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...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

JSTOR now has ebooks

JSTOR, the well-known database for academic journals in many subject areas, now has books available to Pitt users for a limited time. To see what they have, go to the main JSTOR page and click on the link at the top for BROWSE, by Subject. The list of Subjects includes General Law, and you can access an alphabetical list of titles available by clicking on the "Law" link. You can read the books on line or download them.
JSTOR is also offering online webinars for librarians on using the JSTOR ebooks platform as well as purchasing options for libraries. These half-hour webinars will be held on 4-27-15, 5-12-15, and 5-27-15; registration is free on the JSTOR website. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Report on privacy laws and student data

A new report from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has found that the computer technology that enables school districts to aggregate, collate, analyze and store massive amounts of student information – and the heavy reliance on private contractors to help manage that information collection, analysis and storage – pose significant concerns about the privacy rights of students. The report concludes that there need to be guidelines and policies to provide stronger privacy protection for students and their families.
The entire report, titled On the Block: Student Data and Privacy in the Digital Age (49 page pdf), can be downloaded from the NEPC website. 

Barco Librarian is Where in the World Winner!

Congratulations to Karen Shephard, Barco's Information Services Librarian, for winning Hein's monthly "where in the world" contest this month! Her prize: a Hein Where in the World t-shirt.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Three random cool things

These cool tools might be useful for the law school community.... in a tangential kind of way.
1. Volvo's Life Paint for bikers.  If you bike, watch the video.
2. Periscope, an app for your phone, was recently bought by Twitter.  It's a live-streaming video app that lets you see what anybody in the world is looking at. Read about in MIT Technology Review. Give it a whirl.
3. If you're thinking of binge-watching on a rainy day, Slashgear provides Nielsen infographics on how long it will take to binge-watch some of the favorite binge shows. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The law school library/laboratory

Sarah Glassmeyer (CALI) has written an excellent blog post for Slaw, the legal online magazine from Canada. Titled "The Law School Laboratory", she wrote it in response to an article on Above the Law that basically dissed law school libraries as obsolete money sinks. Aargh!
Sarah's response includes some basic facts:
- "While, in the above example, the library budget is increasing by 2%, I can almost guarantee that its material costs are going up 10% or more. Annually.
- The subscription databases that are “replacing libraries” are actually paid for from the library budget. They are not a competitor to the library, but rather they are a digital branch of it.
- Yes, even books are on the databases. But not all are. Also, depending on the agreement with the database vendors, they may or may not be accessible to members of the public. As many academic law libraries are open to the public and are a filler of the Access to Justice, it’s important that the library has resources available to them.
- Everything is not on the Internet. Not even close."
She also points out that librarians work very hard to make legal research as smooth and seamless as possible - which unfortunately means what we do doesn't get noticed - because we want it to be invisible!

Friday, 27 March 2015

New website connects lawyers, non-profits

A new website called, appropriately, Lawyer/Nonprofit Connect was launched recently. The site is designed to enable nonprofit organizations to easily find interested lawyers to serve on their boards, and conversely, lawyers to easily find nonprofit boards on which to serve. According to the site, "Typically, nonprofit executives reach out to the people in their business or social networks for a board referral or recommendation. Their reach is only as far as their network. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect broadens that network to find those lawyers interested and willing to serve on a board in their area of service. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect also removes obstacles for busy lawyers. Nonprofits are able to search for lawyers with similar interests and with the skills most needed by the organization. Lawyers are able to search for nonprofits with open board seats that are involved in areas that excite them. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect brings the two together and gives them the opportunity to connect with each other."

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Access to Justice programs

An interesting v recently discusses how courtroom innovations in New York and elsewhereare helping self-represented litigants navigate the legal waters. One example is an initiative in New York, begun by Justice Fern Fisher, called the Court Navigator Program. It helps unrepresented litigants in New York City navigate the legal areas of consumer debt and housing; there are plans to expand the program into family court and uncontested divorces. An evaluation beginning this summer will help to quantify the success of navigators, but Fisher said the anecdotal results are “very good.” “There are more defences being raised,” she said. “Our litigants clearly have a better feel about their experience in court.”

Friday, 20 March 2015

Proposal to make all .gov sites secure HTTP

Federal News Radio reports that  the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) of the United States has proposed a plan to make HTTPS the standard for all .gov websites. “The majority of Federal websites use HTTP as the primary protocol to communicate over the public internet,” says the plan, which also states that HTTP “create a privacy vulnerability and expose potentially sensitive information about users of unencrypted Federal websites and services.” The plan goes on to say that "HTTPS verifies the identity of a website or Web service for a connecting client, and encrypts nearly all information sent between the website or service and the user. Protected information includes cookies, user agent details, URL paths, form submissions, and query string parameters. HTTPS is designed to prevent this information from being read or changed while in transit."
The OMB is asking for feedback and suggestions for this proposal and technical assistance materials. They add that you may email to provide private comments. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

News on the Georgia State copyright case

Publisher's Weekly reports that the lawyers for Georgia State University have filed a brief opposing reopening the record of the high-profile e-reserves copyright case that pitted GSU against several academic publishers (Cambridge University Press, et al. v. Patton et al.,). GSU argues that the previous trial record “was fully developed at trial and is complete,” and that reopening the record would “unduly burden" the court and defendants. PW reports that "In 2012, Judge Evans ruled against the publishers, finding infringement on just five of 99 claims. But late last year, the case was remanded by the Eleventh Circuit with instructions for Evans to re-balance her four factor fair use analysis. The publishers say new evidence is needed if Evans is to fashion an appropriate injunction following the remand. But the publishers also appear to be angling for “a second bite at the apple,” says Brandon Butler, practitioner in residence at the American University Washington College of Law, telling PW that re-opening the record would essentially mean "a whole new trial." And that matters because the publishers may have botched their first shot. Of the 99 counts of alleged infringement presented for the first trial in 2010, only 48 actually got to a fair use analysis, as many were knocked out by technicalities and record-keeping issues. And for 33 of the works in question, digital licenses were not available at the time, a fact that weighed heavily against infringement in Evans’ fair use analysis, but would almost certainly not be the case today."

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pitt Law's first MOOC

Pitt Law has announced that the law school is offering its first free online course (MOOC), called Epidemics, Pandemics, and Outbreaks, which teaches the basic facts about infectious diseases like measles and Ebola—what they are, how they’re transmitted, and what determines whether or not there will be an epidemic. This four-week class begins March 16, 2015. Course participants will learn about the laws and policies that enable us to fight infectious diseases—everything from quarantines to vaccinations to bioterrorism defense. The class is taught by Pitt Law faculty members Elena Baylis, a U.S. law and policy expert, and Elizabeth F. Bjerke, who specializes in the public health system with respect to emergency preparedness and response, along with infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, senior associate at the UPMC Center For Health Security, and Ryan Morhard, currently with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

New Unique HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals now in Pittcat

Catalog records for the 44 titles unique to the HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals have been added to PITTCat. You can scan these records by doing a PITTCat keyword phrase search for “HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals.”
These new periodicals include the following titles:
- Civil Rights Litigation
- Bankruptcy & Insolvency Litigation
- Children's Rights Litigation
- Environmental Litigation
- LGBT Litigator
- Trial Evidence
- Real Estate Litigation
- Scitech Lawyer

Thanks and a hat tip to Sallie Smith.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Friday Fun: the blue/black white/gold dress

The big news this week has been, of course, the great internet furor over whether a certain dress is blue and black or white and gold.  If you have any science geek leanings you will certainly enjoy Wired magazine's explanation of WHY people can see the same dress so differently; the article is titled "The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress".

ps  It's blue and black.  But it created such a sensation that the manufacturer is going to make a white and gold version, and is auctioning it off on eBay (custom tailored to the winner) with proceeds going to charity.  

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

ProView, Westlaw's ebook platform, updated

Thomson Reuters has announced that it is in the process of revamping their ProView ebook platform "in anticipation of further platform enancements that will launch later this year". Something to look forward to! 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

ACBA Pittsburgh Legal Journal

The Allegheny County Bar Association has put the biweekly Pittsburgh Legal Journal onto a members-only accessible site (including the past years, search box, and indexes). Even if you have a subscription, you cannot access it - you must be a member of the ACBA and log in.
Thanks to Dr.  Joel Fishman at the Duquesne law school for the heads up.

Monday, 23 February 2015

EBSCO buys Yankee Book Publishing and GOBI

News from the library world: EBSCO Information Services has acquired Yankee Book Publishers (YBP) Library Services, including the GOBI (Global Online Bibliographic Information)  platform. YPB and GOBI are relied upon by academic libraries to provide access to discovery and acquisition information about more than 12 million monographic print and digital titles. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Worldcat search tip

This little tip arrived via the govdocs listserv that members of the American Library Assn.'s government documents group uses.
When you are searching Worldcat, if you are looking for government documents on a topic, here's what to do: add the letters "ngp" to find national materials,  or "sgp" to find state materials. So, for example, if you use the basic Worldcat searchbox and type "ebola sgp" you will find state-level government documents about the ebola virus outbreak.

Hat tip: govdocs librarian L. Zellmer

Computer Lab cyberbar is open!

Kudos to IT director Kim Getz for the great new addition.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

UN Flagship Publications Website

The UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination has created a website of the major/flagship publications from the UN Specialized Agencies (FAO, ICAO, UNESCO, WIPO, etc.) :  Please note  that this website links out to each of the agencies- it isn't gathering them in one place- still it can be a handy tool.

hat tip: govdocs listserv

Saturday, 14 February 2015

UN Database of human rights cases

The UN Human Rights Office has launched a new public online database, OHCHR Jurisprudence, providing easy access to all case law from the UN human rights expert committees, the Treaty Bodies, which receive and consider complaints from individuals. These are: the Human Rights Committee (CCPR), the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). According to the website the database "enables the general public, governments, civil society organizations, United Nations partners and international regional mechanisms to research the vast body of legal interpretation of international human rights law as it has evolved over the past years."

Friday, 13 February 2015

HeinOnline: ABA Law Library Collection

HeinOnline has annouced that it has created a new collection with the American Bar Association to offer electronic access to the ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals. The collection contains a complete archive of more than 100 ABA periodicals, including 45 titles that have only been available to ABA members. By the end of February 2015 the complete archive, including current editions, will be digitized and available as full-color pdfs.

Think before you Tweet...

The New York Times magazine has a great story titled How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life that takes a sobering look at what might happen if you aren't careful about what you say and post on social media. A cautionary tale.
hat tip:MIT Technology Review

Thursday, 12 February 2015

2015 National Security Strategy

Greta Marlatt, the librarian who serves as the content manager for the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL), reports that the White House recently released the 2015 National Security Strategy. You can download and read the 32-page document as a pdf; there is also an online "Fact Sheet" that provides a summary of the report.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Assessment of MOOCs as "the hype fades"

The Chronicle of Education Wired Campus blog has an interesting article titled "The MOOC hype fades, in 3 Charts".  The author discusses how the popularity of MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses - has leveled off, and how MOOCs don't seem to be a sustainable tool for universities. He says that "Those findings may not come as much of a surprise. The MOOC hype has been flagging since mid-2013, when it started becoming clear that this particular breed of online course would not transform the economics of mainstream higher education. The conventional wisdom now is that free online courses offer a promising recruiting tool and an interesting (but not essential) research tool for colleges that can afford the upkeep, while also nudging more-conservative institutions to finally start integrating online coursework into the curriculum."

Monday, 9 February 2015

How copyright law controls your digital life

The Consumerist blog has a post that discusses the theme of Cory Doctorow's (BoingBoing) new book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. The author says: "what most of us don’t really think about is how broad the net of copyright law really is... Realistically, here in 2015, copyright law is a far cry from the original question of who has the right to copy a work. Now, copyright law is so much bigger. The tendrils of copyright law reach worldwide into almost everything we consume, do, and are in the digital era. The rules and regulations about how the internet works, what privacy rights you have, and how the entire digital economy functions all spring from copyright." It's an interesting read.

Cathedral of Learning elevator project

Pitt is undertaking a major project in completely rebuilding the elevators in the Cathedral of Learning, which date back to 1931. There's a video on the project's Facebook page that explains how the new elevator system will work.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Uber Laws

The Wall Street Journal's law blog has a post titled Uber Laws: A Primer on Ridesharing Regulations" which goes through how the Uber ridesharing system has been going into cities and how cities respond with regulations. Uber has also been in the local news here in Pittsburgh because Uber and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) recently announced a strategic partnership that includes the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus. The center will focus on "the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere". And speaking of CMU and transportation, CMU has developed a Pittsburgh bus-tracking app called Tiramisu that provides easy access to schedule and real-time arrival information for the local public transportation.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Font for dyslexia

There's an interesting article about a font that has been developed by a person with dyslexia that makes reading easier for people who are dyslexic. The typeface is called “Dyslexie,” and was developed as a thesis project by a student at the Utrecht Art Academy in the Netherlands. The font makes reading easier for people with dyslexia by varying the letter shapes more, making it harder to confuse similarly shaped letters like “b” and “d,” for example. The font is free at

FDLP webinar on consumer stats

FDLP is planning a webinar titled Buying Stuff: Comparing Personal Consumption Expenditures Data from the BLA and BEA  at 2:00 p.m.  on February 26. The webinar will focus on  personal consumption data: the goods and services that Americans buy; about 2/3rds of spending in our nation is for goods and services. The goods we buy are our material possessions: either durable goods that have a shelf-life of 3 years or longer, or nondurable goods that last less than 3 years. The services we buy are such transactions as paying a company to compute your taxes or hiring someone to mow your lawn. Two federal agencies compute this data, the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because of different survey methodologies their data for the same goods and services can be wildly different.  The webinar will look at  how to work with their websites to get this data. You can register here.