Friday, 19 June 2015

European Court of Human Rights agrees websites are responsible for user comments

Slashdot reports that a recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Delfi AS v. Estonia has found it perfectly acceptable to hold websites responsible for comments left by users. In the surprise decision, the court has ruled that the Estonian news site Delfi may be held responsible for anonymous and allegedly defamatory comments from its readers.
A blogpost from the Media Legal Defence Initiative summarizes the reasons why the court came to this unexpected decision. The ECHR cited "the 'extreme' nature of the comments which the court considered to amount to hate speech, the fact that they were published on a professionally-run and commercial news website," as well as the "insufficient measures taken by Delfi to weed out the comments in question and the low likelihood of a prosecution of the users who posted the comments," and the moderate sanction imposed on Delfi.
Experts are worried the ruling will encourage websites to censor content posted by users out of concern that they're opening themselves up to legal liability. The judgment also seems to support the claim that "proactive monitoring" can be required of website owners.

Congress dot gov webinar available as recording

If you missed the Introduction to Congress dot gov webinar on June 11, it is now available as a ~1 hour recording from the Library of Congress. Very useful.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports availability

The New York Times has an editorial titled "Congressional Research Belongs to the Public" in which they urge the incoming Librarian of Congress to make CRS reports readily available to the public. "Given the extreme partisanship and gridlock in Congress, it’s more crucial than ever to have an informed electorate. Putting these reports in the public domain is an important step toward that goal."

Thursday, 11 June 2015

LLOC index of Congress reports

In an effort to highlight the legal reports produced by the Law Library of Congress (LLOC), their display on the Library of Congress website has been revamped. The new Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports will link to all reports available on the website. This will also be the exclusive location to find reports written before 2011, including some of the more popular reports. The reports listed on the Comprehensive Index page are divided into specific topics designed to point users to the reports of greatest interest and relevance. Each report listed is under only one topic and several topics are not yet filled (“forthcoming”). The LLOC plans to add many reports from our archives to this page over the next few months, filling in all of the topics.
The Current Legal Topics page will now only contain the most current reports. This list of reports also includes a short description explaining what you will find in each report.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Congress dot gov webinar June 11

The next Congress.gov Webinar offered by the Law Library of Congress is June 11 from 2:00-3:00 EDT. Congress.gov, the official website for U.S. federal legislative information, was launched Sept. 19, 2012. This orientation is designed to give a basic overview of the site. While the focus of the session will be searching legislation and the Congressional member information attached to the legislation, the new features of Congress.gov will be highlighted. Registration is free.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

News from the US Copyright Office

"The U.S. Copyright Office has published a Federal Register notice requesting written comments to assist it in developing draft legislation that would establish a legal framework for certain mass digitization activities. For the past several years, the Copyright Office has been exploring ways to facilitate and support mass digitization projects serving the public interest while appropriately balancing the interests and concerns of copyright owners. In its recently issued Orphan Works and Mass Digitization Report, the Office proposed the creation of a limited “pilot program” that would allow certain types of mass digitization projects to be authorized through a system known as extended collective licensing (ECL). The ECL pilot program recommended by the Office would enable users to digitize and provide access to certain works for research and education purposes under conditions to be agreed upon between rightsholder and user representatives. Because the success of such a system depends on the voluntary involvement of both copyright owners and users, the Office is inviting public comment on several issues concerning the scope and operation of the pilot program. The Office will then seek to facilitate further discussion through stakeholder meetings and, if necessary, additional requests for written comment. Based on this input, the Office will draft a formal legislative proposal for Congress’s consideration.
Written comments are due on or before August 10, 2015."

Monday, 8 June 2015

Albany Law School & U. Albany move toward affiliation

The Albany Business Review reports that the Albany Law School and the University at Albany have announced they are finalizing an agreement to affiliate. A joint letter from the Albany Law School Dean and the President of the University of Albany describes the plan, and says that the schools plan to complete a formal agreement by the end of October. The letter states that the affiliation is not a merger, as both schools will remain financially independent and there are no plans to change their names. Additionally, the schools would retain their respective accreditations and continue to issue their own degrees. But benefits of affiliation include cost-savings for students, expanded course and degree offerings and joint research and funding initiatives..  Albany Law has an enrollment of 477 students. U Albany enrolls more than 17,000.

Friday, 5 June 2015

FBI tells Congress new law needed to address social media

Computerworld reports that the FBI told the the U.S. House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee that a new wiretap law is needed that will require social media websites to share customers' communications with law enforcement agencies the same way that telecom carriers do. Terrorists are increasingly using social network tools to recruit converts, but much of the recruiting is done in the open, three government witnesses told the committee.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Federal Courts report improved use of jurors

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the Federal Judiciary reports that 2014 shows a better Use of jurors in the Federal Courts. According to their statistics, the national average of jurors in federal district courts who were not selected, serving or challenged (NSSC) on the first day of jury service fell to 36.8 percent in 2014, compared to 37.7 percent in 2013. They add that "If you’re a potential juror, that’s very good news. It means 3,046 potential jurors were not called to the courthouse unnecessarily." Decreasing the number of prospective jurors who are NSSC is a Judiciary-wide goal. The Federal Judicial Center conducts regular Juror Utilization and Jury Management Workshops, the most recent in March 2015, to help courts better use jurors.

Open Government Guide to state open records policies

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has an online Open Government Guide containing a complete compendium of information on every state's open records and open meetings laws. Each state's section is arranged according to a standard outline, making it easy to compare laws in various states. There is also a search function that allows you to compare one "outline point" across your selection of multiple states.
hat tip: BeSpacific

Friday, 29 May 2015

Open-access academics denounce Elsevier's new policy

Both The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed have articles this week discussing how academic, library and technology organizations are denouncing a new academic sharing policy announced by Elsevier. Critics say it undermines open-access policies at colleges and universities and prevents authors from sharing their work. 23 organizations, among them Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and library and open-access associations in countries such as the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, Brazil and the U.K., have issued a joint statement calling on Elsevier to reconsider the policy.

The Bluebook!

The 20th Edition of The Bluebook is now available. For this edition, when you purchase a printed copy of The Bluebook, you will get a FREE 30 day trial to the Bluebook Online; look for your free trial key on the back of the title page. The Bluebook for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch are available via the Rulebook app in the App Store.
Perma.cc is pleased to see that this Bluebook now recognizes Perma.cc as a reliable tool for preserving internet sources. The Bluebook includes a new rule: 18.2.1(d), which states:
“Archiving of Internet sources is encouraged, but only when a reliable archival tool is available. For citations to Internet sources, append the archive URL to the full citation in brackets” – the rule includes the following example: Letter from Rose M. Oswald Poels, President/CEO, Wis. Bankers Ass’n, to Elizabeth M. Murphy, Sec’y, SEC (Sept. 17, 2013), http://www.sec.gov/comments/s7-03-13/s70313-178.pdf [http://perma.cc/B7Z7D9DJ]. Perma.cc is also the example used to demonstrate the archived sources rule in the Rule 18.1 Basic Citation Forms for Internet Sources table on page 178: Rocio Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s Status Debate Continues as Island Marks 61 Years as a Commonwealth, HUFFINGTON POST (July 25, 2013, 9:00 AM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/25/puerto-rico-status-debate_n_3651755.html [http://perma.cc/C6UP-96HN].

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Dejure Design: where law & justice go to be seen

An interesting legal-related firm in San Francisco,  Dejure Design provides interactive and visual design services to social justice organizations seeking to make their legal work more accessible and engaging. Dejure Design was founded in 2014 by an experienced human rights lawyer and acts as a bridge between the legal and visual design communities. You can see some of their infographics work on the main page of their website.

Sundowning Westlaw "classic"

Law Sites blog has a post titled "Westlaw's Days are Numbered" which points out that the end date of Westlaw Classic will be August 10.  The post also gives a nice history of Westlaw, Westlaw Classic, and Westlaw Next, from dial-up terminals to internet access to plain-language searching. As author Bob Ambrogi says, "Of course, with Westlaw gone, there will be no need to call its successor WestlawNext. In just a few months, that means, there will be just one Thomson Reuters legal-research service, WestlawOnly."

Friday, 22 May 2015

Bloomberg BNA launches new tool for corporate transactions

Bloomberg BNA today announced the launch of Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions, a  web-based product that includes a technology-driven drafting workflow tool with its analytics powered by Bloomberg's financial databases, primary resources, secondary materials and practical guidance. This new offering allows corporate lawyers to know what deal terms are "market standard." Putting "big data" to practical use, the new tool searches over one million documents, comparing agreements and clauses to yield "market standard" language. According to the press release, "Just as searchable databases of case law revolutionized the way litigators approached their work 30 years ago, Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions is set to dramatically change the workflow for transactional lawyers".
"We've developed an all-in-one solution that allows transactional lawyers to quickly draft, negotiate, and finalize a wide variety of agreements," said Carl Sussman, Commercial Product Director for Bloomberg Law. "The product's real power is the way it synthesizes over a million documents and returns results that are easily incorporated into a deal document. This is what leveraging big data is all about and where we clearly differentiate ourselves from the competition."

Thursday, 21 May 2015

resources for learning to code

Knowing how to write code (various types) is a skill that is always useful, and especially useful for librarians and others in the information biz.  The Digital Inspiration blog has a post titled The Best Websites to Learn Coding Online that provides links to websites where you can a variety of programming languages like Java, SQL, PHP, Ruby, Python etc. The post also has links to free programming books and online sites and apps for children that can help them learn programming basics. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Federal Agencies aren't making docs available online...

The National Security Archive reports that an FOIA Audit has found that 19 years after the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA) were passed by Congress, only 40 percent of agencies have followed the law’s instruction for systematic posting of records released through FOIA in their electronic reading rooms. The Archive team audited all federal agencies with Chief FOIA Officers as well as agency components that handle more than 500 FOIA requests a year — 165 federal offices in all — and found only 67 with online libraries populated with significant numbers of released FOIA documents and regularly updated. More details on the findings are available in an article on NetworkWorld.
hat tip: Sabrina Pacifici on beSpacific

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fair Use Index from the US Copyright Office

Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante recently announced the launch of the U.S. Copyright Office's Fair Use Index, which is designed to provide the public with searchable summaries of major fair use decisions. The Index was undertaken in support of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement prepared by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator within the Executive Office of the President. Although not a substitute for legal advice, the Index is searchable by court (all federal courts) and subject matter (16 Subject categories, including "Other") and provides a helpful starting point for those wishing to better understand how the federal courts have applied the fair use doctrine to particular categories of works or types of use, for example, music, internet/digitization, or parody. For each decision, the index provides a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair. Users can browse all of the cases, search for cases involving specific subject matter or categories of work, or review cases from specific courts. The Index ordinarily will reflect only the highest court decision issued in a case. It does not include the court opinions themselves, but it does include the full legal citation so you can look it up easily.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

New BloombergLaw enhancements

Bloomberg BNA has announced new enhancements to transactional resources in the Bloomberg Law database. To find them, look under the Transactional Law tab/menu bar, where you will now see  links for the new "Draft Analyzer" and "Deal Analytics" tools.
The "Draft Analyzer" allows you to take your draft provisions/language and build out market based standardized versions of that language. It shows you the developing consensus among drafters based on Bloomberg's analysis of each paragraph from virtually every agreement and organizational document filed as an EDGAR exhibit. After running the analyzer, the results page shows you up to 10 matching consensus templates (market based standards) as well as analytical information so that you can determine the consensus template’s strength and relevance to your transaction. For example, for each market based standard you will see information telling you the number of documents making up that standard, the law firms that used that language, when they used it, etc.
The "Deal Analytics" tool contains information on 500,000 public and private M&A deals and allows you to search through all these deals using a plethora of search filters/options. For example, you can search by party, advisor, industry sector, deal type, deal size, exchange, date, etc.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Updated Federal Courts website launched

The federal Judiciary website, uscourts.gov, has undergone a major facelift.  The newly launched site has a fresh look, improved functionality, and webpages that adjust automatically for optimal use on all sizes and types of devices. Features include:
-  An improved Court Locator that helps users find their local court more easily. Search by city and state or ZIP code, and choose a court type on any page of the website.
- Maps display with search results.
- Individual district court information pages include direct links to the court’s website, e-filing, juror information page, and eJuror log-in.
- All court forms are now grouped in a central location, so users can search by keyword or filter by topic. Download forms directly from the main forms page, or click on the form name for more information. Relevant form instructions or committee notes are found on the specific form’s page.
-  Federal Rules:  Records and Archives of the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules and Practice and Procedure and its advisory committees can be filtered and searched by committee and year for meeting Minutes, Committee Reports, Agenda, Books, Rules Suggestions, and Rules Comments.
- Statistics:  An enhanced search for Judiciary data tables allows users to search by publication, specific type of data, and date range, and includes related analysis of the data tables.

Monday, 11 May 2015

.....and more apps

Legaltech News reviews a few new apps that lawyers can use. One that is especially timely is 
Moble Justice CA, a mobile app from the California ACLU that lets users who witness public interactions with law enforcement automatically upload their cellphone videos to ACLU servers for review by ACLU lawyers.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

60 minutes, 60 apps for lawyers

The iPhone JD blog has posted information from a presentation, titled "60 apps in 60 minutes",  given at the ABA Techshow recently.  They aren't necessarily free but they won't break the bank either.  For example, Wolfram (the giant math database) has an app for lawyers called Wolfram Lawyer's Professional Assistant ($4.99) that will provide all sorts of calculations that a lawyer might need to do, such as historical value of money, statutes of limitations, or family relationships.  

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Pitt apps

And speaking of apps, Pitt's Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) recently  announced the Pitt App Store, designed to serve as a one-stop shop for University-related apps. It includes apps for the University’s web-based course management system, lynda.com training videos, Box cloud storage and collaboration, Microsoft Office, campus news, etc.  The Pitt App Store can be downloaded for iOS or Android smartphones and tablets, and it also has a list of apps currently available. 

Mobile Apps for Law site updated

The Informed Librarian Online has announced that the Mobile Apps for Law database was recently updated with the addition of a number of new entries; the entire database was also updated. The database is a comprehensive directory of mobile applications for law and lawyers includes both legal research and utility apps for all mobile devices. Whether you use an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry, Android, etc. you can use the database to find out which law apps are available for your device. The advanced search screen lets you search for apps using a number of different critiera including mobile device, date added, and subject. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Westlaw: new KeyCite flag


Westlaw has added a new flag to KeyCite. In addition to the red flag, warning that a case is no longer good law for at least one of the points of law it contains and the yellow flag, warning that the case has some negative history but has not been reversed, there will now be a blue-striped flag.  This flag will be used to indicate that a case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.  The new blue-striped flag appears in the results list and at the top of a case. The flag will be added to any case appealed to the U.S. Courts of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court, including those appealed from state supreme courts. Appeals from agencies like U.S. Military Boards, U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices, Veterans Claims, etc., will not receive the flag on the lower court opinion.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Members of Congress: preservation of files

The Library of Congress has an interesting article in "The Signal: Digital Preservation" newsletter, titled "Helping Congress Archive Their Personal Digital Files."  The article points out that "official records" are defined by House and Senate rules as any records, regardless of format, that are created or received in the course of the business conducted by congressional committees. These official committee records are eventually transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration and preserved. However, papers from a Member's congressional office are outside the scope of official records; Members maintain ownership of records created in the course of their congressional service, are responsible for effectively managing them, and determine the ultimate disposition of these papers. Members’ papers comprise both textual and electronic records and include things like personal notes, legislative research files, photos and correspondence with constituents. Members are encouraged to properly preserve these documents on their own, with guidance provided by the House and Senate archivists.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

LIPA launches digitization project registry

The LIPA (Legal Information Preservation Alliance) Digital Inventory Task Group has launched the Survey on Digitization Projects. The survey is available and open to all LIPA, NELLCO, and MALLCO members.
The information gathered from this survey will allow LIPA to build a registry of digitization projects in order to share expertise, avoid duplication of effort, and publicize and promote the work of LIPA members. Focused on member projects with existing ties, it hopes to enhance collaboration and identify ways to support the digitization efforts of LIPA members. Building an inventory of digitization projects will also position LIPA to participate and coordinate with other digitization registries. The Task Group's goal is to make initial data available this summer and to continue to work on the infrastructure.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Georgetown Law designs firm to help low-income individuals

Georgetown Law has announced that it has teamed up with law firms DLA Piper and Arent Fox to create a new nonprofit law firm designed to help low-income individuals with their civil law needs. Named the D.C. Affordable Law Firm (DCALF), it will be a nonprofit low bono law firm that will provide affordable, high quality legal services to D.C. residents who do not qualify for free legal aid and to small businesses and nonprofits in the District. The anticipated opening date is October 2015. The firm will be staffed by 6 Georgetown Law graduates; the law school will provide them with 15-month fellowships to work at the firm, and will offer a cost-free LLM program for them. The law firms will provide attorneys to act as mentors as well as free office space.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Online Privacy: international report

A recent report from the Global Commission on Internet Governance states that online privacy protection should be built around a “social compact” that will safeguard the digital economy by boosting security and trust in internet services.  More specifically, the report suggest that a a balance between privacy and security should be struck by ensuring robust rules around surveillance, including adherence to the principles of necessity and proportionality, while promoting international cooperation in the face of cybersecurity threats. The Global Commission on Internet Governance is a panel of lawmakers, officials, academics and other specialists established by think tanks the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Chatham House, and led by Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Update on HathiTrust govdocs

The latest Update on HathiTrust Activities  announces that the US Federal Government Documents Initiative report is now available, reporting on the status of the Hathi govdocs initiative as well as recommendations for future action and development of the govdocs program. This report, as well as the Program Steering Committee report, have been published online so that the wider community can be informed of discussions and planning.  More information on the US Federal Government Documents Initiative, including information about the Advisory Group and some Frequently Asked Questions , can be found on the HathiTrust website.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

ABA Techshow starts tomorrow

ABA Techshow takes place in Chicago April 16-18. For those of us who aren't able to attend, Attorney at Work has a "Scouting Report" on some of the highlights.  

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A brief history of technology and law

The ABA Journal recently had an article titled "100 innovations in law" that gave an interesting history of how the evolution of technology has changed the law, and the way law is practiced, over the years. The examples range from the earliest use of shorthand in 63 BC to cameras, DNA testing, the LSAT, computers, geolocation and space law!

Monday, 13 April 2015

National Bridge Inventory

Pittsburgh is sometimes called the City of Bridges, so you might think that bridges are a topic of interest here. Unfortunately, the Federal Highway Administrations webpages about bridges are eye-glazingly boring - though with some effort you can find an excel spreadsheet that tells you that Allegheny County has 1,267 bridges, which is way more than any other county in PA.
However, Congressional Quarterly has kindly provided an interactive map called "National Bridge Inventory - Deficient Bridges"  that takes the data and makes it interesting and easy to see where the worst bridges are located, state-wise. The good news is that Massachusetts and Rhode Island have more deficient bridges than PA (the annual National Bridge Inventory identifies deficient bridges across the nation. According to the FHWA, structurally deficient bridges, though not inherently unsafe, have been identified through inspection and rated to be in poor condition. Functionally obsolete bridges are those that do not conform to updated design standards.) The bad news is that PA is in the second-to-worst of 5 categories.  

Sunday, 12 April 2015

National Holidays and the national pasttime

The Law Library of Congress has a recent blogpost about how national holidays come to be... and whether Opening Day of baseball season for any team might become a national holiday. The short answer is: probably not, unless you could somehow get everyone behind the idea. Even with the Pittsburgh diaspora the Pirates probably don't have enough support...