April 24, 2010
A New, Albeit Salacious, Meaning to the Touch-based Interface: Porn Company Claims to Have Hacked the iPadCNN's Doug Gross is reporting that one of the world's biggest porn companies claims it hacked a way to stream its videos onto the iPad, skipping the Apple store completely, and giving a new, albeit salacious, meaning to the touch-based interface. "The announcement," write Gross, "illustrates a widely acknowledged but seldom-spoken truth of the technology world: Whenever there's a new content platform, the adult-entertainment industry is one of the first to adopt it -- if they didn't help create it in the first place."
Fifth Anniversary of YouTube's First Video UploadWith the recent kerfuffle over YouTube dropping Hitler parody videos, the fifth anniversary of YouTube's first video upload may have been overlooked. The 19-second long "Me at the zoo" video was uploaded on April 23, 2005. It features one of YouTube’s founders, Jawed Karim, at the San Diego Zoo. Hat tip to Mashable's Stan Schroeder who has embedded the video in his post. [JH]
47% of American Households Who Pay Owe No Income Tax
And that factoid is up from 38% in 2007 but while the figure has "become shorthand for the notion that the wealthy face a much higher tax burden than they once did while growing numbers of Americans are effectively on the dole ... Neither one of those ideas is true. They rely on a cleverly selective reading of the facts. So does the 47% number" according to David Leonhard's New York Times article. One might say a clever disclosure of the facts as SOP for cable news talking heads fodder. See also Paul Caron's post and his follow-up post on TaxProf Blog.
BTW, you might want to check out TaxProf Blog's annual ritual of reporting the President's and Vice-President's income tax returns, the latest being Obama and Biden Release Tax Returns as well as Caron's post on President Obama's Tax Treatment of His 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. [JH]
April 23, 2010
Student Site Seeks Transparency in Law Graduate Employment
The ABA Journal is reporting on two Vanderbilt Law Students who created a web site, Law School Transparency, to try and get more legitimate employment information for law school graduates. The premise is that employment data reported to the ABA and U.S. News is aggregate, which hides the real condition of the employment market for those with a law degree. As the ABA Journal articlenotes, those employed as in-house counsel are grouped in with graduates holding non-law jobs such as cooks at Waffle Houses. Would you like bacon or sausage with those contracts? Patrick Lynch and Kyle McEntee have published a paper at SSRN that details the concerns and methodology of reporting more detailed employment figures.
Good luck with that, as they say. The concept is a good idea, but there are vested interests in not releasing the information with such detail. The only schools that would voluntarily comply with a project such as this are those who have really good employment figures. That may include a few of the really good schools who can still place graduates. With large law firms holding off on associates from these same schools and Harvard and others having offered some tuition payback delay or forgiveness in return for public service work, I think even those will decide not to cooperate. Look for leaked documentsand other discussion rather than a comprehensive data set. Even that may have some impact on a potential law student's idea of what may happen to him or her at the other end of the grinder. Some of the raw data may even get some of the schools to respond in one form or another. Either that, or get the ABA and/or U.S. News to require it as part of the reporting process. Not likely to happen. [MG]
Friday Fun Part 2: Hitler, as "Downfall producer" orders a DMCA takedown
The popular Hitler parody videos that remix the bunker scene from the German film, "The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich" are disappearing from YouTube, thanks to Constantin Film (the movie’s producer and distributor) and YouTube’s censorship-friendly automated filtering system, Content I.D., including EFF board member Brad Templeton's parody where Hitler, as the "Downfall producer," orders a DCMA takedown. Templeton filed a dispute so his parody is back on YouTube, for now... Just in case, the video is also available on Vimeo. See Templeton's Studio does content-ID takedown of my Hitler video about takedowns and Hitler tries a DMCA takedown posts. See also Corynne McSherry's EFF Deeplinks post, Everyone Who’s Made a Hitler Parody Video, Leave the Room and Jim Levy's LLB post, More copyright problems for bloggers (and others) - Hitler video parodies must end.
In Templeton's parody, Hitler is the film producer, and his lawyers tell him why he can't do a DMCA takedown and how the EFF would stop him. He desperately searches for other ways to protect his movie. The video educates about intellectual property issues and parodies the actions of the studio using the very clip they are trying to block. Here's the links to Templeton's video on Vimeo and YouTube. [JH]
Friday Fun: Decline of Print Newspapers Has Serious Consequences
From the fine folks at The Onion. [JH]
Google Launches Government Requests Tool Providing Data on Content Removal Requests
On April 20, 2010, Google launched Government Requests which provides data on the number of government requests the Company has received to remove content and the pecentage of those requests the Company complied with on a country-by-country basis in a map display. For the launch, Google provides data from July-December, 2009 with plans to update the data in 6-month increments. From the Offical Google Blog post, Greater transparency around government requests:
We already try to be as transparent as legally possible with respect to requests. Whenever we can, we notify users about requests that may affect them personally. If we remove content in search results, we display a message to users. The numbers we are sharing today take this transparency a step further and reflect the total number of requests we have received broken down by jurisdiction. We are also sharing the number of these content removal requests that we do not comply with, and while we cannot yet provide more detail about our compliance with user data requests in a useful way, we intend to do so in the future.
See also the Offical Google Blog post entitled Controversial content and free expression on the web: a refresher. [JH]
SharePoint and Librarians: Background Article, Survey Results and Webinar
Lorette S.J. Weldon examines how SharePoint is used within the library for collaboration, capturing and organizing corporate knowledge, and organizing digital content in The Odd Couple: SharePoint and Librarians (LRRX). She also reviews the results from her survey, "SharePoint Usage in the Library," and takes the opportunity to announce the following online seminar.
SharePoint Training for Information Professionals without Coding Webinar
This online seminar would help Non-IT (Information Technology) librarians understand what MS SharePoint is and how to program it without coding. The technology of programming without coding allows Non-IT librarians to be able to create a webpart from within MS SharePoint that would not require any programming knowledge. Topics covered would be: using pre-defined templates for data collecting; creating menus, forms, reports and website pages by using SharePoint; using the "wizard" which is a group of interactive web pages that guide the Non-IT librarian in creating a webpart for the SharePoint site; Webpart customization of fields. Feature mapping would also be discussed so that the SharePoint site would be made with input from all staff and answer the needs of staff by correlating SharePoint’s features.
Registration is open for the following dates:
• Saturday, June 19, 2010, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM (Eastern Time)
• Saturday, June 26, 2010, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM (Eastern Time)
Opening: Reference Librarian, New Mexico Supreme Court Law LibraryThe New Mexico Supreme Court Law Library in Santa Fe, New Mexico has an opening for a Law Librarian II. The online posting is at http://www.nmcourts.gov/jobs/jobselectpage.php The position closes at 5 p.m. on April 30, 2010. Please direct all applications to Roberta Lujan, supral(at)nmcourts.gov.
April 22, 2010
More on ACTA
The ACTA provisions that generate the most criticisms are those dealing with the potential for three strikes laws and circumventing digital rights management implementations. The secretive nature of the earlier drafts suggested imposing a three strikes requirement as the bits and pieces of those texts found their way to the Internet. That has been removed, though one of the options provides that the treaty would not interfere with a signatory to impose such a regime under their local laws. Forcing an ISP to spy on its users in actively policing infringing activities also defers to the same principles under the U.S. DMCA. The content holders would request the user information for suspected infringers to which the ISPs would respond. The optional provision as written does not seem to require a court order of any type. The text also encourages signatories to forge a a supportive relationship between copyright holders and ISPs. The attitude seems to be "We're all in this together, after all." See the options beginning at page 21 of the April 2010 draft for more details.
The draft would require signatories to impose civil and criminal penalties for removing digital rights management controls from protected works. Different countries can adopt limitations or exceptions provided they do not impair the legal effectiveness of the no-breaking provision. This is very much in line with provisions of the U.S. DMCA, except imposed globally. Now, I grant that there are a number of parties who consider provisions such as these as precluding any type of fair use that may have been valid simply because a content holder places an electronic lock on their content. Some go even further. The RIAA refuses to acknowledge that copying unprotected CDs for personal use (ripping to use on the owner's MP3 player, for example) is authorized under the law. Then again, it's difficult to catch one in the act for purposes of a suit.
As a practical matter, there are free tools available on the Internet that accomplish DRM stripping for a variety of formats and purposes. I'm not going to name any, lest I encourage illegal activities, which I do not. I will question, however, that despite the imposition of such a regime in U.S. law, that even current commercial products (which I will also not identify) seem to exist that are promoted on the basis of their ability to "back up" or "clone" protected media. The point of all this is that the treaty and domestic law may make the conduct illegal, but it won't necessarily stop it. I suppose this is one of the ironies in the treaty and enforcement process.
One of the signatories likely won't be India. Lobbying seems to have failed there as Boing Boing is reporting that the new India copyright law declares personal copying to be fair use, and breaking DRM is ok provided that the person who does the breaking isn't violating copyright. Quick, somebody tell the U.S. Trade Representative. [MG]
This Earth Day Prompts the Following Westlaw Patron Access Account Question
Why does Westlaw's Patron Access accounts require print-outs of search results? Or will the so-called beta test Patron Access account system that allows emailing output ever be implemented for all law libraries? American Loggers and other cable series may like the current restrictions but some forests really want to know.
Westlaw Patron Access has become a very convenient way to double bill institutions for access to the same or nearly the same contents provided by specific user name and password account-based plans.TR Legal's paranoia resides in the fear that someone is going to scrap Westlaw content and post the resources on the Internet. Of course, the Company explains that licensing agreements restricts them from doing otherwise and, indeed, someone with the necessary programming skills could scrap the contents from the 40,000-odd databases for republication on the Internet, but tracking cookies could solve that problem by way of the ever convenient Take-Down Notice.
TR Legal could provide generic user accounts under an existing plan for embedding in library workstation-based public access. But then the Company would lose the revenue from double billing institutional subscribers who want to provide some sort of public access to Westlaw. [JH]
Independent Development of TR "Bench & Bar" Moble Apps Coming Someday?
I agree with Greg Lambert who writes that TR's StreetApps Challenge is an interesting way to test out the 'crowd' to help them build TR API-based mobile apps for their financial products. Why not "Bench & Bar" apps for their legal products, too? Or as Greg writes:
This particular competition is for TR's financial products, but if this is successful maybe they'll start expanding to their legal products as well. One of my friends commented to me that if it is really, really successful, they can start laying off more people.
Greg is referring to recent layoffs including the one currently underway at the last brick-and-mortar remnant of what once was the oldest legal publishing house in the US, Banks-Baldwin's Cleveland suburb office, with work being shifted to New York, Minnesota, the Philippines and India, as reported by both of us here (Greg) and here (LLB). Greg, I thought I was supposed to be the cranky law librarian in the legal information profession blogosphere!
Instead of layoffs, perhaps TR Legal can task some of its workforce to develop a modern user interface, namely one on a touch-based model for the roll-out of NextWestlawNext. For more, see for example, Is the iPad Setting the Stage for the Wider Adoption of the Touch-Screen Interface? and The Window of Opportunity for UI Development is Open: Who Will Create the Better Mouse-Trap for Using Secondary Legal Resources Online? [JH]
Draft Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) Officially Released
Negotiators for Australia, Canada, the European Union countries, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States finally released a consolidated draft text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (dated April 2010) to the public yesterday after a version dated Jan. 18, 2010 had been leaked in March. For background, see the Wikipedia entry.
From Nate Anderson's Art Technica post, ACTA arrives (still bad, but a tiny bit better):
Though billed as a "trade agreement" about "counterfeiting," ACTA is much more than that: it's an intellectual property treaty in disguise. Tucked inside the draft are provisions that will prevent people from bypassing digital locks on the items they buy, that will force ISPs to shoulder more of the burden in the fight against online piracy, and that bring US-style "notice-and-takedown" rules to the world.
From Rob Pegoraro's Washington Post Fast Forward blog post:
This proposed agreement is what I thought it was: an intellectual-property land grab that would cement some of the uglier aspects of American law, export those provisions to other countries, possibly import even worse provisions back into the U.S. and, in the bargain, spawn a new and largely redundant international bureaucracy.
The Unchanging Foundation of Copyright
Copyright Clearance Center CEO Tracey Armstrong discusses her belief that copyright holders have the right to price and term their works and the ways in which this can be achieved in the digital world in Edward Nawotka's All Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. Nawotka writes "Armstrong maintains that despite the transition from analog to digital culture, the foundation of copyright hasn’t changed. It has only created a greater and more urgent need for expeditious means of licensing the material -– or clearing copyright."
Do you agree? Or is Ken Schneyer's comment to the Publishing Perspectives article more in tune with the changes taking place in the publishing industry?
Copyright is an artifact of the printing press. It was designed to solve a specific set of problems. It solved those problems tolerably well.
Just as a technological development made copyright necessary, technological developments are making it counterproductive. The recent, “stronger” forms of copyright, which have taken such absurd turns as outlawing technology itself, creating harsher sentences for bringing video cameras into movie theaters than for assault and battery, and creating a “limited time” of copyright ownership that cannot provide reasonable incentives to any mortal human, are evidence of how badly stressed the paradigm has become.
A new model is needed, one that will protect the interests of creators without giving a small minority of corporations a virtual stranglehold on culture or sacrificing the interests of nearly everyone else. I do not claim to know what that model is, although I have made some suggestions in the area.
I applaud the drive to develop creative ways of organizing relationships between adapters and original creators. It is certainly a step in the right direction.
But saying that “the foundation of copyright has not changed” is absurd.
"Copyright Law is Out of Balance." Snips from Register of Copyrights Maybeth Peters from BNA's Electronic Commerce & Law Report's "On Copyright's 300th Anniversary, Scholars Question Effectiveness of Current Formulation:"
Technological, social, and international evolutions are combining in ways that compel policy makers to act, Peters said at a conference on the 300th anniversary of modern copyright law sponsored by University of California at Berkeley, Santa Clara University's High Tech Law Institute, and the Copyright Society of the U.S.A.
Copyright is about incentivizing, creating, and making works available, said Peters, who is retiring at the end of the year. “Copyright should be seen as part of the solution, not as creating the problem,’’ she said. “But I do admit that when you have a statute that is crafted around photocopying and you are now in the digital age, it doesn't work very well.’’
Copyright law “is out of balance, and I think it's perceived by many as out of balance, and we have lost the respect of the public in many ways,’’ Peters said. Copyright law has to be updated “so that it makes sense for the copyright owners but also for the consuming public.’’
See also Lawrence Lessig's EDUCAUSE Review article, Getting Our Values around Copyright Right:
The existing system of copyright cannot work in the digital age. ... There is a growing copyright abolitionist movement—people who believe that copyright was a good idea for a time long gone and that we need to eliminate it and move on in a world where there is no copyright. I am against abolitionism. I believe copyright is an essential part of the cultural industries and will be essential in the digital age—even though I also believe it needs to be radically changed in all sorts of important ways and doesn't apply the same in science and in education. Copyright is essential to a diverse and rich (in all senses of that word) culture.
While pondering this issue, take a moment to consider the economic effects of piracy of digital content in the context of the GAO's recent report, Observations on Efforts to Quantify the Economic Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods reviewed in Mark Giangrande's LLB post, GAO Report Says Economic Effects Piracy of Goods and Files Can't Be Measured. [JH]
Workshare's Best Practices Guide on Metadata
From the Company's press release:
Workshare's free downloadable best practices paper explains what metadata is, how metadata may remain in a document --even if it is not visible or is hidden by black highlights for example-- and finally the best strategies organizations may employ to manage risk and confidentiality when it comes to sharing documents or converting them to PDFs.
The Best Practices Guide to Removing Metadata in Court Submissions is available as a PDF download. See related Workshare whitepapers here, including, for example, The Dangers of Document Metadata.
Registration is required and, do note, Workshare is a vendor of metadata removal software. [JH]
April 21, 2010
Facebook announces big changes - "Open Graph" is here.
During today's Developer's conference in San Francisco, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced some major changes to the Facebook platform which involve greater integration between it and the web. Dubbed "Open Graph," Zuckerberg describes it this way on the Facebook blog:
Three years ago at our first f8 conference for developers, I introduced the concept of the social graph, which is the idea that if you mapped out all the connections between people and the things they care about, it would form a graph that connects everyone together. Facebook has focused mostly on mapping out the part of the graph around people and their relationships.
At the same time, other sites and services have been mapping out other parts of the graph so you can get relevant information about different types of things. For example, Yelp maps out the best local businesses and Pandora maps out which songs are related to each other.
All of these connections are important parts of the social graph, but until now it hasn't been possible to easily share the connections you make on sites like Yelp or Pandora with your friends on Facebook. And you haven't been able to bring your friends from Facebook to share experiences on these sites or personalize them to you.
Today at our third f8, we are making it so all websites can work together to build a more comprehensive map of connections and create better, more social experiences for everyone. We have redesigned Facebook Platform to offer a simple set of tools that sites around the web can use to personalize experiences and build out the graph of connections people are making.
This next version of Facebook Platform puts people at the center of the web. It lets you shape your experiences online and make them more social. For example, if you like a band on Pandora, that information can become part of the graph so that later if you visit a concert site, the site can tell you when the band you like is coming to your area. The power of the open graph is that it helps to create a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken.
Privacy experts worry this means Facebook users will be sharing a lot of personal data with the world. The new settings also "allow some select third-party Web sites to access and store users' personal information." For that reason, a CNN reporter suggests you double-check your privacy settings:
At least for now, a person's likes and dislikes are only as visible as they want them to be.
But, if nothing else, that means you should probably double-check your privacy settings.
Go to Facebook, look at the top right of the screen and click the "Account" tab. Choose "Privacy settings" and then navigate to "Profile information."
Check the "likes and interests" setting. If you have that set to "everyone," then anyone on the Internet could see which web pages you have liked.
Can Texas court require litigants to file all documents through LexisNexis' "File and Serve?"
Here's an interesting case from Texas involving a class action suit against the Montgomery County courts for requiring litigants in that locale to use LexisNexis's commercial filing feature called "File and Serve" rather than the state's gratis online filing system "Texas Online." Apparently the Lexis system has fees attached ('natch) to court filings which litigants (or at least members of this class action) understandably don't want to pay:
As reported yesterday in Texas Lawyer, the court clerk in Montgomery County has been bouncing any filings not made through the service, which tacks on fees, service charges and other costs every time a litigant wants to file something.
More copyright problems for bloggers (and others) - Hitler video parodies must end
By now it's pretty hard to avoid one of the many (hundreds?) video parodies of a scene from the German film Downfall in which Hitler is in a bunker excoriating his officers for losing the war. It's become a viral phenomenon in which parodists add their own subtitles relating to everything from law school to Hitler as hipster. Indeed, we recently published three of the law school related parody videos here (knock-on-wood, no take-down notices yet).
The Open Video Alliance is reporting that the film's copyright owner has had enough of the silliness and is sending out a slew of DMCA take-down notices demanding that the video parodies be removed forthwith. Interestingly, the copyright owner's actions raise the same issue presently before a California federal district court in Lenz v. Universal: Whether a copyright holder has to consider the applicability of a fair use defense before sending out the take-down notice. Until the Lenz case is resolved, the copyright holder knows most don't have the financial wherewithal to fight any ensuing litigation so they comply instead.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
IALL Meeting in The Hague/RotterdamThe International Association of Law Libraries's (IALL) 29th annual course on international law librarianship will be held in The Hague/Rotterdam, Sep. 5-8, 2010. Titled "Dutch Gateways to International Law," it will examine: (1) the broad reach of international law; (2) the role of The Hague as the world capital of international law and the evolution of international law; and (3) tolerance in legal systems as shown by Dutch law. Registration opened recently. Unfortunately, I cannot attend due to personal and work commitments that require my presence in the USA during the course. (Three bursaries are available for persons who can attend to attend. Click here for details.) But I did attend IALL's 26th annual course held in Mumbai, India, in 2007 along with around 100 other law librarians from all over the world. I learned much and was impressed greatly with the course host, organizers, and participants. I am confident that this year's course will be just as instructive and impressive. [RLS]
Oxford Announces Bibliography Database
Oxford University Press is announcing a new online research service, Oxford Bibliographies Online, with availability for some topics this spring. Each subject bibliography is positioned as a combination of an encyclopedia and an annotated bibliography. The Oxford information page states that each subject will start with 50-100 entries, but likens that to a 4 volume printed encyclopedia. Each topic entry is peer-reviewed and updated quarterly with some 50-75 entries.
The content, as described, combines lists of selected, annotated citations with commentary by scholars and librarians that guide users to the best literature in the field. The coverage includes print and online resources and contains capabilities to link to a subscriber's other full text databases and library catalogs to acquire content behind the pay wall. The first subjects to appear are Classics, Islamic Studies, Social Work, and Criminology. Biblical Studies, Philosophy, and Atlantic History will follow with an additional 7-10 subjects.
Oxford is apparently taking on the role of creating the uber-research guide, one that faculty and librarians can use or draw upon rather than starting from scratch. As much as I like Google Scholar for filtering scholarly materials from the general Internet, the site's secondary (advanced) filters are utilitarian at best. There are publication, author, date, and some very generalized subject areas that are limits on the general search. Nonetheless, Scholar still returns a mass of materials that may or may not require a more critical eye in picking through the results.
More detailed field searching would make Google Scholar more useful. I understand, though, why that feature is not there. Google likes to manage information via machines, with few people involved if possible. Machines can't reconcile the finer differences between the various document structures to make this possible. Oxford can offer a federated approach to identifying and reviewing useful resources, which places it somewhat above Scholar for its search results. What Oxford hasn't identified so far is what search capabilities the Online Bibliographies will have. I assume they will be on a par with those in other proprietary literature databases. The quality of Oxford's scholarship is beyond question. What I really want to see is how they handle searching in the pan format/source/document type they represent in the content The Oxford information page on the bibliographies product is here. [MG]