September 26, 2009
AT&T Protests Google Voice Discrimination to FCC
Friday ended with the opening of another battle between AT&T and Google. This time it's over Google Voice. The application/service (I'm not sure which label applies, and this may be important) allows users to aggregate existing phone numbers to receive and place calls via a number registered with Google, check various voicemail accounts, essentially using Google and the Internet to handle the messy work underneath. See Joe Hodnicki's post from August 11th, Google Voice: Apple, the iPhone App Killer; FCC Wants Answers. for the first time the conflict between the two companies reared its head. At that time the FCC requested answers from Apple and AT&T why the app was rejected from the Apple App Store. AT&T denied involvement in Apple's decision altogether. Apple said unconvincingly that it had not rejected Google Voice for the iPhone but was simply still examining it. Google actually produced a letter of rejection indicating that rejection was based on the app reproducing the dialer feature of the iPhone. The FCC has yet to respond to that question.
The new allegations came in an AT&T letter to the FCC claiming Google violates competition and neutrality rules because it block calls to certain parts of rural America to save money. What's going on here is that certain rural networks charge hundreds of times more to connect calls to their numbers than the large networks. This is because these same rural networks host vendors for adult chat and pornography on their networks. They make money by charging outrageous fees to connect outside calls based on demand for these services. The agreements these networks have with these vendors calls for the networks to share revenues. Companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and others have no choice but to pay the fees under common carrier rules in place. Google refuses to connect these calls through Google Voice. AT&T is essentially saying Google should be covered under the same rules and treated similar to "other" carriers.
Google counters on its Public Services Blogthat Google Voice is an application, that it is not intended as a replacement for phone service (requiring an existing land or wire line to use it), and it is invitation only serving only a limited number of users. It's a service overlay on existing phone service, if I summarize Google's information on the application. Google also states that this is really about its support for the Commission Chair Genachowski's push for open Internet principles.
The FCC acknowledged that it received AT&T's letter. AT&T says if it doesn't get a response, or even a satisfactory one, it will file a formal complaint. Google says that is an attempt to slow down the FCC on its net neutrality push.
So, does Google Voice turn Google into a common carrier for phone signals? I don't think so because Google is not a VoIP carrier such as Skype. It doesn't compete for customers with carriers and it doesn't charge them. If all the phone companies went away and only Google Voice remained, it wouldn't work anymore. On the other hand, the fact that Google Voice allows someone to place calls, the dialer function that preoccupied Apple, is problematic and makes the decision a closer one than it might seem. The situation is not just limited to calls piggy-backing on another network. (AT&T has always had a beef about large traffic sites such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others freeloading on its system. The company has always wanted to change the business model for Internet access to be more like cell phones where both ends of the conversation are charged for the same transaction.) What about 911 service? What if someone makes an emergency call through Google Voice? It seems improbable because a user would need a regular line to take advantage of Google Voice. Why not just use that?
The comparisons both sides make are based in how things work now. If that is the case, I think Google wins. The Commission, however, ought to give some thought to how things may change down the line if Google Voice gets popular and if competitors create similar software with extended communication features. I like Google because they innovate where other companies fear to tread. Microsoft, for example, competes by creating a similar device to competitors with just enough features to distinguish its product, but not enough to make it attractive. See the Zune, in which the latest (3rd?) incarnation got good reviews. Microsoft is too bound by convention to create a truly exciting progress. Google may have failures, but when it does, they are usually spectacular. I'm not sure where Google Voice will fall. [MG]
Banned Books Week Begins Today
Since 1982, the ALA has sponsored this event to remind us not to take our intellectual freedom for granted.
ALA reports that there were 581 challenges to books in schools and libraries in 2008; however,the Banned Books Week web sight informs us that the official ALA figures do not include ALL the challenges. Seventy to eighty percent of challenges are not reported to the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (though they do not provide supporting documentation for that figure, other resources indicate this data is supported by surveys undertaken by a variety of advocacy groups.) Banned Books does offer a nice mashup that maps the challenges.
At the ALA web site, you can review the differences between a challenge and an actual banning of books. They also provide information about the types of challenges and bans that take place in schools and libraries throughout the country.
On the web site, there is little information about the procedures ALA follows in response to these challenges or activities, or exactly how many are successful or unsuccessful. You can learn a little more about the challenges in this report by Roger Doyle at http://www.ila.org/pdf/2008banned.pdf.
A further exploration of the ALA web site reveals the Office of Lawyers for Libraries which holds regional advocacy institutes for lawyers retained to represent libraries on legal issues. In February they will be holding an Advocacy Institute in Los Angeles. You can also take advantage of a number of self help tools posted on the ALA Advocacy University web site.
Most of the resources focus on how to advocate for your library in terms of lobbying. There is only one paper based resource that focuses on lobbying for the library workers. There are no resources to help advocate for job security or academic freedom for individual librarians who are on the front lines battling censorship everyday. Oh wait, that was yesterday's post.
In any case, Resource Shelf is doing a marvelous job keeping track of banned book resources to consult. This is a very important issue that I hope will all support.(VS)
Ah, the Good Old Days: Dedicated Legal Research Terminals, Keyboard Overlays ...
Along the way to completing an ILL request, look at what Sarah Glassmeyer found. I had one of these dedicated terminals on my desk. Thanks for the walk down memory lane Sarah.
Note the generational gap in two comments to her blog post about this circa 1982 technology: "Great find! I’d only heard rumors of these mysterious “LEXIS terminals" and "The dedicated terminals were marginally more acceptible than the next step, lame overlays for our keyboards."
Round-Up of State Personal Injury Practitioner Blogs
Kentucky Injury Attorney Blog
Covers injury law reports, cases and opinions in Kentucky. Published by Miller & Falkner.
Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog
Reports on injury law news, cases and opinions in Washington DC. Published by Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC.
Missouri Personal Injury Attorney Blog
Reports on injury law cases, news and opinions in Missouri. Published by Horn Law.
Missouri Injury Lawyers Blog
Provides insight on injury law cases, reports and opinions in Missouri. Published by Tatlow, Gump & Faiella.
Reports on injury law news, cases and opinions in Florida. Published by Troy & Schwartz, LLC
Examines injury law news, cases and reports in Massachusetts. Published by the Law Offices of William D. Kickham, Esq.
September 25, 2009
Protecting Jobs in the Good Old AAUP Way
In the September/October 2009 edition of the Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, John Buschman blasts the American Library Association for failing to protect the intellectual freedom of librarians. the ALA should defend librarians just as the American Association of University Professors defends faculty members(though, presumably not those faculty members that are librarians?).
In his article, Who Defends Intellectual Freedom of Librarians?, Buschman reviews the 1940 Joint Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the 1973 Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians (jointly issued and/or endorsed by the ALA, AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities), focusing on security of employment through the years. He notes that the ALA “policies are fundamentally sensible and grounded, they are strongly linked to the AAUP’s [support of faculty status], and they are on the books.” In essence, ALA and AAUP have paralleled each others’ policies on academic freedom and tenure for nearly seven decades.
The problem for us, he points out, is that ALA stops at the policy door while AAUP does not. AAUP backs its policies up with active investigations of serious violations of their standards, censures administrations that are violating the published protocols, and has had these standards and processes legally recognized through successful litigation (an early case which you can KeyCite or Shepardize for more citations is Browzin v. Catholic University of America, 527 F.2d 843 (1975). In contrast, ALA steadfastly refuses to take any action or make any comments on matters that affect academic freedom or job security. Instead they, as in ALA, classify actions that threaten academic freedom or job security as “local management issues.” This classification relieves ALA from taking a stand on behalf of its members.
As Buschman states: If the ALA is not willing to stand behind putting intellectual freedom into action in libraries, why should the practicing librarian do so?
The reason why I am reported back about this article is that I see a mighty parallel to our own institutional bodies and job security predicament. It seems so relevant since the ABA standards are under review and many of us have spent time digesting them. And to what end? The ABA seems to set standards for librarians and libraries that are ignored or disregarded in practice. There does not seem to be an institutional enforcement mechanism in place at the ABA to ensure that employers live up to the standards – at least for librarians.
Our AALL dues support lobbying efforts for a variety of causes - though in the case of job security I do not see much benefit to be frank. The efforts are made toward more lofty goals such as free access to government information. But,what about us? Maybe what we should spend some money on is a hardnosed lawyer who can successfully take offending schools, universities, and private employers to court in the good old American way. AAUP gives us a template for action. Or maybe we should just lend AAUP a hand and join their cause.(VS)
More Friday fun - Westlaw videos feature stress-toy abuse
Westlaw has a pair of promotional videos demonstrating how using its online research products can help reduce office-related stress. We must warn you, though, some of the images in these videos are very disturbing. You may not want to watch if stress-toy abuse upsets you.
Hat tip to Professor Jane Cross.
Justice Kennedy Shovels Dirt for New McGeorge Law Library
How many Universities break ground for a new Law Library, and how many of them get a Supreme Court Justice to help them when they do? Justice Anthony Kennedy did just that at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law on the 18th of September. Justice Kennedy taught there from 1965 to 1988 before being sworn in as that 104th Justice to the Supreme Court. The building housing the new law library will open in 2011.
Details are in the Sacramento Bee. [MG]
Oregon Bar Offers Fastcase to All Oregon Lawyers Via License
Fastcase and the Oregon State Bar Association announce what amounts to a state wide site license to the Fastcase legal database. 16,000 Oregon attorneys will have access. This kind of makes me wonder how much a primary law online collection is really worth? If an annual subscription to Fastcase is $995, that's essentially a significant pennies on the dollar discount on a potential $16 million audience. Not every lawyer in Oregon would subscribe, of course, but the move does expand the user base. Will other bar associations try the same thing? Will Lexis and Westlaw compete? Will Fastcase become a component of electronic legal instruction in Oregon and other law schools? Stay tuned.
Top 10 Federal Agencies By Facebook and Twitter Subscribers
According to Federal Computer Week (links to reports embedded in column headings).
Hat tip to beSpacific. [JH]
Attention Legal Research and Writing Profs: Example of How Not to Draft Court Filings Provided by Judge's Mark-Up of One; Note the Order
Hat tip to ATL's Elie Mystal for calling attention to this one! A local attorney in Daytona Florida, received "editing assistance" from U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell in the form of this order:
This matter came before the Court without oral argument upon consideration of Plaintiff’s, Carolyn Nault (“Plaintiff”), Response to this Court’s Order and Motion for Voluntary Dismissal (collectively, the “Motion”) (Docs. 21 and 22). Upon review, it is ORDERED that the Motion is DENIED without prejudice for failing to comply with Local Rule 3.01(g), for failing to secure a stipulation of dismissal from Defendant pursuant to FED.R. CIV. 41(a)(ii), and for otherwise being riddled with unprofessional grammatical and typographical errors that nearly render the entire Motion incomprehensible.
It is FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s counsel, David W. Glasser, shall re-read the Local Rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in their entirety. Furthermore,Mr. Glasser shall personally hand deliver a copy of this Order, together with the Court’s exhibit attached thereto, to his client, Carolyn Nault, by no later than Monday, September 21, 2009. By no later than Wednesday, September 23, 2009, Mr. Glasser shall file with the Court a “Notice of Compliance,” certifying to the Court that he has fully complied with this Order.
See the ATL post to view the attached exhibit which is a mark-up of the attorney's motion, apparently in the judge's own hand. Like Elie, "I’ve been known to make the occasional grammatical or typographical error." Well, more than occasionally but hell, these are blog posts, not court filings. [JH]
Friday Fun: Nouveau Poor Facing Discrimination From Old Poor
From The Onion, of course. [JH]
First Digitally Signed Order Issued by US District Court Magistrate
The order was executed by the John M. Facciola, Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, and it took place on August 26, 2009 according to this press release which promotes the technology used with this observation:
The action signals a groundbreaking opportunity for U.S. courts which, despite the widespread use of electronic filing systems, still require handwritten signatures by judges on paper. The ability to implement reliable digital signatures for court filings closes this disconnect, while providing the legal confidence necessary to admit into evidence documents that have been signed electronically.
Google Doesn't Use Keyword or Description Meta Tags in Page Rankings
Just in case you didn't know and having been spending way too much time to get web page meta data "just right," Google ignores keyword and description meta tag data in its SE page ranking. Hasn't been using the meta data for years and sees no need to change its policy according to this Google Webmaster Central Blog post. Google does, however, sometimes use description meta tag data for the page display snippets in search results.
Meta Tags Google Understands. About meta tags, Google's Webmaster Tools observes that "meta tags are a great way for webmasters to provide search engines with information about their sites. Meta tags can be used to provide information to all sorts of clients, and each system processes only the meta tags they understand and ignores the rest." The page identifies which meta tags Google's SE understands. [JH]
Desperately Seeking Publicity: We Got Cited! We Got Seats!
So last June SCOTUS favorably cited a 13 year old article published in the Tulane Maritime Law Journal. Like Madonna desperately seeking publicity by pulling out her tried and tested move - a lesbian kiss - the Tulane Law School PR folks decided that was newsworthy enough to issue a press release recently. See United States Supreme Court Cites Tulane Maritime Law Journal. Did they wait until the start of the academic year to issue it or did they only recently discover the citation? Pity the poor soul whose job is to find courts citing Tulane law review articles.
Tulane is a good law school, right? Sure it has a very checkered past when in comes to the administration of its law library. See On the Current (and Future) State of the Tulane Law Library and Damage Control at Tulane Law Library. But now that Jim Duggan has replaced Lance Query, Dean of Libraries and Academic Information Resources, who served three years as the "interim" director of the Tulane Law Library, the situation has to be improving. The new Law Librarian of Congress, Roberta I. Shaffer, is a Tulane Law grad and her appointment is newsworthy and was duly noted by Tulane's PR people. Is a SCOTUS cite in the class? Doubtful, even it the 13 year old cited article is the best damn article on maritime law ... just more law porn but at least no tree gave its life for it. I wonder if B-schools scan law school press releases for examples of how not to execute publicity campaigns. See the press release aggregator U.S. Law Schools News Briefs for more amateur attempts.
We Got Seats! A handful of years ago one status-obsessed Cincinnati Law prof wanted the law library to play up its high placement in a goofy academic law library ranking by publicizing the story on the library's website and alerting the University's PR staff of the "great news." See LLB's 2005 post, National Jurist Releases Academic Law Library Rankings which gave the ranking exactly the coverage it deserved by not listing the top 5, 10, whatever, academic law libraries. No one could stop the prof from blasting the ranking on the law school's internal listserv but the PR idea was nixed by the then law library director because the law library's relatively high score was the result of one metric, library seating per student ratio. My "We Got Seats!" press release never saw the light of day but it was fun to draft.
Some Things Are Better Left Unpublicized. Who is really going to believe that the University of Cincinnati's law library is in the same league as the HLS library as that National Jurist ranking reported? Isn't a press release about a 13 year old law review article being cited more likely to remind readers how rarely law review articles are cited by any court? This might be an instance where rarity ought not be newsworthy. [JH]
September 24, 2009
Extortion or Bad Joke: Make a Donation or RWU Law Will Interrupt Alums' Family Dinner Time with Phone Calls
Strange but true. Above the Law has republished this message from Rogers Williams School of Law:
Subject: A quiet dinner - from RWU Law
At Roger Williams University School of Law, we understand the importance of family time.
Our fall 2009 Phonathon begins soon. Although we are anxious to share all of the new and exciting things that are happening at RWU Law, in part due to support from RWU Law family members like you, we don’t want your dinner to be interrupted.
If your gift is received on or before the deadline of Friday, October 9th, your special family time won’t be interrupted by an alumni caller.
Make your gift online today by visiting our secure Online Giving Form.
If mailing your gift, [Redacted]
If you have already made a gift for fiscal year 2010, Thank you!
Times may change, but your support will always be important to our students!
(Emphasis in the original which makes me think it is intended to be humorous.)
Sage advice from ATL blogger, Elie Mystal: just don't answer the phone! "Why doesn’t everybody do that? We live in a world of caller id and voicemail — to say nothing of T.V. trays and the new season of Mad Men. Is family dinner really still a solemn activity that can be ruined by a phone call?" Certainly not Elie, unless my wife cooked dinner. [JH]
Who Let the Marketing Dogs of War In? AALL Spectrum Article by West Defines Pragmatic, Competent Vendors
I didn't know there was a synergy between the library community and West until I read Leveraging the Synergy of the Librarian and the Vendor in the Sept./Oct. 2009 issue of AALL Spectrum. Written by Michael Orrick, VP of Law Firm Markets Sales & Account Management, West North America Legal (with help from Linda G. Will, Will Resources), the article offers a description of pragmatic, competent vendors in these terms:
In this harsh economic light, vendors that spend time in the firm understanding a librarian’s pressure and reflecting those growing pains in their own businesses can work with librarians as partners. While the major vendors are pursuing their own margins, they are also generating and building better products and services to survive in this economy of commoditized web-based information. Recruiting vendors that listen to business needs and respond with pragmatic options will provide leverage to succeed in a firm.
Strategic options from pragmatic vendors should include:
• Creative information contracts
• Diversified content offerings with practical, practice-specific slices
• Multimedia bundles or bundled pricing that preserves the value of the knowledge librarians need rather than the container it is offered in
• Sharp market information, tools, and services that provide leading edge, current information about potential and existing clients
• Practical software, tools, and services that augment a librarian’s knowledge base
A true business partner will work with librarians to audit and professionally reshape the library to match both future vision and budget and not simply load them up with branded product. Competent vendors share this philosophy and will partner with information professionals for joint success.
Let's not waste time discussing
why AALL is letting West publish this piece in an Association title when West repeatedly refuses to collaborate with the Association by providing information for our price index, et cetera, et cetera; or
whether this article was in the Spectrum pipeline before or after West's recent boners like its asinine marketing stunt; or
how West's official mouthpiece for vendor-librarian community relations is going to become the voice of a "true business partner" (read I haven't checked law-lib to see if West's Senior Director for Librarian Relations has posted something to promote reading this article, is waiting to measure reaction to it before blasting the listservs, or has simply given up).
Instead let's use Orrick's statement as a basis to measure West's pragmatism and competence in the "reshap[ing]" of the law library "while the major vendors are pursuing their own margins" in the "harsh economic light" of day. Since the article wasn't labeled a "paid advertising supplement," he can't be that insulated in the land of 10,000 invoices not to think that law librarians, if not their professional association, won't hold the Company that issues his paychecks out of the revenue it receives from us accountable.
Where to Start? Orrick represents the law firm side of West's sales, so he and his cadre of reps can start with the challenge to vendors Greg Lambert threw down yesterday in Sorry Westlaw and Lexis - The Days of Passing Charges to Clients Are Numbered:
For the vendors, the fact that firms are seriously considering changing the methods of how they generate revenue means that vendors have to reevaluate how they negotiate the next contract. As clients bear less and less of the cost of online research, vendors cannot come to the negotiating table with the underlying idea that their service saves either the firm or the firm’s clients money. Those 30% profit margins are not sustainable as alternative fees become a larger percentage of how law firms generate revenue. Firms will finally come to the negotiating table willing to cut services, and demand that the built in annual increases end. The days of online legal research contracts based on the idea that the costs will be passed along to a third party are numbered. It is going to be interesting to see how it all unfolds.
Anatomical Considerations in the Shed West Era. Interesting indeed. As I read this statement, West will continue to pursue it's 30-plus percent profit margin. If that's the case, West doesn't even have a snowball's chance in hell to create any synergy with the library community during the current economy. Orrick closes the article with this "should" statement:
The librarian of 2009-2012 should be able to stand on the shoulders of his or her business partners (ed. note, that's West's new euphemism for vendors) to offer greater vision, greater leverage, and a more integrated knowledge base that help the practicing attorneys of the firm to trade more efficiently and to grow their respective franchises.
Do law firm librarians, do any law librarians, need anyone's shoulders to stand on to practice their profession? Sounds more like West needs a shoulder to cry on during this Shed West Era.
Rate Your Legal Resources Vendors. Stay tuned. Watch for LLB's Rate Your Legal Resources
Business Partners Vendors Survey, coming next week. [JH]
Putting West and LexisNexis Case Law Digesting Systems to the Relevancy Test
Susan Nevelow Mart's (Faculty Services Librarian, UC Hastings Law Library) has uploaded Reining in the Results: The Use of Human Indexing and Computer Algorithms in West’s Headnotes & Key Numbers and LexisNexis’s Headnotes & Topics as Tools for Finding Relevant Case Lawto SSRN in draft form. The article was presented at the Conference on Legal Information: Scholarship and Teaching, held at the University of Colorado Law School as part of its Boulder Summer Conference Series. So while it appears to be a work-in-progress, it should be very near final.
Mart took an admittedly small sample, "ten pairs of matching headnotes from legally important federal and California cases and reviewed the cases in the results sets generated by each classification," to compare these two very different systems, West's human indexing and LexisNexis' algorithmic indexing systems. So any results have to be qualified from the start. Not a complaint, the task is simply too much for one person to perform comprehensively.
Among Mart's findings: the average percentage of relevant cases found using West’s Key Numbers was 83.2%, LexisNexis’s More Like this Headnote was 62.3%, and Lexis Topics was 40.5%. Mart writes:
Since a major difference between the two systems would seem to be the degree of dependence of algorithms for creating classification topics and assigning headnotes to each topic, the role of human editors appears to be a definite advantage in returning relevant results. It seems that it is only the Key Number search results that are limited to those cases where the language of the headnote is present, and if limiting terms are present, where those terms also appear. This is definitely an advantage, but the advantage is not inclusive of all relevant cases.
Why? Because the LexisNexis classification system also returns a substantial percentage of relevant cases not found in West's Key Number System: 44% in LexisNexis More Like This Headnote and 28.2% in Lexis Topics.
See also Mart's findings for her study of using headnotes as limiters in KeyCite and Shepard’s. Mart conclusion in a nutshell: don't rely on one vendor's tools for comprehensive case law research. Mart's advice and article is highly recommended. [JH]
What's Old is New Again: Reading by Flipping
Pages Thumbnails Offered by Google Fast Flip
The Official Google Blog announced the launched of Google Fast Flip. Essentially, we're talking about navigating an aggregation of partnered newspapers and magazines by flipping through a series of thumbnail images of content organized by broad topics like sections of a newspaper, e.g., Politics, Business, U.S., World, Sports, Sci/Tech, Entertainment, etc., as well as by sources, hot topics and, recent, most viewed, etc.
You can search Fast Flip and customized its content. About personalization, the Official Google Blog explains:
Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized.
Ah, I guess that means this is a bit more than the usual Google cookie form of personalization.
Content partners include the BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, ProPublica, Newsweek, Spin... Google Fast Flip "gives publishers an opportunity to introduce new readers to their content. It also tests our theory that being able to read articles faster means people will read more of them, driving more ad revenue to publishers," according to the official announcement.
Faster apparently is better for this gimmicky service. [JH]
CRS Report on Access to Government Information
Access to Government Information In the United States (Aug. 31, 2009) provides an overview of federal records and meeting access statutes, the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and the Government in the Sunshine Act, and provides citations to additional resources relating to them. [JH]
September 23, 2009
Felony Stupidity in Facebook Use
Jonathan G. Parker, 19, of Fort Loudoun, PA, was arraigned last week on one count of felony burglary for breaking into a home and stealing two diamond rings valued at more than $3,500. Not news, but how Parker was caught is. According to this press account, the victim noticed that Parker's Facebook account was open when she checked her computer. Yes, that's right, in the midst of the burglary, the defendant allegedly took a moment to check his Facebook status. If convicted, Parker may meet a bunch of new friends whose interests will lie in an entirely different form of social networking. The computer he used, by the way, was in the same room the diamond rings were stored. Sounds like ADD to me.
Concurring Opinions' Danielle Citron observed that "this takes harming oneself through social networking to a new level." And one commentator to The Volokh Conspiracy postabout this exercise in felony stupidity in Facebook use asks "did the victim violate the burglar's expectation of privacy when he searched through his facebook page for the burglars real name instead of immediately logging out when he (ed. note, she) realized that somebody elses personal identifying information was visible?" [JH]