Saturday, February 12, 2011

Want to know more about Wexis alternatives Casemaker, Fastcase, and Loislaw?

Then read this report, courtesy of 3 Geeks and a Blog, from a panel discussion held during the Houston Area Law Libraries conference which featured representatives from each company.  Here's an excerpt:

Are the non-Wexis products viewed by Courts as a "trusted source?"
This question actually came in from an academic law librarian, but it really had a Court librarian angle. The vendors talked about how they work very hard to make their products dependable and trustworthy. Loislaw pointed out that they include pagination on all of their resources; Fastcase talked about the fact that over 500K lawyers had access to Fastcase; and, Casemaker said that they are a trusted sources because they supply the material to the state bar associations.

What about proprietary citations that Westlaw and Lexis use when citing to new decisions? Will an increase in non-Wexis provider usage break the court's reliance upon these? 
This was an interesting question on the issue of those ____ WL ____ or ___ LEXIS ____ cites that go up on new cases until a print version of that case appears in the National Reporter System (sometimes months later.) This question got Ed Walters back up on his soapbox about how there is a need for libraries, librarians, researchers, lawyers, and the associations that represent them to stand up and demand a neutral citation system. No one said that the "WL" or "LEXIS" cites were going away anytime soon, however.

The conversation did expand to include the issue of the copyrighting of the "catchlines" (titles) of state statues. In some states, the actual title of a statute is copyrighted by the vendor that prints the official state statutes. I ran into this problem in Oklahoma when it came to Westlaw claiming copyright. Ed Walters discussed this about Lexis owning the copyright to the Georgia state codes. Walters said he was stunned that when he asked Lexis to license the catchlines to the statutes, he was told that they would never do that… at any price. Casemaker's Harriman added that when Michie was publisher of the state codes, they gave the copyright of those catchlines back to the 26 states that they covered. Harriman explained that publishers had to create those catchlines, and thus claimed copyright on them, but in Michie's case, they wanted to give that back to the states to build goodwill. Walters said that the copyright should be viewed as a "work for hire" and should never go to the publisher. I think that everyone in the room agreed that the issue of catchline copyrighting is one that no one (except the vendors that hold that right) view favorably.

Read the rest of the report here.


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