Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The IRS uses LII for the tax code

There's a great blog post on LII explaining how the IRS is including the LII version of the tax code in the IRS Tax Products CD/DVD package — a tax preparer’s main resource. Congrats to LII, we all love you.

Law School Rankings, the play

Today's Legal Blog Watch mentions this paper recently posted on SSRN. It's a one-act play titled Rankings: A Dramatization of the Incentives Created by Ranking Law Schools and it's been published by Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John's University School of Law and co-author of the Consumer Law & Policy Blog. The intended audience is the subset of consumers known as "law students". The play dramatizes Prof. Sovern's belief that "law school rankings encourage schools to shift resources away from improving the quality of the education they provide in favor of investing in improving their standings in the rankings."

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

There's an interesting article in Inside Higher Education today about law school marketing. The irreverent Green Bag has announced announces in an editorial in its forthcoming issue that is going to take a look at whether “whether faculty members do the work that the law schools say they do” in their marketing materials on their official websites. "Puffery is double-edged" warns the editorial. The information that the Green Bag gathers will be used in a publication called the Deadwood Report.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

New AALL blawg

The Washington Affairs Office of the American Association of Law Libraries has just announced the launch of its new blog. The blog, named AALL’s Washington Blawg, will highlight bills that the AALL is tracking in Congress, Action Alerts, news, resources, events and more. The blog will will cover legislative, judicial and regulatory activities on the state, national, and international levels and address important topics such as access to government information, digital authentication, copyright, and open government issues. The WAO is located at the Georgetown University Law Library in Washington, D.C., a location that allows them to work closely with the three branches of government. They are involved in several active coalitions, including the Library Copyright Alliance,, and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access. You can keep receive regular updates by subscribing to the RSS feed, signing up for email updates, or by visiting the blog for the latest news.

Anarchy in the MARC Records?

The headline in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. reads An Upstart Web Catalog Challenges an Academic-Library Giant. The story is about a 21-year-old named Aaron Swartz who is taking on WorldCat by building a free online book catalog that anyone can update, like Wikipedia. The project, Open Library, is set to go live in early March with records on 20 million books. Mr. Swartz also wants to integrate his database with Wikipedia so that a citation of a book on Wikipedia links to the book's page on Open Library. Another idea is to integrate Open Library with LibraryThing, a site that helps people catalog and share their own books.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Thomson and Reuters Merger Approved All Around

The $17 billion takeover of Reuters Group PLC by Canada's Thomson Corp., has been going through a long approval process. Finally the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as regulatory authorities in Europe and Canada (where Thomson is based), cleared Thomson's purchase of Reuters on Tuesday, creating a financial-data giant, on the condition that the companies divest some assets. An investigation by the EU and the U.S. DOJ's antitrust division concluded that the takeover would have eliminated competition between the two main suppliers for financial data in areas including broker reports, analyst earnings estimates and some key macroeconomic data.
Both Thomson and Reuters have agreed to divest themselves of copies of databases that include financial-information products, together with assets, staff and customer bases within six months, to let a buyer quickly compete against the merged Thomson Reuters. The idea is to encourage other parties to compete to allay the anticompetitive effect of reducing the number of players in the financial database business from three to two.
The deal will claim roughly 34% of the global financial-information market.

Omeka: a new web platform for online collections

"Omeka" is a newly launched website geared towards "cultural institutions, enthusiasts, and educators." Developed by The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), Omeka's purpose is to provide a free online display platform that museums, historical societies, scholars, libraries, etc. can use for publishing collections and exhibitions online. It allows users to curate items professionally by offering easy creation of online collections.
Features that Omeka offers for online collections include:
- A Dublin Core metadata structure and standards-based design that is fully accessible and interoperable
- Professional-looking exhibit sites that showcase collections without hiring outside designers
- Theme-switching for changing the look and feel of an exhibit in a few clicks
Plug-ins for geolocation, bi-lingual sites, and a host of other possibilities
- Web 2.0 Technologies, including:
Tagging: Allow users to add keywords to items in a collection or exhibit
Blogging: Keep in touch with users through timely postings about collections and events
Syndicating: Update your users about your content with RSS feeds

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Court orders Wikileaks website shutdown

A US federal court has shut down Wikileaks a controversial website that allows whistle-blowers to post corporate and government documents anonymously. According to a report in PCWorld, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco issued an injunction ordering Dynadot, which controls the site's domain name, to remove all traces of Wikileaks from its servers. The court also ordered that Dynadot must prevent the domain name from resolving to the website and demanded that details of the site's registrant, contacts, payment records and "IP addresses and associated data used by any person...who accessed the account for the domain name" be handed over. Wikileaks used to be at but you won't find anything there now - though the site remains online in other countries, including Belgium, India and Germany.
The court order came because Swiss banking group Julius Baer filed a lawsuit after "several hundred" documents were posted about its offshore activities. Some of those documents, which were allegedly posted by a former vice president of the bank's Cayman Island's operation, allegedly reveal that Julius Baer was involved in offshore money laundering and tax evasion in the Cayman Islands.
Wikileaks was founded in 2006 by dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and technologists from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Judicial Misconduct in State and Federal Courts

There are processes in place for reporting and dealing with judicial misconduct of federal and state court judges. For the federal judiciary, Congress has created a procedure that permits any person to file a complaint in the courts about the behavior of federal judges in every federal jurisdiction, according to the Courts website. In the states, each state has a process for dealing with complaints about judges' conduct: independent judicial-conduct commissions have been established by state constitution in 28 states, by statute in 15 states and the District of Columbia and by court rule in seven more, according to the American Judicature Society (AJS). The AJS website is a good place to find information about how states deal with judicial misconduct including a list of the organizations from each state established to investigate allegations of misconduct by state court judges; the composition of state judicial conduct commissions; and at what point confidentiality ceases in judicial discipline proceedings in the different states. AJS also provides information about federal judicial misconduct.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Vermont Law School to offer new joint programs

The Vermont Law School is partnering with the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona to offer several degree programs in which students can get a master's degree from Thunderbird and a juris doctor or master of studies from Vermont, according to a press release from Thunderbird. Students will be able to select from Thunderbird’s MBA in Global Management, the Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management, or the Master of Science in Global Management and combine that with Vermont Law School’s Juris Doctor or Master of Studies in Environmental Law. Each of the options will have different program lengths and sequencing depending on the combination and can be done in as little as three years.

New free website for current events

Silobreaker is a news search site that is much better than Google news and other news sites I've used at refining and pinpointing information. A "silo" is something that is kept separate or compartmentalized; Silobreaker offers a few ways of looking at news across compartments, in a visual manner that goes beyond text. The site has sophisticated analytics, including an indexing system, that make search results more relevant, and it offers options to filter and contextualize the relationship.
The basic search, called "360° Search", gives you a comprehensive and wide-ranging overview of all that is relevant to your search:
News, Blogs, Reports and Audio/Video content; Quick-links to Silobreaker Network, Trends and Hot Spots; Fact sheet (if available); Related people, places, companies, organizations, topics and keyphrases; Quotes; and a Content volume chart.
Everything is clickable and allows you to drill down or quickly switch focus.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Blogs to watch

Blake over at LIS News has published his "10 Non-librarian Blogs to read in 2008" which were nominated by his blog readers. On the list are many of our own favorites, including BoingBoing, Slashdot, Lifehacker, and Open Access News.

Fastcase opens the "Public Library of Law"

The Fastcase Public Library of Law was launched yesterday as "the most comprehensive free resource for legal research online." PLoL claims that it is the largest free law library in the world. A cursory examination shows an easy to use interface with links to caselaw, statutes, and regulations. You can look at federal law or choose your state from a dropdown menu. We'll all have to spend some time trying it out to see if it's a resource we can enthusiastically recommend. There are also links to content you have to pay for - legal forms, for example, is one of the main tabs but you have to buy the forms after viewing them. I'm not crazy about that - But most of the links are free. Fastcase is a commercial legal research company that specializes in caselaw databases. Offering free, well-organized legal information is probably a smart business decision too if it builds the name and reputation of your company.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

New Social Networking site for business and personal use

MIT's Technology Review has an interesting story about a new social networking site called Moli that is aimed at a more mature audience than the teenagers targeted by many social-networking websites. Geared towards users who have a need to balance personal and professional networks, Moli offers multiple profiles-with different privacy settings -within one account. So you can have a LinkIn-style business profile and a different profile and network for your family and friends. It takes just a few moments to set up a free account using the attractive and user-friendly Moli interface.

Harvard faculty vote unanimously to publish papers freely online

This huge story is everywhere today - the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Ed., and Inside Higher Ed. among others. Harvard's Arts and Sciences faculty unanimously approved a plan on Tuesday that will require faculty to post finished academic papers online free, unless scholars specifically decide to opt out of the open-access program. While other institutions have online repositories for their faculty’s work, Harvard is the first university in the United States to mandate open access to its faculty members’ research publications. Stuart M. Shieber, a professor of computer science at Harvard who proposed the new policy, said after the vote that the decision “should be a very powerful message to the academic community that we want and should have more control over how our work is used and disseminated.”
The Harvard Crimson has an editorial about the importance of open access to scholarship in which the impact on libraries and scholarship is discussed. The Crimson also reports that the Harvard University Library will be in charge of the new initiative. The library will set up an Office for Scholarly Communication to make the open-access repository an instrument for access to research across all disciplines in the spirit of the “one-university” environment that the HOLLIS catalog now provides for holdings in all the libraries.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Publishers begin to experiment with the internet

There's an article in Ars Technica that discusses how 2 big publishers - Harper Collins and Random House - are exploring digital publishing. Both publishers have made bold moves to distribute their content in new ways: Random House will sell selected books by the chapter, while HarperCollins will offer selected titles for free.

Law Schools oppose Feingold proposal

According to Inside Higher Education a group of law school deans and the Judicial Conference of the United States, among others, are objecting to an amendment that Sen. Russell G. Feingold successfully attached to a U.S. Senate bill last month. The bill would significantly elevate the pay of federal judges, and Feingold's amendment would restrict the outside income of federal judges and Supreme Court justices. The amendment would prohibit federal judges from accepting any sort of gift, income or travel reimbursement from programs designed to educate federal or state judges, except for programs sponsored by a bar association, a judicial association, or a government. Feingold’s amendment would also limit to $2,000 the amount that a judge or justice could receive in income or reimbursement from any “single trip or event” sponsored by any entity but a bar or judicial association or a federal, state or local government.

Monday, 11 February 2008

How to reduce textbook costs

There's an interesting article in this week's Chronicle in Review Newsletter entitled One Way to Rein In the Cost of Textbooks: Make Them Free. The author, an emeritus professor, suggests that there are two sets of costs involved in publishing textbooks: the writing/editing/organizing of the book and the publishing/distributing/marketing of the book. He suggests both sets of costs could be greatly reduced using current technologies - the writing by using Wikipedia-style collaboration and the publishing by publishing online. He has 4 textbooks that he's written available online.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

PA legislative alerts

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has begun an email alert service that you can subscribe to in order to keep up to date on legislation as it goes through the Assembly. There is a Daily Session Update that is sent out at the end of each day containing lists of all Bills and Resolutions that were acted upon. There is also an Individual Bill Update sent out every hour - you specify which Bill(s) or Resolution(s) you're interested in, and you will receive an email if one or more of your subscribed bills has had an action in the previous hour.
Hat tip: Joel Fishman

Friday, 8 February 2008

Emilio Estevez making movie about homeless in libraries

According to Reuters, Emilio Estevez is making a movie titled "The Public" that is loosely based on a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece written by Chip Ward, a retiring librarian in Salt Lake City, which discussed the epidemic issue of libraries becoming de facto shelters for the homeless and the mentally ill in light of many social program cuts. The story takes place during the two coldest days of the year in Los Angeles, when the library is overwhelmed by people seeking shelter.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Real ID Act and religious freedom

CNET news has an interesting article about how the Real ID Act, a federal law that takes effect on May 11, will cause problems for Americans who object to facial photograph requirements on religious grounds. The lengthy new regulations released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a result of Real ID set minimum standards for state-issued driver's licenses and IDs, among which is a "full facial digital photograph" that adheres to specific federal requirements. Religious groups including some Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Muslims, members of Native American faiths, and fundamentalist Christians object to identification cards bearing their photographs. The article includes an interactive map of the US that lets you check how various state driver's licenses comply with the federal law. PA: Pennsylvania has requested and received an extension. In the longer term, however, the state may not comply. "We're undergoing a comprehensive review of those regulations right now to look at some potential options, the cost that would be involved and also the impact to the citizens of Pennsylvania. Being granted this initial extension just allows us more time to do that and allows the citizens of the commonwealth to continue using their state driver's licenses and IDs through December 31, 2009."

Online Child Protection and free speech

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has released a report from a joint project they conducted with the Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF). The project tracks more than 30 pieces of federal legislation that seek to protect children online, some of which pose serious threats to free speech. The reports summarize and categorize child online safety bills introduced in the 110th Congress, analyze free speech implications of key bills, and provide recommendations to Congress on how it can promote child online safety without impinging on First Amendment rights. Here's the Bill Tracking Report [38 page PDF] which is nicely organized - it has the legislation indexed by popular name, topic, Senate Bill and House Bill numbers, and federal agency/department. For each bill you can see the text in html or pdf and then concise information about the bill as well as the analysis by both the CDT. You can also download the CDT Analysis [PDF] and the PFF Analysis [PDF] of the legislation. In their summary the CDT states that " Many of the child protection proposals now pending in Congress... would not be effective child protection measures and would raise very serious policy and constitutional problems."

Civil Rights online resource

Columbia University has created a website about the civil-rights movement from 1954 through 1975. The site, called the Amistad Digital Resource, includes audio and video clips of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil-rights leaders. It includes archives of images, organizations, documents and maps of locations where civil-rights demonstrations took place and has a timeline of the Great Society.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Westlaw public access

We now subscribe to Westlaw for public access and we have information and simple directions for using this subscription. This database is available to anyone who wants to do legal research - university, alumni, and public patrons. They will need to be logged in to one of the computers with this subscription.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Here comes the Lexpo!

Lexis has a new marketing gimmick, according to the Dayton Daily News. They just launched a 39 foot red RV, called the Lexpo, which is going to travel the USA with an interior designed to look like a booth at a trade show, with computer stations where visitors can explore LexisNexis legal products. You can read more about it on the Lexis website.

Google scanning at Michigan - a million books!

The Chronicle of Higher Ed.'s Wired Campus Blog reports that the number of books scanned at the University of Michigan reached a million on Friday. Just 6.5 million to go! The dean of libraries said "As far as I know, Michigan is the first library to have one million books from its own collections digitized and available for search (and, when in the public domain, available for viewing)."

Calculators and converters

Here's a handy new website that you might want to bookmark: Easy Calculations. It's a one-stop shop for every sort of calculator and converter imaginable - from square roots to bits 'n bytes 'n terabytes, from amortization to nautical miles.
There's even a Love Calculator.

Friday, 1 February 2008

National Defense Intelligence College Press online

The National Defense Intelligence College Press is now posting their publications on their website. The publications, all of them free, are in pdf format and can be downloaded or read online.
Titles range from Crime Scene Intelligence to A Muslim Archipelago: Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia and the intriguingly titled Shakespeare for Analysts: Literature and Intelligence
(from the Foreward: "Shakespeare’s interests coincided in many ways with the daily preoccupations of intelligence analysts: coups d’etat (Richard II), political assassination (Julius Caesar), civil wars and international wars (Henry V, Henry VI—Agincourt, Warof the Roses), political tyranny (Richard III), political/military leadership (all of the above, but the author focuses on Henry V). ... Shakespeare, as the author argues, does help inform us regarding the key questions that intelligence analysts habitually ask. Why do some men covet power? What is it liketo usurp power? What is it like to lose power? What are the limits on the exercise of powerand the use of force? When does the decision to use force emerge? How does violenceexpand? What kinds of behavior and actions does use of violence produce? How is vio-lence justified by both sides of a conflict? How do unintended consequences emerge fromcarefully planned events? )

Campus Accessibilty Map

I'm advising a group of freshmen students at the Engineering School on a website development project and they showed me another great website made as a freshman project - a map of all the buildings on campus and their disability access points. The purpose of the project was to facilitate access to information on the locations of accessible entrances and ways of getting to them for University faculty, staff, students, prospective students, and visitors. The students who created the website also work to review, update, and add to a database containing numerous measurements of the handicap-accessible entrances of each building, ensuring that each is in compliance with the requirements set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).

GPO's fugitive publication project

The GPO has released a white paper on the results of its recently completed “Web Harvesting Pilot Project” and is requesting comments from the public. They had to extend the comment period until Fri. Feb. 8 because apparently they’re not getting any response, so the folks at Free Government Information are urging people to take the time to look at the project and make comments.
What is the project? Many publications being published by Federal agencies are not being included in the Federal Depository Library Program that distributes all government documents. These documents have come to be known as “fugitive publications”; with increasing frequency, federal agencies are publishing content only in electronic formats and they frequently fail to inform GPO of these new publications for inclusion in the FDLP. In light of the large number of publications that have become fugitive, GPO is seeking Web crawler and other technologies that can provide a solution for the identification and harvesting of fugitive documents and publications from agency Web sites.
A summary of the results of the pilot project (they used the EPA website as the subject of the pilot) is available here (pdf) and the simple online comment form is here on the GPO website.

Google China founder speaking at CMU

Kai-Fu Lee, CMU graduate, former CMU faculty, founder of Microsoft Research Asia and founder of Google China, is in Pittsburgh and will give a free public lecture today at CMU. His lecture is titled "Google China – Can a Multinational Internet Company Succeed in China? and the date time and location are: Friday, Feb. 1st, 4:00 PM - University Center McConomy Auditorium (in the University Center building). There will also be a LIVE WEBCAST (uses Windows media player) of the talk.
Lee was the was the subject of a legal tug of war between Google and Microsoft in 2005 when he left his position as a vice president at Microsoft to found Google China. Microsoft sued Lee and Google, arguing that Lee signed a noncompete agreement in 2000 that would have blocked him from working for Google for one year after leaving Microsoft. A judge ultimately allowed Lee to work for Google but barred him from working on projects that would compete with Microsoft, such as developing search technology.

Female sperm?

Now there's a headline I never expected to see. But it does appear in the MIT Technology Review editors' blog today. Apparently scientists are close to creating real female sperm that will work just like male sperm so it will be possible for a child to have two female biological parents. Legal implications? I leave that to our experts.