead-in to a question: how many AALL members are 55 and older? Quite a few I think and based on DC observations, many are looking forward to retirement. But before they stop paying AALL membership dues, it might be time to organize an AALL caucus for those of us who are 55 and older.
If there's a Gen X / Gen Y Caucus, why not a "Past Gen" one? We senior law librarians could sit in a conference room at annual meetings to recount the good old days when West statements made some sense, and account reps actually knew their product lines, refused to engage in marketing-speak, and remained one's rep longer than one or two years. We could return to a time when new services were DC-based information brokers and overnight delivery by Federal Express (not FedEx), and new technologies were "Xerox-machines," punch card readers and fax machines. See, e.g., Diane Murley's recent LLJ article, A Selective History of Technology in Law Libraries.
Of course, we could discuss more serious matters like can we afford to retire (see Collect Now, or Later? Timing Social Security Benefits) and what to do about being faced with digital-only decisions for resources that should remain in our print collections but have become too expensive to retain while some of our vendors continue to refuse to invest time and money to design usable online interfaces for them. We could also set conspiracies in motion to hold the duopolists accountable at our institutions, orchestrate protest marches to vendor booths to give them a collective earful as many AALL attendees did individually in DC, and organize sit-in demonstrations at annual meeting events, most appropriate for us aging hippies with bad knees, poor circulation, etc.
Wait, scratch the conspiracies and demonstrations; AALL is sleeping with those vendors so the powers that be would never sanction a Senior Law Librarians Caucus with those objectives. I guess we old-timers will have to resign ourselves to sitting in hotel bars after the West party to reminisce about the good old days when West wasn't so cheap to issue the party's last call at 9:00 p.m. and mean it. At least get me drunk before you .... [JH]
Orphan Works: A Statement of Best Practices
The Society of American Archivists has released its revised version of Orphan Works: A Statement of Best Practices. The statement outlines reasonable efforts archivists should take to identify and locate rights holders. Hat tip to Digital Koans. [JH]
NLJ's 2009 U.S. Supreme Court Review
The National Law Journal's annual review of the Supreme Court examines the numbers and trends that shaped the last term and will affect the term to come. [JH]
August 3, 2009
Preparing for 1Ls
I have to give a shout out to my colleague Mary Rumsey for creating this short movie on rules for using the reference desk service and posting it on Facebook. I know you will all appreciate it:
I must admit, I am tempted to show it during 1L orientation but we already have our "script" ready to roll. Like Mary, we also use technology to have a little fun. As the unsuspecting 1Ls roll into orientation room - which is the Professor Joseph Crea Reading Room at other times - we have a little Animoto video playing with some hip hop music.
The Animoto highlights the "faces" of the library people who they will interact with while a law student. Librarian Harold O'Grady is responsible for our Animoto. We like it because it is easy to use and rather produces a rather spiffy looking product!
I give them a welcome to the law library (which is a bit serious and slightly out of character for me) and then have them answer a few survey questions to benchmark some features for our new class of students. Then they split into two groups. Group 1 is introduced to 1L study aids like Hornbooks, the Concise Series, etc. Group 2 starts with a tour of our 1L lib guide that Librarian Karen Schneiderman is authoring (not yet ready for prime time). Then they switch places.
But I am curious how other academic libraries meet and greet their 1Ls during orientation. Do you use any gimmicks like Text-to-movie or Animoto? I'd love to hear your ideas and so would everyone else!
Amazon Sued Over Kindle Deletions
The first lawsuitsover Amazon's mass deletions of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from the Kindle are now filed. That didn't take very long. The two plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit are Justin Gawronski of Michigan and Antoine Bruguier of California. The suit is filed in federal district court in Seattle against Amazon. Garonskui bought 1984 for his Kindle 2 as part of a summer reading project. He attached a large number of notes to his copy, and though Amazon keeps the annotations in a separate file, they aren't necessarily understandable or useful without the content to which they are attached. Gawronski noted sections of the book as anyone would with space in the margins. The marginalia doesn't mean as much without the text. Bruguier's experience included a customer service session where Amazon couldn't explain why the book was deleted and following it up with another communication explaining the deletion due to licensing issues.
The lawsuit claims a breach of contract and violations of Amazon's terms of service. Generally, an Amazon customer using the Kindle as a platform for reading e-books can maintain a permanent copy of the title and can have unlimited access. DRM prevents copying, printing, and other limitations on viewing or sharing the title outside of the Kindle reader. The lawsuit also alleges violations of the Washington state Consumer Protection Act.
Amazon apologized for deleting the books shortly the incident. Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO, called the move stupid and thoughtless and said that any future incidents will be handled differently. It was the "delete first and explain later" mentality that rankled customers despite the fact that Amazon completely refunded all purchases. That last point begs the question of exactly what are the damages suffered by the two plaintiffs and the potential class? It can't be for the cost of the books. What value can be assigned for the inconvenience of the e-book disappearing from a Kindle? There is also a question as to whether the deletion even violated the terms of service when Amazon wasn't authorized to sell the books in the United States in the first place. This suit is really about what rights customers can expect with digital books, and possibly other digital materials.
That's the fuzzy, amorphous place where content providers try to accommodate customers with products that are no longer physical. Because computer files are easily duplicated, the market seems to have this problem of balancing customer rights with protecting the content. Some strange attitudes have developed out there over the value of digital files. The music industry, for example, is waging a fight at the Copyright Office over whether consumers can break DRM on files they purchased from defunct vendors. Every three years the Copyright Office examinesand grants exemptions from various DMCA restrictions where appropriate. One such request highlights the problem of digital "ownership." What happens to consumer files when the servers go dark?
This is a real problem. Yahoo, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart each had music stores they shuttered. Each sold files that required server authentication. The stores went dark and after a time the files in consumer hands no longer worked. Steven Metalitz, representing the MPAA, the RIAA, and other rightsholders responded to the idea of customer ownership:
"We reject the view that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works. No other product or service providers are held to such lofty standards. No one expects computers or other electronics devices to work properly in perpetuity, and there is no reason that any particular mode of distributing copyrighted works should be required to do so."
This essentially strikes at the heart of the Amazon deletions. There is the practical problem of who really owns this stuff in spite of what the terms of service say. Unlike some music services that have abandoned DRM, Amazon tightly controls what happens to the electronic product they sell. Consumers have won the right to back up their music files by burning them to CD or simply archiving them to hard drives or servers. At that point the burden of backing up digital files falls to the consumer. E-books haven't come this far. Amazon and the publishers control it all. We have to have faith that Amazon will come through for us in ten years when the Kindle20 comes out. I'm not so sure that the majority of the general public is willing to make that leap. It took about 20 years or so for most legal professionals to accept the idea that Westlaw and Lexis weren't transient. That includes the shock of both services coming under the control of major corporations not based in the United States. While I don't think the plaintiffs in these suits are going to get anywhere with their facts, these suits are helpful in defining rights and shaping the nascent e-book market. They also help to give fodder for future legislative battles over consumer rights. [MG]
Thumbs Up or Down for 2009 AALL Annual Meeting
5-Stars, 4-Stars, 3-Stars ... What did you think about the festivities at the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting?
Findings from Law Firm Research Instruction Needs Survey Also Useful for Collection Development Decisions
In Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys, 101 Law Library Journal 297 (2009), Patrick Meyer, Associate Library Director and Adjunct Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, reports on the findings of his 2007 survey of law firm librarians that was intended to identify the most important law firm research tasks and the proper format or formats in which those tasks should be performed so that advanced legal research courses could be designed to prepare new law firm attorneys. I subscribe to the notion that advanced legal research instruction should be format neutral. First you teach students the principles of legal research for specific research tasks by an analysis of access points and routes to legal resources based on a documentation analysis. Then you apply those principles in an integrated manner to print and online resources so students are equipped to perform research regardless of the setting they find themselves in after graduation from law school. However, it is also important to know which formats are preferred in law firms and Meyer provides some of this information in the form of opinion responses from law firm librarians.
Mayer's survey found the following about research tasks that should be performed by recommended format.
I believe most law librarians would agree with the responses as a set of best research practices by type of research task. The survey does not tell us what resources new attorneys are actually using for the above research tasks (or were trying to use before firm librarians pointed them in the right direction). That was beyond the survey's scope but the information might have been helpful for ALR instructors so they could address the set of bad research practices law firm librarians deal with when newly minted lawyers arrive on their doorsteps.
Oh well, since most new lawyers haven't taken an ALR course because most law schools deem the production of research-skilled students not sufficiently important to require ALR instruction, the legal academy leaves that job to law firm librarians anyway. Intuitively, most ALR instructors know what some of these bad practices are and they try to correct them in their courses but they probably don't know all of the bad practices because enrollment in ALR courses is limited to students who want to know how to perform research. Many who need to know how to perform research don't take a comprehensive ALR course. We'll have to wait 3 to 5 years to see if multiple-choice questions for testing research skills on the multi-state bar exam improves the situation by requiring a radical reform of the typical 1L legal writing and research program or, better, by requiring a comprehensive ALR course in order to prepare students to pass the bar exam's research component.
My one problem with the survey is that it was conducted in 2007, that is to say before law firm librarians faced budget cutbacks to their collections. This, of course, is not a criticism of Meyer's work. Some (many?) firm librarians are now facing decisions or have already had to make decisions that would lead them to qualify their best practice responses along this line: "new attorneys should use X in format Y to perform research task Z but our library had to cancel X because our firm could no longer afford it." In other words, some of the best research practices responses may now be wish lists that echo back to collection cuts as much as they reveal the poor research skills new attorneys have.
While the survey findings were intended to help ALR instructors design their courses, the data may also provide law librarians, and not just law firm librarians, with some authority to point to when attempting to justify the retention of print and online legal resources in the face of budget cuts to their collections. There is plenty more additional useful data than provided above, so I strongly recommend Meyer's LLJ article to both ALR instructors and collection development decision-makers. [JH]
Judge Aldisert's Opinion Writing, 2d ed. Now Available
A couple of weeks ago LLB posted an announcement about Judge Ruggero J. Aldisert's article, Opinion Writing and Opinion Readers [SSRN], which was inspired by the work done by the author and his law clerks in editing and preparing the second edition of the judge's classic book Opinion Writing. At the time, the second edition was not available for purchase. Now it is. It was released by AuthorHouse on July 27 and here's the brochure which includes pricing and sales information. Visit the book's website for additional information.
The first edition was never widely available but was much sought after. On Legal Research Plus, Paul Lomio recounts its history:
West Publishing Co. commissioned Judge Aldisert (Chief Judge Emeritus, Senior U.S. Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3d Circuit) to write the book. It was never sold but utilized by West as a public relations gesture. Despite never being made commercially available, there are 144 libraries in WorldCat that hold copies. West sent the book to all federal judges and to state appellate judges, and as new judges came on later each new judge received a copy. This practice continued for over 15 years, but after West was bought by Thomson, the new owners decided a few years back to stop the practice. Rights were transferred back to the judge and the second edition is being published by AuthorHouse.
About the second edition Lomio adds, "My daughter clerked for Judge Aldisert and assisted with the production of the book. So I know it’s really good!" I ordered my copy right after reading Lomio's post. Highly recommended. [JH]
Webcast of The Future of Today's Legal Scholarship Symposium
In case you weren't able to attend The Future of Today's Legal Scholarship: A Symposium in Honor of Bob Oakley which took place on Saturday, July 25 at Georgetown Law, the symposium's archived webcast is available. Here's the agenda:
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Bob Berring, Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law, UC Berkeley, Boalt Hall
Panel I: The Future Research Value of Blogs
Chris Borgen, Associate Professor of Law, St. John's University
Lee Peoples, Associate Professor of Law Library Science, Associate Law Library Director, and Director of International Programs, Oklahoma City University School of Law
Margaret Schilt, Faculty Services Librarian, D'Angelo Law Library, University of Chicago
Panel II: Blogs and Reliability
Tom Goldstein, Partner, Akin Gump
Toby McIntosh, Director of Editorial Quality Review, BNA
Mike Wash, Chief Information Officer, U.S. GPO
Panel III: Blog Preservation
Laura Campbell, Associate Librarian for Strategic Initiatives, Library of Congress
Linda Frueh, Regional Director, Washington D.C., Internet Archive
Carolyn Hank, Triangle Research Libraries Network Doctoral Fellow at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
August 2, 2009
West Releases Publisher 5.0 for Court Reporting Agencies
From the press release, Publisher 5.0 features include:
Faster and easier. Publisher’s simpler interface and new features make transcript post-production faster than ever, while making it easy to specify metadata and Bundle and cover page properties.Publisher 5.0 automatically hyperlinks every exhibit reference to the scanned document, and new “wildcard” search technology makes it easy to link from additional terms in the transcript.
Unlimited Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Publisher now includes the highly-regarded ABBYY® FineReader® OCR engine at no additional charge. Now agencies can generate fully searchable text from exhibits every time, so the end user can search the exhibits along with the transcripts.
Flexible import and output options make it the only tool you need. In addition to importing digitally signed transcripts from E-Transcript Manager™, Publisher 5.0 imports multiple ASCII transcript formats, Publisher Bundles, LEF files, and synched MDB files. Publisher 5.0 also makes it easy to import multipage exhibit documents in various image formats. Plus, Publisher offers flexible output formats: agencies can send a Bundle along with free viewing software or output to software-specific formats such as MDB and SBF, making Publisher the only post-production tool you need to support all of your clients.
One simple viewer for everything. Publisher 5.0 is accompanied by the new E-Transcript Bundle Viewer™, which allows attorneys and paralegals to benefit from a court reporter’s work right away. The new viewer opens all transcripts, exhibits and video in a single-viewing window, with convenient tools to search, print and generate video clips. The E-Transcript Bundle Viewer loads on a DVD along with the Bundle, or it can be downloaded free of charge by anyone from the RealLegal website.