May 08, 2013
Predators of Freedom of Information
On World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2013, Reporters Without Borders released its annual Press Freedom Index.
After the “Arab springs” and other protest movements that prompted many rises and falls in last year’s index, the 2013 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index marks a return to a more usual configuration.
The ranking of most countries is no longer attributable to dramatic political developments. This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term.
Quoting from the Introduction to the 2013 Press Freedom Index.
Reporters Without Borders also released an updated list of Predators of Freedom of Information The list identifies 39 "presidents, politicians, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and kill journalists and other news providers. Powerful, dangerous and violent, these predators consider themselves above the law." [JH]
May 02, 2013
"Posted on Behalf of LexisNexis"
"So I just read Lexis’ responses to questions posed by CRIV on it’s eBook program," wrote Jason Wilson in This week in random ad placements: Lexis’ response to CRIV on eBooks, "and when I finished, the following ad appeared at the end of the piece [video below]. Brilliant conclusion."
The ad that appeared in the CRIV Blog post, LexisNexis Response to April 2013 eBook Questions – Posted on Behalf of LexisNexis, when I read it wasn't nearly as good as this one. Thanks Jason! [JH]
May 01, 2013
How a Visit to a Presidential Library Can Be an Enlightening Experience
“I have no doubt in my mind, after spending some time in Mr. Bush’s library and museum, that the United States simply must intervene in Iraq in order to temper volatility in the Middle Eastern region as a whole,” Obama said, according to Obama Orders Reinvasion Of Iraq After Illuminating Trip Through Bush Presidential Library. Of course, it's the Onion News. [JH]
April 24, 2013
The Mellen Press Speaks
For those interested in the continuing saga of the Edward Mellen Press, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a profile of Herb Richardson, the driving force behind the Press and the lawsuits against its critics. The article is a fair representation of the man and his motives and even gets a published statement to that effect from a letter to the editor by the man himself. The article describes some unhappy battles Richardson has fought when he was a faculty member at various institutions. These apparently honed his motivation to fight his critics in one form or another. His view on the latest matter is that rather than bullying his critics with lawsuits, he is the one being bullied. I believe that is a matter of opinion, and the comments associated with the story bear that out. Consider viewing Who Defines the Debate from the Academe Blog. It’s a lengthy response to the Chronicle piece.
Richardson states his latest quest in his letter:
I have engaged and won five cultural/political battles. My next is to bring Web blogging within the framework of law governing civil society. To do this, I am using defamatory Web statements that have been made about the Edwin Mellen Press as an opportunity to initiate lawsuits for libel against two universities. Through these lawsuits, I hope that penalties for cyberbullying will be assessed and, thereby, some legal precedents established.
Anyone who files a suit of this kind should be prepared to lose as much as to win. Establishing precedents doesn’t necessarily mean they will stand in one’s favor. [MG]
April 11, 2013
Advocating for Workers in the Gig Economy
Founded in 1995, the Freelancers Union is reportedly one of the fastest-growing labor organizations in the US. It was founded by Sara Horowitz after discovering that she was going to be treated as an independent contractor instead of as an employee for a job she landed with a Manhattan law firm almost 20 years ago. The "Union" does not bargain for traditional union objectives, namely wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment. In fact, under federal labor relations law, freelancers are independent contractors and employers have no obligation to bargain with them, even if union-represented. Let's call the Freelancers Union a social movement campaigning for a specific group of workers, those employed in the "gig economy."
The Freelancers Union's membership currently numbers some 200,000 members with over half of them in New York State. However Horowitz forecasts that the prganization's ranks will expand to 1,000,000 members within three years. Membership is not exclusive to contract attorneys but with the outsourcing trend in legal services continuing, cannot one expect more freelance lawyers, paralegals, law librarians, and other legal information professionals joining this group's ranks?
The group has received financial support from some foundations. At the moment, the Freelancers Union primarily focuses on providing members with affordable health insurance and has received low interest loans from the federal government towards that end. However, individuals associated with the Freelancers Union has had some albeit limited lobbying successes. Like the very early days of the union movement, this is the traditional path for improving the terms and condition of employment. For much more, see Steven Greenhouse's NTY profile piece, Tackling Concerns of Independent Workers. [JH]
April 01, 2013
The Complete Set of Judge Carton RulesBrought to you by none other than Bruce Carton, here. Carton ended his three-and-a-half years as the writer for Legal Blog Watch last Friday. See his My Last Day: Logging Out of Legal Blog Watch post. [JH]
March 28, 2013
Time to Vote in ABAJ's 5th Annual Peeps in Law Diorama Contest
The contestants are:
- Citizens United vs. F.E.C.
- Motion in Lemonade
- Oh the Peepanity!
- Our Ship Has Come In...Again
- Peepemptory Challenges
- Peep-OTUS Taking the Oath
View and vote here. [JH]
March 14, 2013
Short Takes On The News: Google Reader, The Apple e-Book Case, TLDs, And Law Applications
Google is killing Google Reader as of July 1, 2013. I don’t use the product myself (or RSS for that matter), so I have no feelings about the move one way or the other. However, any numbers of articles in the popular and semi-popular press express shock and/or sadness at the announcement. Felix Salmon writes a Reuters post asking whether Google has killed RSS altogether, though he suggests that Facebook and Twitter feeds may have replaced the immediate need for RSS. A post in Socialmedia Today offers instructions on how to move to other RSS readers out there. Ars Technica posits that an equivalent of Google Reader will wind up as part of Google+. That wouldn’t be surprising as Google seems committed to creating more reasons for subscribers to mingle on Plus pages. CBS News reports that Digg has announced it is building a substitute reader to fill the gap.
Poor Tim Cook. The Apple CEO has been ordered by Judge Denise Kote to give a deposition to the Government in the Apple e-book antitrust case. He had declined due to lack of any unique knowledge about the arrangement with publishers according to paidContent. It was Steve Jobs’ baby all the way. Bloomberg fills in a few more details. Cook was running Apple on a day-to-day basis while Jobs’ illness played out. Other depositions from Apple employees suggest Cook did have private conversations with Jobs about e-books. There’s something about that “under oath” thing that helps bring these things out. Apple is the only defendant left in the case with the publishers having settled.
It seems that Amazon’s attempt to gain the top-level-domains (TLD) of .book and .author (and others) is raised the ire of the Authors Guild, Barnes & Noble, and other objectors. ICANN has approved the creation of additional TLDs and the land rush is on with Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others attempting to snap up domains. Amazon potentially would be the one who would control registration for .book sites and could conceivably keep the domain for its own use. The Guild thinks this is anticompetitive. My reaction to the Guild in past scrums such as the Apple e-book case and the Google scanning case is the Guild is wrong. Here, I think the organization is absolutely right. I can see Google controlling .goog in a similar way as the TLD is reflective of its corporate name. However, .book and .author are too generic to be controlled strictly by Amazon. The comment period is closed, but more information on what ICANN is doing is here.
Finally, the latest LSAC figures are no comfort to deans who may be ruffled by the latest U.S. News law school rankings:
As of 03/08/13, there are 323,167 Fall 2013 applications submitted by 46,587 applicants. Applicants are down 17.9% and applications are down 21.6% from 2012. Last year at this time, we had 84% of the preliminary final applicant count. Last year at this time, we had 88% of the preliminary final application count.
The charts are here. Many are asking the question why the University of North Texas is opening the UNT Dallas College of Law for business in Fall of 2014 in light of figures that are not likely to get better in the coming years. Is Texas really an underserved legal market? [MG]
March 07, 2013
March 10-16: Gearing Up for Sunshine Week 2013?
I think we law librarians know what Sunshine Week is. Promoting open government and freedom of information by way of this annual week-long series of events is one way to advocate for the public's right to know. AALL will again co-sponsor a Sunshine Week webcast with OpentheGovernment.org. It will to be held on the morning of Friday, March 15. For details, see Save the Date! Sunshine Week 2013 (Washington Blawg) and/or the March issue of Washington E-Bulletin.
In addition to AALL, the co-sponsors of OpentheGovernment's March 15th event include the American Library Association, American Society of News Editors, Association of Research Libraries, Center for Effective Government, League of Women Voters, National Freedom of Information Coalition, Project on Government Oversight, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Special Libraries Association, and Sunlight Foundation. For more information, see Register Now: OpenTheGovernment.org’s Sunshine Week Event on March 15. Here's the event's agenda.
According to Sunshine Week's About page, Bloomberg LP and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are providing financial support for Sunshine Week 2013. Did someone forget to ask Thomson Reuters? The American Society of News Editors FOI co-chairs Andrew Alexander and Tim Franklin discuss Sunshine Week 2013 in the below video. [JH]
March 01, 2013
Securing the Infrastructure for the First Amendment
From the abstract of Yale Law prof Jack Balkin's essay, The First Amendment is an Information Policy [SSRN]:
This essay, based on the 20th annual Hugo Black lecture at Wesleyan University, argues that we should think about individual liberties of freedom of speech, press, and assembly not in isolation, but in the larger context of policies for the spread and growth of knowledge and information.
Although we normally think about the First Amendment as an individual right, we should also see it as an integral part of a knowledge and information policy for a democratic state. That is because the practical ability to speak rests on an infrastructure of free expression that involves a wide range of institutions, statutory frameworks, programs, technologies and practices.
Using the examples of democratic protests in the Middle East and the controversy over WikiLeaks, the essay explains how free speech values are implicated in knowledge and information policies, in the design of digital networks and in the maintenance of infrastructure.
Around the world today, the fight over free speech is a fight over knowledge and information policy, and, in particular, how the infrastructure that makes free speech possible will be designed and implemented. Although the First Amendment is a crucial information policy for democracy, it is only one information policy among many. It needs the assistance of an infrastructure of free expression to make good on its promises. We must design democratic values into the infrastructure of free expression if we want an infrastructure that protects democracy.
February 27, 2013
Cooking Up the Next Big Thing Instead of Meth in the Garage
Giving customers what they say they want instead of taking on the much harder task of figuring out what they need and then providing it is how most of our professional legal services vendors have turned into tweakers instead of innovators when it comes to their content and search offerings. To innovate is to disrupt the status quo. That is risky business. To tweak is to follow the B-School recipe for cooking meth. That too is risky. The chefs can blow up the garage and all of its inhabitants by practicing risk averse incremental only change based on standard business modeling techniques.
"Large, legacy publishers recognize that their business models are changing dramatically, yet they can’t afford to shift resources into developing the risky new technologies that may–or may not–rescue their companies," writes Lean Back 2.0's Emma Gardner. She adds
To address this dilemma, publishers have started experimenting with a new solution: innovation labs. In the past few years, legacy publishers from the New York Times Company to Condé Nast have launched small departments dedicated to exploring potential company-wide innovations. Each lab differs in terms of structure and focus, but all strive to function more like start-ups. The hope is that these departments can be less risky, but much more agile, innovators within the larger organization.
Gardner kicks off her series of innovation lab posts with a profile of Dow Jones R&D's 7-person team which "is purposely independent and is tasked with creating innovative solutions to company-wide challenges." Check out the team's "digital vault." It can be viewed as being a bit disruptive of the Company's legacy business model. For more, see Inside the Dow Jones R&D department.
Being "unfriended" by the customer base. Someday B-school culinary arts trained chefs cooking their legacy publishers may be singing... . [JH]
February 26, 2013
Six Strikes Program Against Piracy Goes Into Effect In The US This Week
The six strike copyright monitoring system that was brokered between content holders and ISPs goes into effect this week. The FAQ for the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) explains how the system works. Generally, content holders will monitor peer-to-peer networks, identify the content as their own and send the IP address to the appropriate ISP. The ISP will send a series of messages to the account holder indicating the piracy allegation. The first two messages are educational. The next two are acknowledgement alerts that require a response. The final two are mitigation alerts that impose minor consequences such as a speed slowdown. Appeals are allowed at $35 a pop. The CCI does not make money from these appeals as the money goes to the American Arbitration Association, the organization that hears the appeal.
Some commentators expect little change in the downloading habits of those who may be affected by the program. One reason is that termination of the offending Internet account is not part of the program. Another is that by limiting the program to BitTorrent and P2P traffic, determined downloaders will move to other sources such as blogs, file lockers, and of course, Usenet. Many companies providing subscription services to Usenet tend not to log their customer activity. That detail may put a dent in enforcement should the program start monitoring these sources. And using virtual private network (VPN) or proxy services can hide an IP address.
My biggest concern is how the CCI will handle the inevitable messages sent by scam artists pretending to be ISPs or the CCI. It is possible that some scammers could conceivably send high quality fraud messages that steal graphics from legitimate sites. I get these all the time from people pretending to be banks or popular Internet destinations. One way to tell a legitimate message from a scam is that the ISP/CCI messages should not demand money to mitigate a violation. Another way is to let the cursor hover over a link in the message (without clicking on it, of course) to reveal the true destination. Most mail clients and browsers support this feature. I recommend calling an ISP’s customer service line to verify the messages are accurate for anyone who still isn’t sure.One other prediction: watch for the content holders to advocate for a stronger program when their sales or profits do not rise significantly. Read more in the National Law Journal, Billboard, and my favorite snarky technology news site, The Register. [MG]
February 24, 2013
Cats: Destroying Stuff Since Forever
There are three stories in The Atlantic that demonstrate how cats have left their mark, literally, in work from distant times. The first documents cat paws in a brick from Roman times that ultimately wound up in construction at Washington State’s Fort Vancouver, probably from the early 1800’s. The second tells the tale of a book dating from March 11, 1445 with inky paw prints across the page. The book in question is described as a something akin to a 15th century Federal Register. The third is the story of another book, this one from 1420, where a cat marked it in another way. The scribe who created it lamented on the page in question that a cat urinated on the open book. He wound up drawing pictures of hands that marked the outer edges of the stain, along with a drawing of a cat. The moral? Don’t leave your books open at night when cats are around.
I have dealt with multiple situations where a cat has
changed my computer settings by pressing a combination of keys through walking
or laying on the keyboard. Once I found a computer
mouse dangling off the table by the merest shred of a cable. The cat may have been entertained by the
mouse, but I wasn’t. There was a time
where I built my own machines, and like most that do so, I kept the side of the
case open for easy access. I did, at
least, until I discovered my cat had decided the open case was a great substitute
for a litter box. Little was
salvageable. Not only do I keep the
cases closed now, I throw towels over them to keep them safe from curious paws.
It seems cat behavior hasn’t changed a
bit in 2,000 years, only the objects of that behavior.
Pictured: The cat who loves computers. [MG]
February 22, 2013
Where in the world is Dick Spinelli?
Dick Spinelli has not been seen or heard from since he left his modest estate in Italy about a week ago. The rumor, reported here, was that he had been escorted by the Swiss Guard to Rome for Pope-candidate vetting. Right now, some are asking "where in the world is Dick?"
Family members, friends and colleagues around the world are concerned that agents of god's rottweiler may be holding him in a cold, dark, damp cell for some old school interrogation. Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis returns! Folks at Hein are so concerned that a Lutheran counsel who is an expert on catholic (read universal) canon law has been retained for "show me the body" purposes.
Why might Dick be held incognito by the Holy See? Well, you know, wanting folks to think for themselves may be viewed as a heretical perversity. Even, perhaps one should say, since the fossilization of the results produced by the Second Vatican Council which convened some 50 years ago. The current and retiring pope was not known as "god's rottweiler" for his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II, for no reason, right? (Being 50% Polish and 50% Italian I'll admit to some 100% American-born filtered pride in Karol Józef Wojtyła being elected Pope while not being surprised by his brand of orthodoxy. It would have become an issue with me had he taken the name Pope John, Paul, George and Ringo Too. But I digress.) Certainly Pope Benedict XVI's promotion of many fellow travelers to the rank of princes of the Church (eg here) is clear evidence that he is opposed to Catholics thinking for themselves.
If Dick flunked the Pope-vetting process, it is time to produce the body, battered and brused if that is the case. The deadline for suggesting candidates for the office of AALL VP-P-Elect to the Nominations Committee is fast approaching -- March 15th. It is unclear whether one may toss the name of someone into the hopper without knowing the suggested candidate's whereabouts under our association's bylaws. Not a criticism because even an alt-ways-and-means proposal did not contemplate this situation.
What the hell, just do it. Judging submitted candidates in absentia during the conclave known as Nominations Committee review is SOP. Of course, the first vendor AALL member, who could would win widespread rank-and-file support for the high elective office of VP-P-elect (for life, even like the Pope), might fluke AALL's vetting process because of Dick's heretical perversity.
And then there is the matter of AALL conducting its own Vatican II. I seriously doubt piecemeal or comprehensive reforms from AALL's princes and princesses and courtiers are going to stop rank-and-file members from taking prophylactic measures to protect themselves and who they represent from AALL's college of cardinals.
At the very least, I believe a bylaw amendment needs to be passed to require AALL's cardinals to wear at least a zucchetto during board meetings, telephone conference calls with board members, and appearances at AALL chapter meetings. Heads will have to be shaved to create a bald spot for those who don't already have one. I'm thinking our association's cardinals should be requried to wear the complete cardinal ceremonial garb during AALL's annual meetings. A clothing allowance?
Their courtiers, well, black is always in style, right? Vestments are the official uniform worn by priests when they are on the job. I guess a bylaws amendment should contemplate a clothing allowance for cassocks, etc. for them too. The cost can be offset partially by the elimination of name tags. But I don't think membership dues should be used to purchase rings for "kiss this" purposes. [JH]
February 18, 2013
Playing Catch-Up: A Monday Morning 2-fer for This Presidents' Day Working Holiday
One of the benefits of being a public sector law librarian is getting some federal holidays off private sector law librarians don't. Typically, Presidents' Day is one of those federal holidays. I know I didn't get the day off. Courts might be closed but working of a day like today was one folks used to catch-up on outstanding assignments.
I may go to work at my little county law library today to catch up on some research requests because I had one of those days late last week where all I did was in-take assignments I couldn't otherwise dump on my very well qualifed staff. That rarely happens but when it does as in these instances, it will require this aging and decrepit law librarian to use print in concert with accessable from home online resources. Talk about old school!
So for my private sector colleagues who don't have to "rethink their ROFLMAOYSST value" today because they are at work even if today is a recognized holiday by their employer, here's a little 2-fer pick-me-up. [JH]
"It's green and often found .... ."
Nope, not onions found in the marshland of Chicago.
February 14, 2013
Dick Spinelli, Dark Horse Candidate for Pope?
Rumor is that Dick Spinelli was called away from his modest estate in Italy and escorted by the Swiss Guard to Rome yesterday to be vetted as a possible candidate for Pope. Confirmation from the Holy See was not forthcoming because this reporter cannot speak Latin.
Please don't toss your hat in the ring Dick. OK, OK, I guess becoming the first U.S. legal publishing executive elected Pope would be more historic than becoming the first vendor executive elected AALL President. Folks at Hein indicate that Dick is contractually obligated to attend Seattle 2013 no matter what the hell happens in Rome. Thank god for that! [JH]
February 12, 2013
What Was the Most Significant Development in the Legal Publishing, Legal Solutions, Professional Legal Services (whatever) Industry in 2012?
No doubt we all have our own opinions on this topic. Here's mine.
The most significant development in our vendor industry last year was the appointment of Greg McCaffery as CEO of Bloomberg Law. That's right, it wasn't some product or service roll-out. It's a real live human being who succeeded Larry Thompson upon his retirement.
According to the Sept. 4, 2012 press release, "McCaffery will be responsible for development and execution of strategy and management of day-to-day operations as Bloomberg Law expands its role as a leader in the field of online legal research." The PR language is a fairly boilerplate iteration of a CEO gig. So that is not why Bloomberg's appointment of McCaffery as BLaw CEO is significant.
Can you name any WEXIS CEO who started his legal publishing career as a content creator? Any WEXIS CEO who worked his/her way up the corporate ranks from reporting and editorial as Greg McCaffery did (1986-1990) into management and eventually into the uber executive suite as McCaffery did when he was appointed BNA President and COO in 2007? I can't think of one WEXIS CEO who did. (NB: Jim Smith, TRI's current CEO, may have some sort of journalism background from way-back-when).
Being an aging and decrepit law librarian who starting practicing his profession as a research specialist in BigLaw back in 1980 by relying on expert-written and expert-screened publications like current awareness services such as BNA's USLW, Daily Tax, Daily Labor, Securities, Antitrust and Trade Reg, and BNA's loose-leafs covering practice specialities such as labor law, labor arbitration, employment discrimination, wage and hour, collective bargaining plus the first-to-market individual (employment) rights back in the at-will war days, I wonder if any of the content and/or tools I used were sourced by Greg when he was in the editorial trenches. Can you think of any other legal vendor CEO whose employment history might cause one to ask that question?
But pointing to something that's a quarter of a century ago isn't the reason McCaffery's appointment as BLaw CEO is the significant event in 2012. It's just a lead-in.
After the early days of BNA launching multiple websites for specific p-equivalents, BNA moved towards consolidation and integration of its web destinations. BNA's resource centers were Greg's babies. Perhaps only conceptually. Perhaps the concept wasn't even his idea. However, he was the one who said "do it" because he knew that for a business model which centers on Content, delivery of that content must change based on do-able technological containers.
But even pointing to BNA's resource centers isn't the reason why naming McCaffery BLaw CEO is significant.
Seeing that BNA did not have the deep pockets to continue to keep pace with technology, McCaffery realized that for BNA and its workforce to survive and thrive as a high quality legal publisher, this employee-owned company would have to be acquired by a company that valued and intended to maintain BNA's reputation with a substantial capital infusion. This is where the very deep pockets of Bloomberg came into play. You don't think Bloomberg paid $900-plus K, one hellva whooping premium above what any employee would have received for cashing out his/her BNA shares to the Company, to acquire BNA for its 1% world market share and/or for its subscription roll, do you?
After a couple of fitful attempts to mimic BNA's current awareness services as well as licensing treatise content from PLI and industry associations for online access, while pretending not to be all that interested in secondary source product lines, BLaw needed BNA to compete in the uber high-end private sector space. This is how a new player differentiates itself from the status quo of established vendors and their offerings. Bloomberg's acquistion of BNA had nothing to do with property and goodwill assets. It was a human capital acquisition, one that was overwhelming supported by BNA's employee-owners.
Bloomberg stated that BNA would remain a standalone. During the last 30-plus years of M&A activity up to and including some very recent deals in this industry, those statements are made routinely but such pro forma hands-off "commitments" do not endure. So why is McCaffery's appointment as CEO of BLaw the most significant development in 2012? It is because the appointment confirms that a guy who worked his way up the ranks from Editiorial to this latest promotion affirms that BNA was a human capital asset acquisition. Call it symbolic if you want but based on his 25-year career track record I seriously doubt Greg will be anyone's icon of a lap dog when it comes to the "development and execution of strategy and management of day-to-day operations" for BLaw.
End note. If BLaw's bar is stocked with nothing but the swill known as Bud Light Lime at the Seattle 2013 cocktail party, I'll have to publish a retraction. Despite his sense of humor, Greg probably won't be responsible for instructing the catering service to load the ice coolers with just that. However, the buck has to stop with someone and Greg isn't known for pushing anyone under the bus. (If the Bud Lite Lime Guy makes an appearance at Seattle, those coolers better be very well stocked.) [JH]
February 04, 2013
"Whisper Fight" in a Library
Is this the first time a Super Bowl commercial's setting was a library? [JH]
February 03, 2013
Google+, Thomson Reuters and Metadata in Free LawGoogle+, Thomson Reuters and metadata in OA law were the topics discussed in Friday's episode of LawLibCom. Jean O'Grady and Elmer Masters joined hosts Richard Leiter and Marcia Dority Baker and panelists, Ken Hirsh, Sarah Glassmeyer and Elizabeth Farrell. If you missed the live podcast, you can listen to it here. [JH]
January 31, 2013
"Welcome to another day here in the new reality... "
according to Westlaw(shouldn't that be Legalsolutions)Insider [JH]