January 30, 2010
Internet 2009, Just the Stats PleaseHow many websites were added? How many emails were sent? How many Internet users were there? How many new webservers? Plus browser share, social media, images and video viewed online... Royal Pingdom has compiled the stats for 2009 Internet usage. Useful for that first Powerpoint slide, Hat tip to LISNews. [JH]
Round-Up of Practitioner Blogs
California Repossession Law Blog
Discusses repossession laws, opinions and legislation in California. Published by Anderson, Oglivie & Brewer, LLC.
Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog
Reports on criminal law cases, news and opinions in Massachusetts. Published by Michael Delsignore.
Missouri Injury Attorneys Blog
Examines injury law news, cases and reports in Missouri. Published by The A.W. Smith Law Firm, PC.
Philadelphia Top Injury Lawyer Blog
Reviews injury law news, reports and cases in Pennsylvania. Published by Rosenbaum & Associates.
Los Angeles Injury Attorney Blog
Covers injury law news, matters and reports in California. Published by Estey & Bomberger, LLP.
San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Blog
Analyzes injury law cases, reports and opinions in California. Published by Estey & Bomberger, LLP.
January 29, 2010
AALL Leadership Award Deadline Fast ApproachingThe AALL Executive Board has approved celebrating the contributions of newer law librarians by providing "The Emerging Leader Award." The award honors members of AALL in their first 10 years of law library experience who have made a significant contribution to the Association and/or the profession and who show outstanding promise for continuing service and leadership to AALL. The award carries a $500 cash prize. Up to three recipients may be honored in any one year. For more information about the nominations process go to this link. The deadline for nominations is February 1st. [MG]
File Sharing Case Likely to Go to Third Trial
The latest twists and turns in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset file sharing case indicate that a third trial is on the horizon. When we last left the parties, the judge in the case lowered damages from the jury award of $1.92 million to $54,000. The judge said the award, while within the statutory guidelines, went well beyond the conduct charged. How well that outcome would have sat with the 8th Circuit on appeal is another matter.
Any precedent that would reduce the awards would not sit well with the RIAA, as it would affect future strategies for compelling file sharers to pony up large damage awards. So they offered to settle for $25,000. No dice said Thomas-Rasset. Note that the first two trials found Thomas-Rasset liable and a third one is not likely to alter that result.
If I were the judge, I'd let it go to trial, let the jury set whatever damages they set and let it go on up the judicial ladder. I would expect liability to be a loser on appeal. The amount of damages may seem disproportionate, but it offers the RIAA the opportunity to get a precedent saying large damage sums within statutory guidelines are fine as much as it offers the defendants the opposite result. Even Google and the publishers weren't so willing to play chicken with each other over book scanning. File this one under "Be careful what you ask for." More from Ars Technica. [MG]
Friday Fun: If your idea of "fun" is watching burly campus security officers getting Tasered
Here's a video from Oklahoma City University showing its on-campus police force getting trained in the use of Tasers. Part of that training includes getting a chance to "ride the lightening" themselves that's, I guess, part of some sort of misguided sensitivity training.
Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
The Non-Disclosure Agreements Have Expired: Amateur Fluff Being Replaced by Informed Commentary on WestlawNext by Legal Information Professionals
While some may have been miffed about having to sign a confidentiality agreement with West to get a sneak peak at WestlawNext earlier this week in Eagan while West gave the ABA Journal and the New York Times "exclusive" interviews, the NDAs signed by legal information professionals have expired. The blogosphere is now being populated with detailed, useful, informed commentary and analysis instead of most of what has been published so far.
While about 40 minutes long, do take the time to view the video discussion featuring Tom Boone, Greg Lambert, Jason Wilson and Jason Eiseman at the airport after the meeting. Very highly recommended. See also Greg Lambert's look at the back-end structure of the new search engine. Greg promises to be posting more on 3 Greeks and a Law Blog. Also check out Jason Wilson, Tom Boone and Jason Eiseman's blogs for forthcoming posts.
You can now do a Google search for "WestlawNext" and find something interesting to read -- fluff being replaced with analysis and commentary by legal information professionals. Amen to that. [JH]
Need Legal Research? There's going to be a Fastcase app for thatIt's waiting final approval from Apple but once available, the Fastcase iPhone app will be a free download and will provide access to the largest free collection of online primary legal resources available on the iPhone. Check out Bob Ambrogi's Robust Legal Research on Your iPhone post for his review. [JH]
A Quick Look at Prison Law Blog
The days of law librarians trying to figure out what's needed for the development and support of prison law libraries, where mandated by law, are pretty much over (I think). The correctional iterations of WEXIS services that lock down access beyond the online search services (that is to say deny access to the web generally) appear to do the job well enough. There is a new blog in the law blogosphere that covers prison law. So far, nothing on the topic of prisoners rights to legal information but it's brand spanking new, so perhaps the issue will be covered in some future posts.
Prison Law Blog is written by Sara Mayeux, a joint JD-American History PhD candidate at Stanford University whose scholarly interest focuses on the history of criminal law, procedure, and punishment. About the blog, Mayeux writes "the blog aims to note major developments in the law governing prisons and jails, but it does not attempt to be a comprehensive digest of that area of the law. Rather, the blog’s contents will often be more eclectic than its title might suggest, but will hopefully provide much of interest to anyone interested in the American criminal justice system."
Hat tip to OSU law prof Douglas Berman, Sentencing Law & Policy. [JH]
January 28, 2010
Some Thoughts on the iPad
There's a lot of ink spread out there about the iPad, even before it was released. Rumors, constant rumors, flooded tech sites over the device's capabilities. Unverified pictures of prototypes showed up on various tech web sites. The situation was akin to drawings from the 1950's speculating on what alien life forms would look like. They all seemed to have bi-pedal characteristics, though with features that were a little out there compared to humans. So, too, the iPad. It's not that different from the rumors, but now that it's here, we can separate fact from exotic fiction. In terms of capabilities, it is about the same size as a Kindle DX, with a color, touch capable screen (1024 X 768 pixel resolution), a non-removable battery that can last 10 hours and up to 30 days in stand-by. The base model sells for $499, which is an attractive price point. More expensive models come with graduated power and 3G capacity (from the good folks at AT&T, again. There is no camera or live video recording capability and no storage other than cloud storage. The iPad does not support Flash formated web sites or video presentations. The only applications that can be installed are from the Apple App Store. As for browsers, thou shalt have no browser but Safari before Apple.
My point with the iPad is not what Apple should have included or how it could have been a better 1.0 device, but what Apple is doing to the market by introducing the iPad. One of its capabilities to to act as a book reader. The iBooks application can read single pages in portrait mode and show dual pages in landscape. It supports the EPUB format which means documents can come from a lot of different places (but, interestingly, not Amazon). Apple, in fact, announced its own book store with major publishers on hand to help with the promotion. The current thread is that Apple wants a piece (another piece?) of the educational market by making textbooks available via the iPad. That's very attractive to students who want to be trendy, and to publishers who can limit the use of a title to a single person. No lending, no copying, and no used book market to interfere with continuing sales. Such is the price for convenience, portability, and a "with-it" sensibility constantly on display.
Another point which is rumbling its way through the blogosphere is that Apple is tying content to its own properties and that of its partners. To which I respond, well, duh. The major complaint, if that is the term, about the iPod is that the only convenient way to get music onto it is to go through the iTunes Store or at least iTunes software. There is a one way path into the iPod. In theory, your library synchronizes all of your music so it doesn't need to go the other way, though their are applications out there that can harvest songs from the iPod. The fact that the iPod, and the iPad, and all of the other little i's that Apple provides lock a user into Apple applications and services is no different from similar stores from other vendors who do the same thing. What I see as somewhat problematic is the Apple branding of the web. Some services are locked out without tremendous work-arounds. Google Voice comes to mind. Apple and AT&T are now consenting to allow VoIP communication through AT&T's 3G network. The iPad is not an iPhone, so there is no core dialer function to replace or confuse customers as Apple argued to the FCC as to why Google Voice was blocked as an App for the iPhone. No point in looking inconsistent on that one. Nonetheless, Flash sites and videos are out of bounds, and competing services are locked out of the iPad though available on the broader web. Netflix is not available for streaming video because it competes with the iTunes video offerings.
This brings me to Amazon and the Kindle. Apple is counting on the iPad to be more convenient and attractive. The iPad screen is not quite as sharp as the Kindle, but it does do color, and it plays music and video which means multimedia offerings via book downloads are on the iPad and not the Kindle. For those who think that e-ink is the best medium for displaying e-books, well, Beta was better than VHS on a technical level. Sadly for Sony, VHS was cheaper. The general public was not drawn to quality when the next best thing was good enough. Will the iPad kill the Kindle and other book readers? By itself, probably not. However, with all the rumors and anticipation of an Apple product calculated to sell three to four million units this year, I have to believe that prototype Windows-based competitors already exist in the labs of Dell, Acer. HP and the like. Windows can adapt to tablet features quite easily. Bill Gates was flogging the tablet concept as far back as 2000, well before Windows XP appeared. I think that Apple will prove the market and Windows manufacturers will provide the cheaper alternatives. Possibly the larger market for multifunction tablets may put a dent in the Kindle and the like. If the publishers have learned anything from the music labels, letting one vendor become dominant means they can dictate terms as Apple did with their very popular music store. Publishers and authors may be quite happy with Amazon's new royalty deal, but an initially competitive market for e-books is what made that happen.
One other point I want to raise is the closed web. These devices, whether from Apple or another vendor have the potential to turn the web into a look but not touch entity. You can share links, as long as the link is still there. You can't use these devices to download or keep material. It comes from somewhere. It streams from somewhere. The control is not in the user but the publisher. I know a device that is between a phone and a netbook doesn't exclude true laptops or even dinosaur desktop systems which can provide local storage. But the trend to rely on these devices socializes users to look and pay for access to items that may have been free when accessed on other, unrestricted systems. I've suggested before that publishers can use these devices to enforce subscriptions to content that was once given away. That's because the nature of devices such as the iPad are natural systems to enforce DRM that can't be enforced in other circumstances. I applaud Apple for creating the iPad. I just hope that it's not the complete future of media access. [MG]
Correction: Archived Webcast of UT School of Law's Conference on Judicial Biography and the Supreme Court Will Be Available
The UT School of Law will host a Conference on Judicial Biography and the Supreme Court on Friday, January 29, 2010, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Held in memory of Professor Roy M. Mersky, the longtime director of the Tarlton Law Library and Jamail Center for Legal Research who died in May 2008, prominent history and legal scholars — most of whom have written biographies about Supreme Court justices — will participate. [List of Participants]
Correction: An archived webcast of the event will be streamed live availalbe from the Conference website. [JH]
A better spam filter is on its way
Researchers in California have come up with a better mousetrap when it comes to spam. According to the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
Most spam e-mail messages are transmitted using a few infected computers that use a template-based system. The new system works by analyzing the small changes in messages that spammers make to slip past spam filters, according to the team from the University of California at San Diego and the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, Calif.
Researchers looked at 1,000 e-mail messages generated by a software bot and reverse-engineering the template. Knowing that template, researchers could block spam with total accuracy without letting legitimate messages get caught in the filter.
Christian Kreibich, a research scientist from the International Computer Science Institute, said any sort of software using the system will probably not appear in the next month or two, although it could eventually hit the market. The team is also looking into other aspects of spam, such as tracing the route spam goes through to reach users' computers.
The researchers will present their findings at a conference in March. In the meantime, you can read more about their work here.
PreCYdent: 2006 - 2009
If you haven't already done so, it's time to update your finding aids for free online legal search services. PreCYdent is no longer. Lack of funds.
On several occasions, I've written about PreCYdent because it offered, in my opinion, one of the most innovative search engines for a free online legal research service. Heck, one of the most innovative SE algorithms offered for a free, fee-based, or a very expensive licensed legal search experience. But funding dried up several months ago. That's a real shame. Not all very good ideas move beyond the experimental stage. Unfortunately, this is one that didn't. So while we check out WestLaw's "WestSearch" and "New Lexis" and try to forget the first iteration of IntelliConnect, give pause for a moment on the passing of PreCYdent and hope for its return by way of some vendor giving its merits a careful look.
For background, see LLB's Law Prof as Toolmaker: An Interview with PreCYdent's Thomas A. Smith (San Diego). and Steven Robert Miller's PreCYdent: A New Search Engine Enters the Legal Research World. [JH}
Advanced Search Techniques for Congressional Documents on FDsysCheck out Peggy Garvin's latest The Governmant Domain column on LLRX, Congressional Documents on FDsys: Advanced Techniques. The article provides an update of her earlier LRRX column, Congressional Documents on FDsys: the Basics and introduces more advanced search techniques for the congressional information available on FDsys. Highly recommended. [JH]
Transitioning to Semantic Web-Friendly Library Catalogs
Karen Coyle analyzes the current state of library catalog data in the January 2010 issue of Library Technology Reports, Understanding the Semantic Web: Bibliographic Data and Metadata. In this report she offers a history of bibliographic data from its origins to today's digital records and offers guidelines for transforming today's library catalogs into semantic web-friendly ones. The first chapter, entitled Library Data in a Modern Context, is accessible free of charge. The January 2010 LTR issue can be purchased here.
Coyle is following up on this report with another that will be published as LTR's February issue. Titled RDA Vocabularies for a Twenty-First-Century Data Environment, you can read an excerpt on ALA TechSource Blog.
Hat tip to Daniel A. Freeman's ALA TechSource Blog post. [JH]
Opening: Research Librarian (PTE), SCOTUS
The Supreme Court of the United States has an opening for a part-time (30 hours per week) research librarian. Here's the position announcement. Do note that the closing date is Feb. 16, 2010.
Editor's Note: Alas, I only really productive 20 hours per week these days and Justice Scalia was never satisfied with the speed at which I sorted through the mass of mail to find his mail on Saturday mornings when we both worked at the University of Chicago Law School some 20-plus years ago. So there's no point in me applying, is there Judy? [JH]
January 27, 2010
A Kindle From 1911: Thomas Edison's Nickel (Not 5-cents) BooksIn a 1911 issue of Cosmopolitan, Thomas Edison offered his vision of 40,000-page books that would be two inches thick and weigh a pound because their pages would be made of nickel, not paper. Hat tip to the Technologizer's Mr. Edison’s Kindle by way of LISNews. [JH]
Introducing the iPadSee for yourself via New York Times. [BA]
LLB Poll: Should We Support LAW.GOV?
As legal information professionals, as legal documentation stewards and legal information access advocates, do we not support LAW.GOV?
A Case for Answering in the Affirmative. Everything we do as professional law librarians flows from being stewards of knowledge we make accessible and being advocates for access to information. There is, however, a ever-growing perception in the documentation community that librarians think stewardship will be taken care of by someone else and that librarians will be information advocates only. Maybe, maybe not.
LAW.GOV is the best prospect for doing both as law librarians but we, as a professional association, appear to be doing neither.
- The Law.gov site doesn't list any official public statement from AALL supporting the Project. There's the Mid-America Law Library Consortium's Oct. 26, 2009 Resolution endorsing LAW.GOV and the Law Librarian of Congress Jan. 5, 2010 holiday message which announces that the Library is pursuing registration of and hosting the LAW.GOV domain to collaborate with federal agencies, state and local governments to maintain a one-stop URL.
- AALL isn't listed on the Project's website as a co-converer willing to host workshops, symposiums, and other activities during the first quarter of 2010.
AALL strongly supports the Law Library of Congress' vision for "LAW.GOV " as a means of fulfilling its mission to collect, manage, preserve, and service authoritative federal, state, foreign, international, and comparative law and legal information in all formats.
The Law Library of Congress' vision for LAW.GOV? There's much more going on with LAW.GOV -- tech specs for legal documentation and congressional politics to name just two. It's going to take a concerted effort from all to get the specs right, to push LAW.GOV through Congress and then, finally, to get implementation right. LAW.GOV is not an in-house Law Library of Congress project.
Do we not support LAW.GOV, the Project itself, the Entire Effort? If ever there was an instance for advocating the ethical case for free, open and effective access to legal information and contributing to the work of the documentation community by supporting a national project publicly and offering assistance to the greatest extent possible as a professional law library association, this is it. The Project even acknowledges the significant role AALL has played in the past in the field of legal documentation, citing, to quote LAW.GOV "their ground-breaking report at the AALL National Summit on Authentic Legal Information in the Digital Age."
AALL's apparent silence on LAW.GOV, the Project itself, does not make much any sense. AALL has been and continues to promote digital authentication and preservation of legal resources. See the AALL Executive Board's 2007 policy statement, Core Values Concerning Public Information on Government Web Sites which called for no-fee, permanent public access to authentic online legal information. See also The Need for Authentication and Preservation of Online Legal Resources. Our policy finds support from the Association of Reporters of Judicial Decisions. See Statement of Principles: “Official” On-line Documents (February 2007, revised May 2008)
AALL Government Relations Office's Jan. 4, 2010 call for law librarians to organize state working groups to respond to "challenges that threaten the authentication and preservation of legal resources" by the recent and expanding trend to develop at the state level data transparency portals for online-only legal materials that are neither official nor authentic resources is another instance of AALL taking some action. See AALL State Working Groups to Ensure Access to Electronic Legal Information. The call notes that "the progress you make on these issues will be very helpful when NCCUSL’s recently appointed Drafting Committee on Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials makes its recommendations on a new uniform state law." On Jan. 7, 2010, NCCUSL released a discussion draft of its Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act for the NCCUSL Committee's March 5 – 7, 2010 meeting.
Is there something "wrong" with LAW.GOV that doesn't fit our stated policy objectives? Do we only support other institutional players like the Law Library of Congress, ARJD and NCCUSL, but not ad hoc groups like LAW.GOV?
- If an offical statement of support from AALL exists, it's time it appears on LAW.GOV's site. (I didn't find one on AALL's website.) If not, isn't it time AALL issue one and get it published on the Project's site?
- It's probably too late for AALL to become a co-converer to sponsor and host at least one event before the end of March. "A little too late, is much too late, but AALL can at least make some sort of attempt to catch up with local chapter activities (see NOCALL, below). To quote from the LAW.GOV site: ""Can an effort of workshops, a report, and briefings spur real change in Washington, D.C.? We won't know if we don't try."
Of course, I could be wrong about supporting LAW.GOV. Hence, this little poll; as legal information professionals, as legal documentation stewards and legal information access advocates, do we not support LAW.GOV?
Endnote: "What NOCALL is starting can and should be replicated in other areas." In case you missed it, the Stanford Law Library hosted a LAW.GOV event on January 12, 2010 which included a panel discussion with Carl Malamud, Anurag Acharya (Google SLOJ) and Jonathan Zittrain. You can view the video here.
Stanford's Erika Wayne reports on NOCALL's efforts to support LAW.GOV in Law.gov: National Inventory of Legal Materials:
For Law.gov to work, we need to create a national inventory of all primary legal materials, and then some. This inventory will be a packing list of sorts, describing, detailing, and cataloging where one can find the laws of our Federal and State systems. And, not just the materials that we would define as ‘primary’ — we would want to note the availability of those items that are created as part of that process (from briefs and filings of attorneys to congressional testimony, etc).
How do we create the inventory? To create this list, we will need the collaboration of librarians and researchers across the country. From the creation of the categories that we would use for collecting the information to the data entry itself, this will take a lot (a lot) of volunteer effort from all sorts of folks.
To test the process, we should start small and local. Because we were fortunate enough to have NOCALL folks at the first Law.gov workshop, it will begin here. NOCALL now has a task force dedicated to creating a micro-inventory, focusing on California materials. We are using a shared spreadsheet and just beginning to fill out rows and columns.
Questions abound: should we include this format, what about copyright assertions, etc. For now, the approach is simple: if we can start populating the spreadsheet, we can hammer out the problems later. In fact, that is exactly the point of the series of Law.gov workshops, co-hosted by Carl Malamud and a number of law schools throughout the country. The issues that come up in the creation of an inventory should be shared and discussed.
... What NOCALL is starting can and should be replicated in other areas.
(Emphasis added.) [JH]