October 4, 2011
California Enacts Book Purchase Privacy Law
California has enacted the Reader Privacy Act (S.B. 602) which requires search warrant to access customer data on regular and e-books purchased online or from bricks-and-mortar store. All the law and privacy groups are cheering. Here’s the ALCU press release, and here’s one via the EFF. The law allows sellers to contest the disclosure. Even Google likes it. The Act was inspired by North Carolina’s attempt to get wholesale records of citizen purchases for purposes of charging them sales tax on those purchases. California doesn’t have that problem since it entered into an agreement with Amazon to collect sales tax on California citizens.
I can’t say that a law such as this is a bad idea. It sets a level of privacy that is on a par with the standard for disclosure of a person’s library records, assuming they are preserved in the first place. Everyone is paranoid, it seems, that government wants to know what they are reading for whatever purpose. Usually it’s part of a criminal investigation, otherwise, why make disclosure subject to a warrant? I’ll mention in passing that the state law probably does not hamper federal investigations using the Patriot Act as authority.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, however, was a nagging question of how many prosecutions had actually taken place where a person’s reading habits were part of the evidence. Try running the words “reading habits” /p prosecut! In Westlaw Classic in the ALLSTATES case law database and, as of this writing there are exactly seven cases where the words appear.
Most of them are in reference to questionnaires where potential jurors are required to disclose some their reading habits. One case excluded the testimony of a library director about the general change in community reading habits in relation to an obscenity prosecution from 1972 (Price v. Commonwealth, 213 Va. 113, 189 S.E.2d 324 (1972)). The prosecution in another moved to exclude reading habits by one defendant after the defense tried to use the information as part of character evidence (People v. Kronemyer, 189 Cal.App.3d 314, 234 Cal.Rptr. 442 (1987)). A third case, Hannah v. State (420 Md. 339, 23 A3d. 192 (2011)), involved violent lyrics written by the defendant as an element of the evidence for attempted murder. The Maryland Supreme Court quoted United States v. Giese, 597 F.2d 1170 (9th Cir.1979) in passing:
We reject Giese's arguments, but in so doing we wish to emphasize that we are not establishing a general rule that the government may use a person's reading habits, literary tastes, or political views as evidence against him in a criminal prosecution. In many cases such evidence would be clearly inadmissible. See, e.g., United States v. McCrea, 583 F.2d 1083 (9th Cir.1978). Our decision upholding the admissibility of From the Movement Toward Revolution stems from the peculiar circumstances of this case and, reflecting our concern for the sensitive nature of First Amendment values, it rests on very narrow grounds. We hold that it was proper to introduce the book during the government's case-in-chief because it bore the fingerprints of Giese and three of his co-conspirators and thus tended to corroborate witnesses' testimony that the conspirators associated with each other. We further hold that it was proper to ask Giese to read extracts from the book on cross-examination because he opened the door to that line of inquiry by introducing 18 books as evidence of his peaceable character during his own testimony on direct examination.
* * *
Giese took the stand in his own behalf and denied supplying his alleged confederates with From the Movement Toward Revolution and the various explosives and firearms manuals which had been found in their possession. [ ] Had he stopped his testimony about books at that point, he would not have opened any doors. But he did not stop. In response to his counsel's questions, Giese produced a stack of 18 books and proceeded to describe them one by one. [ ] All 18 were introduced into evidence later in the trial and were available for the jury's inspection. Some of the items were “representative samples” of the types of books Giese stocked in his bookstore; others, including three books Giese had written, were his personal property and had been kept at his home rather than at the bookstore.
There are a few federal cases that note the limitations of the Giese case where reading habits are relevant to the case, though they tend to state that reading habits are inadmissible unless the defendant raises that issue, or that reading habits are not evidence to the charge. There are six federal cases (via ALLFEDS) that appear as results under the same search. The closest one besides Giese that touch on the central issue of reading habits is In re Grand Jury Subpoena to Amazon.com Dated August 7, 2006, 246 F.R.D. 570 (W.D.Wis.,2007). That case involved a federal tax investigation against a used book seller where the actual reading habits were not an issue. The Court nonetheless raised the First Amendment issues on its own about the scope of the subpoena, which the government ultimately withdrew. None of these cases, state or federal, demonstrate a prosecution where evidence of reading habits contributed to a finding of guilty.
I find it ironic, and not in the hipster sense, that individuals are encouraged to display their reading habits through social media and they willingly do it. The FBI may have thought the Carnivore program was necessary to collate all possible data on all possible threats. That program is gone, replaced likely by something a little less public. Think NSL letters. I think it’s just as easy to locate a suspect’s Facebook page and use any admissions there as evidence, especially if it’s public.
So, in the spirit of disclosure, what am I reading lately? My taste in print magazines tends towards MOJO, which is an excellent music publication out of the UK. The November cover story is on George Harrison. Lately in books it is Starman, a biography of David Bowie by Paul Trynka (a former MOJO editor). Other titles include Collision Course, by Joseph McCartin on the PATCO strike and resolution (a review will be forthcoming) and How To Fix Copyright by William Patry. Come and get me copper.
Hat tip to the BNA Electronic Commerce & Law Report for the story.[MG]
Is Vendor Software Consuming Law as We Have Known It?
No the title of this post is not referring to just online legal search although certainly the great unknowing about how some "upgraded" legal search engines work certainly is part of the issue.
So, thinking about how much of our day-to-day existence we’ve already ceded to software and algorithms (or will), it seems appropriate to consider how—not whether—the practice of law will be reduced to an app. -- Jason Wilson
Damn good question. In conversations with vendor application developers, I typically bring up the embedded tie-in to their online search offerings and the pre-selection of online resources they have made because, well, I'm not so keen on some of the selections. Oh well, after complaining about that, the discussion turns to cost. Here's where the app developers talk about how the value of the application is based on the software and that, not the legal search and content tie-in, is the basis for pricing.
Well, these new apps can improve efficiency in many ways. As for vendor time-saving claims, well, all they tell me is that our "professional legal services vendors" really don't understand their private sector user population on an existential level. So let's get "existential" for a moment. Lawyers will not change. Good lawyering will still proceed by researching and producing work documentation up to the very last minute of the project's deadline.
Legal applications can change a lot of things, perhaps the most important one is clients' perception of lawyering. For a big picture view, I strongly recommend studying Jason Wilson's I Am Now An App™ post on Slaw.
The title of this post is one part a wink-and-a-nod to those within and hovering outside of our industry seeking to capitalize on the notion that most of the work lawyers busy themselves with is reducible to a series of logical arguments necessary to execute a program, and one part a call to recognize how we, as lawyers, are contributing to the perception and actualization that I Am Now An App™. The mark is not about whether software or algorithms will subsume us as attorneys, lawyers, or counselors, but rather how software will change our clients’ perspective of our profession.
See also Wilson's earlier post, The Rise of the Programmers. Highly recommended.
[M]y money’s on the programmers because right now it’s really the sales and marketing people driving that bus. If the recent reorganization of Thomson Reuters is any indication of who will be calling the shots on what the future of legal research and content management is going to look like (and by extension, the practice of law), the next decade is going to be a period of amazing (read: possibly depressing) change.
Yup, the forecast is bleak at worse, cloudy at best. Back in the good old days, when full-text online legal research was new (early 1980s) and clients were not yet exposed to this capability, their reaction was, "really, you can do that?" Fine-tuning legal research by way of software was an advance beyond print-bound tools which generated a realistic positive perception by law firm clients if one did not over sell online search's benefits. Wilson's post calls attention to client perceptions that are not realistic. [JH]
Opening: Associate Dean for Library and Information Services, Valparaiso Law
Valparaiso University Law School invites applicants for the position of Associate Dean for Library and Information Services. This is a tenure or tenure eligible faculty position, reporting directly to the Vice Dean of the Law School, with an anticipated start date of July 1, 2012.
The Associate Dean will be responsible for elevating the role of the library by providing vision and leadership, and by bringing an entrepreneurial approach to the development of library and information services.
- Developing and implementing a comprehensive strategic plan, in conjunction with the Vice Dean, for ensuring that information resources and library services support and enhance the mission of the Law School
- Establishing, implementing, and regularly assessing an operating plan for library and information services.
- Coordinating information services to support the teaching, scholarship, and service goals of the Law School
- Overseeing all aspects of library operation including administration of the library strategic plan, personnel management of library staff, collection development, budget management, and implementation of technology to support library services Providing leadership in a collegial environment
- Collaborating with the Dean for Library Services of Valparaiso University and other members of the community of library and information technology professionals.
- Coordinating the legal research curriculum of the law school and participating in teaching legal research
Qualifications for this position:
- M.L.S. degree from an ALA accredited library school or other advanced degree. J.D. degree from an ABA accredited law school is strongly preferred
- Demonstrated experience in developing and implementing strategy 5 years of relevant work experience 3 years of supervisory experience in a law library
- Excellent verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills Understanding of existing and emerging technologies
- Active involvement in professional organizations such as American Association of Law Libraries, CALI, AALS and ABA
- Interest in working at a university engaged in issues in Christian higher education in the Lutheran tradition
- Commitment to cultural diversity and the ability work with individuals or groups from diverse backgrounds
The priority deadline for receipt of applications is October 21, 2011. The search will remain open until the position is filled.
Please submit an electronic letter of interest and resume to: hr(at)valpolaw.net Please direct all questions to hr(at)valpolaw.net
Valparaiso University does not unlawfully discriminate and aims to employ persons of various backgrounds and experiences to help constitute a diverse community. Its entire EOE policy can be found at http://www.valpo.edu/equalopportunity/index.php
October 3, 2011
When e-Books Are Revised
Two stories popped up recently, one from Stephan Shankland via CNET and one from Carol Saller in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Both dealt with the mechanisms of correcting e-books for typos and such. Shankland’s example concerned the Kindle version of Neal Stephenson’s novel, Readme. Kindle users received a cryptic message that the e-book had to be replaced because of “missing content.” That set off a whole flurry of discussion on Amazon reviews of the book wondering what the changes might be. As it turns out, they were minor changes to sentence structure more than missing content. The example in Shankland’s article suggest either an editor or the author caught some sloppy writing after the book had been prepared for electronic publication and someone decided to fix it. There is no explanation as to why this happened.
The point of Shankland’s article is that someone, Amazon or the publisher should have explained exactly what “missing content” meant to the reader. The implication with such a message is that sections of the book were missing which was far from the truth. One statement Shankland makes, however, is completely wrong: “The problem isn't the kind of thing that would happen with a paper book.” Oh, far from it. How many times have I replaced a reporter on the shelf because West made a printing error, or how many times have I had to paste a sheet over a page that corrected bad text. I realize that primary legal materials differ in their authority compared to a novel. Nonetheless, errors creep into general books as well.
This leads me to Carol Saller’s article. She comes at the same problem from the other side. She relates how she copy-edited Edward W. Wolner’s Henry Ives Cobb’s Chicago: Architecture, Institutions, and the Making of a Modern Metropolis. Her problem is that one of the illustrations included in the printed volume is wrong. That can be corrected in a second printing with an impression line that distinguishes between versions of the same edition. An e-book is a different animal, especially for scholarly purposes. She suggests that there should be some way to make the same distinctions with e-books.
I agree in that I think there should be something like a revisions and corrections page noting those changes. Stephenson’s publisher treated the novel a bit too casually when a little more information would have gone a long way with those who purchased the book. Printed versions of loose-leaf texts at least have indications of the currency of the text through release numbers and dates appearing somewhere on the page. Revisions to electronic texts should adopt some similar form of notice.
One type of publication where multiple or continuous revisions could be a feature rather than a bug is electronic textbooks, especially law books. Virtually every constitutional law or criminal procedure casebook goes out of date with each Supreme Court term that passes between editions. It would seem practical enough for the academic authors to at least acknowledge that there is later precedent that affects the commentary and analysis contained in the text. A fast update such as this would make an e-textbook that much more marketable for students and faculty alike. I hope law publishers take this concept into account. And while we're at it, an e-textbook format can support multimedia. How hard would it be for an author to offer video commentary on a point? Let's make use of the existing technology to realize the possibilities.[MG]
TR Legal's Mike Dahn on WestlawNext, WestSearch, and Haters
I first met Mike Dahn, who is now SVP Marketing & New Initiative Development at Thomson Reuters Legal, last January in Eagan during a beta preview of WestlawNext (WLN), and since then, we have kept up with one another over emails and the occasional beer when travel schedules permit. I recently caught up with him at AALL in Philadelphia, and we visited a while about business (we do share a common interest in legal publishing after all), WestlawNext, and (at the time) some of the recent criticisms of the platform. Afterwards, I felt like there were some unresolved issues that my readers might like to see addressed. So I asked Mike if he would be willing to answer a few questions by email, and he agreed. What follows is the result of several months worth of email exchanges and discussion. I think what he has to say you’ll find rather illuminating on the subject of WLN and WestSearch itself. As always, I encourage you to comment. I have no doubt that Mike and his team will be reading them. -- Jason Wilson
See On WestlawNext, WestSearch, and Haters: A Brief Interview with Mike Dahn of Thomson Reuters (Part 1) on rethinc.k. Makes for very interesting reading. Part 2 of the interview will be published on Wednesday, October 5th. [JH]
Opening Lines of Direct Communications Between Editiorial Staff and Customers: The Case of AmJur Phantom Headings
Over the course of two days last week, Chris Graesser, Legislative Librarian, Connecticut Legislative Library, posted the following two messages to law-lib.
Date: Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 4:40 PM:
Just spent 20 minutes on hold waiting for West Legal Publishing to explain why their 2011 index refers to a heading "CompIntnet" for which no entries exist in the volume which would have that heading. Turns out it's a heading reserved for future use, although there is no clear statement of that fact that would save a researcher from spending 20 minutes on the phone why there are no entries.
So, be warned. I guarantee there more of these phantoms out there.
My grievances here: 1) that they insert these phantom headings in the first place 2) why it has to be such a mystery if they must put them in. Just say - this is a new heading; no actual entries may exist and 3) there is no clear contact information for editorial, hence the 20 minute wait while the reference attorneys cast about looking for an answer.
Nice one, West.
Date: Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 10:44 AM:
The AmJur editor and I have discussed the oversight (that's apparently what it was). There's this gap that occurs when a new topic is introduced - they may get into the index even if there's no actual content in the volume or pocket part if the addition is planned before the next annual index is issued. In this case at least, not enough was done to make sure researchers knew what was going on.
I suggested that they make sure the new topic is added to the abbreviations table in front of the index (CompIntnet was not) along with a note that this is a new topic and content may not yet be available (or is available on Westlaw only). The editor said they would consider my idea.
I appreciate West Legal's prompt followup; I hope they will make it easier for customers to contact editorial directly in the future.
(Both republished with permission.)
Well, we will see if the AmJur editor follows up on the suggestion.
As for communications, Chris makes a good point. While West's editor of AmJur contacted Chris promptly (note the time stamps in both of her list messages), there's got to be a better. With so many titles published by internal editorial staff, one would think it would be very easy for West to create a system for direct communication between customers and editiors. If not direct, then at least West reference attorneys should be able to immediately route the caller to the editor of the publication for an answer to the question.
The problem is not isolated to TR Legal. Lexis could also do a better job at this. I haven't had a situation involving a question about CCH services in years but a long time ago, there was never a problem with contacting CCH's editorial staff. In fact, my "customer experience and education" was excellent. In a matter of minutes I was talking with the editor who was responsible for the specific section of the loose-leaf service for an answer to my question. [JH]
Opening: Reference Librarian, Tarlton Law Library, Univ. of Texas
The Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law invites applications for a Reference Librarian position.The Tarlton Law Library is recognized worldwide for its innovative programs and services and for its distinguished resource collections. Tarlton occupies a newly remodeled facility that features the outstanding Hyder Art Collection. More information about the University of Texas at Austin and the UT School of Law can be found at http://www.utexas.edu/about-ut and http://www.utexas.edu/law/. Information about Austin and the surrounding area is available at http://austin.smallplanetguide.com/rentals/index.php?p=austin_tx_overview, among many other sites.
Members of Tarlton’s reference staff engage in a wide variety of activities that support the research and instructional activities of the Law School’s faculty and students. Tarlton’s librarians provide reference services to the Law School and the larger University of Texas community and the general public. Librarians work closely with faculty members and student journals through Tarlton’s liaison program, providing in-depth research support, bibliographic assistance and instructional programs. All reference librarians are expected to teach for-credit advanced legal research in the law school, in addition to providing library-sponsored courses, tours and presentations. Tarlton’s librarians are expected to participate in continuing professional development activities and are encouraged to engage in professional scholarship. Opportunities exist for developing a specialty in the legal information sub-field of the candidate’s choosing. This position may include responsibility for social media outreach and the marketing of library events, collection development duties, and/or the development of online services and resources.
Qualifications: A Master's degree in Library or Information Science (MLS or equivalent degree) from an accredited program and a JD from an ABA-accredited law school are required. Knowledge of legal research techniques, sources, and formats is required. Applicants must have excellent oral and written communication skills, and the ability to work in a professional, team-based environment as well as independently. Teaching experience is preferred. One to three years of professional experience in an academic law library is preferred. We seek applicants with a strong service orientation who are interested in innovation and improvement in the delivery of legal information.
Applicants must be able to contribute positively to an active department that serves diverse communities in many different ways. Additional information is available at: http://utdirect.utexas.edu/pnjobs/pnjobsvw.WBX?job_nbr=11-09-27-01-0080 Applicants should submit a letter of interest, a current resume, and the names and full contact information for three references. All materials should be submitted through UT’s online application system, accessible at: http://www.utexas.edu/hr/prospective/apply/process.html. Inquiries should be directed to Jane O’Connell at joconnell(at)law.utexas.edu.
Applications will be accepted until the job is filled. Review of applications will begin October 15, 2011.
October 2, 2011
Round-Up of Law Practitioner Blogs
Missouri Workers Compensation Lawyer Blog
Examines Workers Compensation cases, news, and opinions in Missouri. Published by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P.C.
Missouri Personal Injury Lawyer Blog
Examines personal injury cases, news, and opinions in Missouri. Published by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P.C.
Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog
Examines Mesothelioma news, cases and reports nationwide. Published by Ferraro Law Firm.
Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog
Examines drunk driving accident reports, news, and related issues in Boston, Massachusetts. Published by Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman LLC