June 5, 2010
On The Internet, Everyone Knows You're a Dog - Get Used to It
Joe notes the EFF guides to privacy controls on Facebook below. I wonder if anyone noticed that the Like Button with which Facebook is seeding the web also acts as a tracker. Some might say, well, duh, especially if someone clicks the button. There's more to it, however. Declan McCullagh at CNET had this to say:
Even if someone is not a Facebook user or is not logged in, Facebook's social plug-ins collect the address of the Web page being visited and the Internet address of the visitor as soon as the page is loaded--clicking on the Like button is not required. If enough sites participate, that permits Facebook to assemble a vast amount of data about Internet users' browsing habits.
Cookies, in theory, don't even work this way. I though I should be outraged until I realized that this isn't that different from Google, Microsoft, or any other entity that has an interest in selling advertising or making money off a mound of Internet data. Dan Lyons in Newsweek characterized the status of Facebook members as "inventory" for the company. That's probably not far off the mark given Facebook's history with privacy .
And while we're at it, note these articles in Newsweek and the Boston Globe, on a student study performed at MIT where analyzing a Facebook member's public data, friends, comments, and other information gleaned from the site, it is possible to accurately predict an individual's sexual preference, religious beliefs, and other personal information not otherwise disclosed. Analytical software is apparently that good these days.
Facebook, as of now, works with third party advertisers. I wonder when they will get smart, cut out the middleman and start selling their own advertising? Wouldn't that be the best way to monetize inventory? On the Internet, everyone knows you're a dog, what breed and gender you are, what foods you eat, where you bought them, how much you consume, where you live, etc. Woof! [MG]
Summer Jobs for Law Students Harder to GetThe well publicized difficulty for law graduates to get a job has extended to the difficulty for law students to get a summer job, or even an interview for one. Law.com features an American Lawyer story centering on the experience of several students from Fordham University in landing interviews in the on-campus interview cycle. It isn't pretty. Read it here. [MG]
EFF's Guide to Facebook's New Privacy Controls
On May 26, 2010, Facebook implemented new privacy controls and settings by way of a privacy dashboard. See Kevin Bankston's commentary on EFF's Deeplinks Blog, Facebook's New Privacy Improvements Are a Positive Step, But There's Still More Work to Be Done. "Facebook has some recommended settings, but EFF recommends that users adopt stronger privacy settings than those recommended by Facebook," writes Bankston. EFF provides a step-by-step guide at How to Get More Privacy From Facebook's New Privacy Controls. [JH]
June 4, 2010
Friday Fun Part Three: It's "National Donut Day!"
I'm not sure how this one slipped through the cracks but no matter, there's still time left to get your free - yes, free! - donut from participating shops Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme. Make mine a chocolate coconut, please.
Courtesy of the Huffington Post:
National Doughnut Day 2010 is today, Friday, June 4, 2010, and many Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts locations are offering free donuts.
National Doughnut Day has been celebrated annually every year since 1938, when it began to honor the women who served soldiers doughnuts during World War I.
The day is always celebrated on the first Friday of June, a special treat suggesting summer is drawing near.
Today's Krispy Kreme promotion does not require a purchase to be made and a coupon is not needed either. Simply stop at a participating Krispy Kreme location for a free doughnut (scroll down for participating locations).
Salem Press' Library Blog Award Winners
The winners in each of the five categories of "topical" library blogging are:
General Library Blogs
First place: Libraries and Transliteracy
Second place: Centered Librarian
Third place: Librarian.net
Quirky Library Blogs
First place: Awful Library Books
Second place: Library History Buff
Third place: Going Green At Your Library
Another Third place: Judge a Book by its Cover
Academic Library Blogs
First place: No Shelf Required
Second place: ResourceShelf
Third place: The Kept-Up Academic Librarian
Public Library Blogs
First place: Agnostic, Maybe
Second place: Blogging for a Good Book
Third place: Library Garden
School Library Blogs
First Place: Bib 2.0
Second Place: Not So Distant Future
Third Place: 100 Scope Notes
Click here for details and links to the winning blogs. [JH]
Friday Fun Part Two: When is a court proceeding like an episode of the Simpsons?
Apparently when a Cook County (IL) assistant public defender ... well, here's the story as reported in Public defender arrested for allegedly attacking prosecutor:
A Cook County assistant public defender was arrested after he pushed and choked a prosecutor following a hearing at the Criminal Courts building today, officials said.
The public defender was upset about a hearing date a judge had set and complained to the assistant state's attorney in the case outside the courtroom, according to a source.
The prosecutor "apparently said, 'Too bad, that's the date the judge set,' and (the public defender) just lost it and shoved him against the wall," the source said.
The prosecutor "was stunned and didn't do anything, and the next thing you know (the public defender) had him in a headlock," the source said.
Another source who witnessed the incident said he heard a scuffle and saw the public defender choking the prosecutor. "He had his hands wrapped around his throat and was just kind of riding him down the wall," the source said.
Cook County sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson said two deputies had to break up the fight in the main hallway on the first floor.
The prosecutor was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital as a precaution, officials said. One of the deputies was also taken to Mt. Sinai for a minor back injury.
Sources said the public defender was taken into custody by deputies.
Do note the comments. [MG]
Friday Fun: The ID Ten T Error
A tribute to IT Help Desk support. [JH]
Consortium-Buying of Very Expensive Legal Search Services by Smaller Law Firms and Solo Practitioners
Thinking out loud in a blog post, Pooling: Should firms join to buy cheaper legal research tools?, Jason Wilson writes:
It seems to me that state-wide firms of certain sizes have enough similarity in their online legal research needs that they could form legal research pools. Imagine a group of solos and small firms negotiating with Westlaw or Lexis as if they were a 1,500 lawyer firm.
Imagine indeed. In one of the dark crevasses of my faulty memory I seem to recall that long ago there may have been a time when a few state bar associations provided their members some sort of access to one of our very expensive online legal search service vendors. If accurate, it was a very long time ago and these days state bar associations tend to provide their members access to low-cost services like Casemaker or Fastcase.
A legal practitioner licensing consortium would have to work out the mechanics of paying for a WEXIS license after deciding what its plan should include and whether out-of-plan resources should be accessible or not. All very doable for small firms and solo practitioners who are motivated to reduce their online legal research spend by joining together to increase their purchasing power. With Casemaker, Fastcase, etc., readily available and relatively low cost via state bar associations or separate standalone agreements, a practitioner licensing consortium's plan coverage would presumably want some secondary sources and one of the vendor's citators.
There are three key cost components to every WEXIS license: plan coverage, license duration and number of account holders. To avoid the possibility of password sharing, a licensing consortium would have to stipulate that all practicing attorneys, solo and small firms, belonging to the consortium would be counted as individual account holders. Taking that as a given, would TR Legal or Lexis be willing to wrap their corporate heads around a possible licensing arrangement like this. One's inclined to think "no way in hell."
But it could make good business sense. Any practitioner licensing consortium would have to demonstrate to one of the WEXIS vendors that it will make more money. That involves not losing current licensing revenue and stealing its competition's user base. In labor contract negotiations, we used to call this whipsawing. Forget about pitching to WEXIS that this is a good idea because current non-subscribers will be able to afford their online service. That will just get a request for a list of them so reps can make sales calls.
Instead, total the annual cost of all Westlaw licenses and the annual cost of all Lexis licenses of consortium members because each vendor will most definitely do that. Then negotiate. The vendor that wants to increase or not lose its revenue may blink if it hears that members who license their competitor's service will not be renewing their agreements if the consortium licenses the vendor's service or will not be renewing the vendor's agreements if the consortium licenses their competitor's service.
Of course, WEXIS may just wink to each other and refuse to answer the consortium's phone call. But times are tough in this economy so it might be worth trying. [JH]
There is no reliable method to measure the "scholarly" quality of law faculty: Results of Brian Leiter's Poll.
So what is the best way to evaluate the "scholarly" quality of a law faculty? Chicago law prof Brian Leiter launched a poll to find out by asking participants to rank order, from best to worst, the different ways of assessing the scholarly quality of a law faculty, broadly defined. 257 survey takers responded to the call and the results are in.
- There is no reliable method (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
- Impact/citation studies loses to There is no reliable method by 125–115
- Reputational surveys loses to There is no reliable method by 130–110, loses to Impact/citation studies by 118–107
- SSRN Downloads loses to There is no reliable method by 163–65, loses to Reputational surveys by 173–51
About the results, Leiter writes:
I'm a bit puzzled by the victory of "there is no reliable method," though at least some readers told me they chose it as a proxy for "none of the above." That would make more sense, since I assume all those who voted for "no reliable method" are in habit of adjudging some faculties better than others, so they must actually believe there is some rational basis for those judgments. Alternatively, perhaps some readers took "reliable" to mean wholly accurate or infallible, and then, of course, one would have to agree.
Those desperately seeking some sort of "scholarly" recognition by the asinine metric of mouse clicks (SSRN download counts) ought to know better by now. [JH]
Opening: Reference Library, Diamond Law Library, Columbia Univ.
The Diamond Law Library at Columbia University has an entry-level opening for a Reference Librarian. Reference Librarians provide general and in-depth reference service in all areas of law (including American, international, and foreign law) to faculty, students and others at the Law School Library; and share departmental administrative responsibilities with other reference librarians on a rotating basis.
Responsibilities also include searching electronic legal and bibliographic databases and other sources; training law students and others in the use of legal materials and databases through extensive classroom teaching, the leading of tours, and one-on-one instruction; preparing bibliographies and instructional materials; assisting with the coordination of interlibrary loan transactions; and other related duties. Reference Librarians share regular evening and weekend hours during the academic year.
Requirements: JD and MLS from accredited institutions or the equivalent combination of training and experience; reading knowledge of at least one foreign language; extensive experience with use of legal and non-legal electronic information resources; good communications skills; strong service orientation and organizational skills; and high level understanding of digital information systems and software. Experience with web site creation is preferred. Salary is commensurate with experience and qualifications.
Benefits: Excellent benefits including Columbia tuition exemption for self and family and assistance with University housing. Columbia will also pay 50% tuition for your dependent child who is a candidate for an undergraduate degree at another accredited college or university.
For immediate consideration please visit the following link: academicjobs.columbia.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=53251
Applications will be accepted immediately and until the position is filled.
Columbia University is An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. Minorities and women are encouraged to apply.
June 3, 2010
Do libraries face an inevitable digital future? And just what is the cost per volume of books versus digital?
Here's an important new report from the Council on Library and Information Services that explores the question of whether the library of the future is inevitably digital. The report includes three essays that approach this issue from slightly different perspectives:
All three [essays] show that our collective relocation from an analog to a digital environment for knowledge access, preservation, and reconstitution is under way and inexorable: the future of libraries and universities is digital. The first essay, “Can a New Research Library be All-Digital?” explores the degree to which a new research library can eschew print. “On the Cost of Keeping a Book,” the second essay, provides a persuasive argument that from the perspective of long-term storage, digital surrogates offer a considerable cost savings over print-based libraries. The third essay, “Ghostlier Demarcations,” describes research conducted against large-scale digital text data sets.
At least for the foreseeable future, the consensus is that a hybrid model which balances both electronic and print resources is the best solution from the standpoint of those engaged in research and scholarship. In particular, the essay on the per-volume cost of books (On the Cost of Keeping A Book) is interesting, if not surprising:
Libraries will face continuing choices in collection management, and making choices well will require understanding the cost of different modes of keeping materials accessible. Thus we are motivated to supplement the burgeoning literature on the cost of holding electronic records with a review and an addition to an older literature on the cost of keeping and using print books (hereafter referred to an pbooks when it is important to distinguish them from electronic books, or ebooks).
Between acquisition, space, staff, electricity and other relevant costs, it turns out pbooks are pretty doggone expensive compared to ebooks. You can read the full report here.
Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
Google Hosts USPTO Data for Public Access
Google has worked out a deal with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to host 10 terabytes of patent and trademark data for download to individual users. That essentially includes all granted patents and trademarks and published applications with full text and images. The documents are available for patents and trademarks on separate pages with links to different classifications of items. The download consists of a zip file containing an xml document with all of the details. The prior method for accessing this bulk data was via DVD data discs at a significant cost to the requester. The downloads are free of charge. The Google Public Policy Blog announcement is here, and an the USPTO press release is here. The download page is here.
Google has taken steps to get government agencies to formulate their data in a way that it can be indexed by Google's search engine. In 2008, the Center for Democracy and Technology issued a report entitled Hiding in Plain Sight which highlighted the problem of public government data. Ironically, CDT pagefor the report no longer has working links to get the file. CDT, with OpenTheGovernment.org, did issue a second report in 2009 called Show Us The Data: Most Wanted Federal Documents. It noted public access was hindered to informations such as public access to all CRS Reports, PACER documents, State Medicaid Plans and Waivers, among others. The Google move with the USPTO is a good move to open access to vast quantities of government information. I wonder if we may see other agencies saving money by hosting their data with Google. Could we ever see something like Google PACER? Or Google THOMAS? Or, gasp, Google GPO? Would that be good or scary? [MG]
Update: As noted in the comments, the Center for Democracy and Technology has fixed the broken links for the Hiding in Plain Sight report. You can find the page with links to the report and other related information here. I recommend it to anyone concerned about government information that should be available via search engines but isn't due to the way it is formated. Thanks to Sean at CDT for fixing the links. [MG]
Corporate Gangster at MoFo, Slave at Skadden Arps: Revealing Law Firm Associate Facebook Pages
Follow the link to the ATL story, Law Firm Facebook Pages Reveal How Associates Really Feel, for Facebook pages, including
- Doggy style at DLA Piper
- Human paper shredder at Cravath
- Bimbo at Baker & McKenzie
- Whipping boy at McDermott, Will & Emery
- Blackline makers and Worker bees at Cleary Gottlieb
- Corporate litigation, corporate finance, and M&A b*tch at Sullivan & Cromwell
- Latham & Watkins morlock
- Kirkland Salt mine
- Corporate gangster at Morrison & Foerster, and
- Slave at Skadden Arps
It's Time to Make Bar Exams "Format Neutral:" NCBE Sued for Violating ADA in Administration of the Multistate Bar Exam
The National Conference of Bar Examiners is notorious for making it difficult for law school grads with disabilities to take the Multistate exam by offering unreasonable accommodations. Case in point, three recent law school grads, Timothy Elder (University of California Hastings College of Law), Anne Blackfield (University of Maryland School of Law) and Michael Witver (Catholic University Columbus School of Law) recently filed suit in federal court in Baltimore claiming the NCBE's refusal to allow them to use their screen-reading software to take the Multistate is an ADA violation.
The NCBE's "reasonable" accommodation offers ranged from a human reader to audio CDs which Daniel Goldstein, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys characterized as "wildly inferior” to using the JAWS program plaintiffs Timothy Elder and Anne Blackfield use and the ZoomText program used by Michael Witver, who still has some sight. From the Daily Record story:
The alternative accommodations are “either ones my clients can’t use or are inherently inferior to what they want to use,” Goldstein said Tuesday, “and any time that you don’t get to use your ordinary reading method, the one that you’ve become proficient at … you’re going to have to focus on the act of reading rather than the content.”
If you ever get the opportunity to watch a blind student use JAWS, you would concur.
Robert A. Burgoyne, who represents the NCBE, stated that the Multistate is "a paper-and-pencil examination that we do not administer in a computer-based form, and there are cost, security and administrative issues that would arise from those requested accommodations.” What utter nonsense. It's time the NCBE remove its self-created barriers once and for all by requiring that bar exams be "format neutral." so all law school grads with disabilities can have an equal opportunity to practice their chosen profession. Last time I check, this was the 21st century.
Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP, is representing the students with the backing of the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind and in conjunction with two other firms, Disability Rights Advocates of Berkley, Calif., and LaBarre Law Offices of Denver. One would hope that the AALS Section on Law and Mental Disability, the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, and the ABA's Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law would join the suit to advance the Commission's Disability Diversity in the Legal Profession Pledge cause. Is it too much to ask Hastings, Maryland and Catholic to support their grads, too? Hope not. [JH]
The Evolving Federal Circuit Courts Library System: More About Knowledge Management as Libraries Place Greater Reliance on Electronic Resources
The Evolving Library, published in The Third Branch, reports on a study of federal circuit court libraries, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) has been conducting "to determine how a significant reduction in law book funding in FY 2012 and beyond would impact court libraries and library services." According to the report, "The study will show what librarians have already done to restrain costs, and how they have evolved in the face of tighter funding and changing demands."
Ann Fessenden, a veteran of the federal courts library system who currently serves as circuit librarian for the Eighth Circuit is a member of the Circuit Librarians Advisory Group. She reports inflation is FYs 1999-2009 have pushed the average cost of legal subscriptions up more than 70 percent while budgets for law books increased less than 6 percent. Of course that means federal courts have cut millions of dollars in print subscriptions. “But the truth is,” Fessenden cautions, “much of the material used in legal research is still better in print, and many judges definitely still want law books in chambers.”
Unfortunately, all public law libraries are facing the situation where we can't financially afford to provide our users with materials in the best research format. Very expensive online legal search services are popular but are also becoming the less than optimal research substitute for some print titles. Federal court librarians bridge the research gap.
“Everyone looks on-line, and their first inclination if they don’t find what they’re looking for in WestLaw or Lexis is to Google it, which doesn’t always get the best results. We help them learn what works. We know how to do a more authoritative search with the best on-line sources. When people get stuck in a search, they usually don’t have a Plan B. Librarians always have a Plan B, C, and D.” -- Ann Fessenden
Rise of the eReader. One interesting development reported in The Third Branch article is the rise of the eReader. "In Fessenden’s circuit, judges read legal briefs on a popular e-reader. [Chair of CACM’s Library Subcommittee, Judge Julio Fuentes (3rd Cir.)] also is seeing the shift. 'I have some judges purchasing e-readers and asking when the library will purchase titles they can download. They’re looking to the day they can go home or away to a conference and have their library with them on the e-reader.'" [JH]
W3C Launches Library Linked Data Group
The mission of the Library Linked Data Incubator Group is to help increase global interoperability of library data on the Web, by bringing together people involved in Semantic Web activities—focusing on Linked Data—in the library community and beyond, building on existing initiatives, and identifying collaboration tracks for the future.
Hat tip to Jim Jacobs's This is big: W3C + Libraries + Linked Data post on Free Government Information. [JH]
Openings: Two Technical Services Team Leaders, Widener Univ. School of Law
The Widener University School of Law Legal Information Center invites applicants for the positions of Technical Services Team Leaders. The Legal Information Center is unique to legal education with its complete integration of the Wilmington and Harrisburg branches. Resource sharing between both campuses occurs at all operational levels with advanced communication systems permitting total linkage between the two campus libraries. For more information on the library and the school, consult our web site: http://law.widener.edu.
Technical Services Team Leader, Wilmington, DE Campus
Working in a team environment, lead Technical Services, including the processing and cataloging of print and electronic materials and the control of our serials collection. This position is responsible for coordinating technical services workflow to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the overall delivery of library and information services to students, faculty, staff and other patrons. In consultation with the Administrative Team, establish Technical Services policies, priorities and work assignments. Coordinate policies and activities where necessary with the Technical Services Team Leader on the Harrisburg campus. Manage the Innovative Interfaces Millennium integrated library system in coordination with the Head of Technical Services at the University’s main campus library. Explore ways of further utilizing technology to provide improved access to the library’s collection. Assist the Collection Development Team in analyzing the collection’s strengths and weaknesses and in generating statistics. Participate in public services, including reference assistance as assigned. Serve as the Library’s liaison to several professors as part of the Library’s Faculty Liaison program. Serve on other working teams within the library structure. Coordinate activities when appropriate with other Team Leaders.
- M.L.S. or M.L.I.S. from an ALA-accredited institution and a minimum of three years experience with increasing levels of responsibility in a library setting. Academic or law library experience is preferred.
- Supervisory experience, preferably in a library setting; in-depth knowledge of integrated library systems, especially Innovative Interfaces Millennium; proficiency in Microsoft Office products, including Excel and Access, for data management and reporting; and knowledge of legal materials in print and electronic form is preferred.
- Demonstrated strong interpersonal skills that facilitate collaboration and teamwork is required.
Technical Services Team Leader, Harrisburg, PA Campus
The Technical Services Librarian serves as the team leader for the Harrisburg technical services team; supervises all activities relating to the receipt and processing of print and electronic materials; coordinates technical services workflow on the Harrisburg Campus to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the overall delivery of library and information services. Coordinates the interaction between Acquisitions and Cataloging for the Harrisburg campus. Acquisitions and Cataloging are outsourced to the Delaware campus. Supervises four assistants who have shared public/technical services responsibilities and student workers. In consultation with the Delaware Head of Technical Services establishes technical services policies, priorities and work assignments. Serves on other working teams within the library structure. Coordinates activities, when appropriate, with other team leaders. Serves as part of the research and instructional services team. Provides reference assistance as assigned. Serves as part of the library’s faculty liaison program.
- M.L.S. from an ALA-accredited institution. Familiarity with technical services procedures. Knowledge of integrated library systems. Demonstrated strong interpersonal skills that facilitate collaboration and teamwork.
- Knowledge of Innovative Interfaces Millennium, supervisory experience, proficiency in Microsoft Office products including Excel and Access, for data management and reporting, knowledge of legal materials in print and electronic form, including familiarity with Westlaw, LexisNexis and other legal databases is preferred.
SALARIES AND BENEFITS: Salaries will be competitive and commensurate with experience. The positions are a renewable twelve-month appointment with twenty vacation days and ten holidays. TIAA-CREF Retirement Plan.
CONTACT: Both positions are available immediately. Send cover letter, resume and three references to: Associate Dean Michael J. Slinger, Widener University School of Law, Legal Information Center, 4601 Concord Pike, Box 7475, Wilmington, DE 19803 or email mjslinger(at)widener.edu. For additional information: http://law.widener.edu/techservicesjob
June 2, 2010
Are Court Filings Copyrightable?
A lawsuit in Canada is asking the novel question of whether legal filings are protected by copyright. The proposed class action is filed on behalf of a Canadian lawyer against Thomson Reuters for violating the Canadian Copyright Act by including briefs and other records in that company's Litigator service which is comparable in some respects to Westlaw. Canada's copyright law differs in some respects from that of the United States. Canada recognizes an author's moral rights in a work. Aside from the standard unauthorized copying of a work, the claim also stem from a violation of the moral rights. A complete description of the issues and claims is available from the lawsuit's web site. I guess it's fashionable these days for lawsuits to have their own web presence. More on that in a bit.
It was last July that U.S. attorney Edmond M. Connor was aghast to learn that the Supreme Court of California was supplying briefs and records to Lexis and Westlaw for sale to other attorneys. He stated via letter his concern to the Court that other attorneys would be buying his work product and using it without fair compensation. He suggested several rule changes to California court rules that would modify the practice. Attorneys should designate which filings were licensed for download and could make the determination whether royalties should go to the attorney or a designated pro bono purpose. From the letter:
Based on the results of Mr. Hedenkamp's legal research, I sent letters to Lexis and Westlaw, stating my belief that their actions constituted copyright infringement, and asking for their views on the subject. While Lexis and Westlaw both claimed that their actions were not unlawful, neither was able to cite a single statute or case to support that position.
Without having to decide whether Westlaw and Lexis are engaging in copyright infringement in copying and selling appellate briefs, the Supreme Court should change its practice of providing these commercial vendors with free copies of the briefs that unsuspecting attorneys around the state a reserving on the Supreme Court pursuant to Rule 8.212, believing that these copies will be used for court-related purposes, rather than to generate corporate profits. In fairness to attorneys who dutifully comply with Rule 8.212, the undisclosed practice of routing briefs to Westlaw and Lexis can and should be halted unless and until a fair contract is worked out with them as proposed above.
So far, the Supreme Court of California has not acted on Attorney Connor's letter. Do I owe him any money for quoting part of it above?
The status of attorney generated content that is filed in court is unsettled in the United States. U.K. law, for example, specifically exempts documents filed in court from claims of copyright. U.S. law extends to literary works but excludes those which "extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work." (Sec. 102) Do these exclusions cover legal filings? The section on government works specifically excludes government works from copyright claims, but includes this provision (Sec. 105):
...[B]ut the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.
Could "otherwise" include submitting a document to a court and thus transforming it into a part of the public record?
The practical steps for anyone seeking a court filing was typically to visit the clerk of the court office, wade through the file (or worse, microform) and pay an exorbitant fee to duplicate the item. To my recollection, attorneys were not compensated for this. Then came things like the Internet and PACER, where for a "slight" fee, anyone with an account can pay for documents filed in the various federal courts. Though PACER actually runs in the black, none of that profit is shared with the attorneys who generate those documents. Of course, the federal courts and the clerk's office are not profit centers despite the cash they generate for attorney product. Court rules covering issues in discovery routinely protect work product such as the internal memoranda that may describe relations with a client. Filed, "public," documents, however, do not have similar protection. Work product, however, is usually not licensed for sale otherwise.
The nub of this is commercial exploitation by Westlaw and Lexis. We in the academic world don't have much of a feeling as to whether attorneys copy parts of briefs from other but similar litigation and incorporate them in their own filings. Courts don't usually ask if counsel has plagiarized their filing, let alone licensed it from someone. Perhaps someone in the commercial litigation part of the library profession can comment on this.
Making briefs available would seem an unlikely selling point for Westlaw and Lexis given the vast amount of information their databases contain otherwise. But even if this were the case, would there be a distinction based on the source? How many actual briefs and records are available for free on the Internet? Many of them are put there by attorneys at their own web sites for download. Moreover, many of these are paid for by the client. Does this make them works for hire with copyright extending to the client rather than the attorney? For the record, Attorney Connor complained that the brief in his situation was prepared pro bono for an indigent client, so there are even more exceptions to characterizing the creation and status of these documents.
I think the idea of a suit such as this is silly. At the same time, I wish one would be brought in the United States simply to put the issue at rest. [MG]
Survey on Library Publishing OpportinitiesAnnouncement with link to survey on LISNews here. [JH]
Fantasy Island: There's a Legal "App for That" But Should Users Trust It?
More than once or twice, I've seen a local practitioner proudly display an app on his (no hers) iPhone for primary source materials in my little county law library and at the bar nearby (hey, it's called "networking" with your patrons.) I've given up asking the following questions:
- Who is the provider?
- Is it regularly updated?
- How do you know if it is accurate?
- Have you replied on the provided information in court?
As law librarians, we know how important all these questions are but past responses to my queries make it clear to me that practitioners aren't concerned about reliable and authenticated information. It appears on the display, it appears on the display!!! It's as if these app users are seeing "the plane, the plane" on Fantasy Island.
As a publisher, Jason Wilson has the same sort of response. In Fuck reliability. Screw authentication, he writes that "Jacob Sayward’s recent AALL Spectrum article, iCite: Legal Research? There’s an app for that has me all kinds of pissed off." Wilson adds:
[Sayward's] article is representative of reviewers of legal research products generally, and their unwillingness to question how accurate and reliable the digital content those publishers provide is, particularly statutory information. How hard is it to ask a publisher (if that is in fact what we consider apps developers to be) where they get statutes and the workflow processes they use to ensure the content’s reliability and authenticity.
To which I simply add: how hard is it for the editors of AALL Spectrum to instruct authors to beef up their submissions with at least a few words of caution if not a brief critical analysis since evaluation of legal information products and services is what we law librarians are supposed to do? Of course, if Sayward provided this expert analysis but it was cut by the editors to save advertising space (or insert the stock photo in the center of the piece), that would be an entirely different matter.
Do articles in AALL Spectrum have to be labeled "Perspective" to pose questions about products and services?
TRL’s pre-launch website provided few details about the new product. After the launch, TRL advised librarians to consult with their local account reps for more information. My rep, however, seemed ill-prepared to deal with questions. For example, how would new users affect the algorithm for document relevancy? How exactly does the algorithm work? Why isn’t there an upgrade to Westlaw.com? When will it roll out to students, law schools, firms, and government institutions? Will Westlaw.com cease to operate? How does this affect the OnePass migration? And most importantly, what will it cost? Some of these questions have been addressed by TRL; whether they have been addressed satisfactorily is left up to the reader.
Quoting from Jennifer Frazier's WestLawNext: Thomson Reuters Legal's Newest Prompts Questions for Librarians, AALL Spectrum (May 2010). [JH]