Wednesday, 30 March 2011

New York Times online erects paywall

The New York Times online version, which used to be free, has begun charging subscription fees; the reasoning and the methodology was explained on Monday in a letter to the readers from publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. Currently they only have a single-subscriber pricing model available, with various permutations that are explained on their FAQ page.  The Christian Science Monitor (ironically) has a clearer description of the available options as well as discussion of how the move is being viewed by media scholars and others.  

Shpoonkle: eBay for Lawyers

A student at New York Law School has created some waves in the legal establishment by starting a website called Shpoonkle: Justice You Can Afford!.  The site, which has been described as eBay for lawyers, allows lawyers and law firms to bid on legal requests submitted by clients. Lawyers, law students,  and clients looking for a lawyer can register at the site. The Mission of Shpoonkle is "to provide a service that makes it as easy as possible for everyone to find affordable legal representation."  The ABA Journal reports that the legal community's response to the website has been mixed. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

So many databases...

So little time. We tend to focus on the major databases for lawyers,  legal scholars and law students that the Barco Law Library provides, but sometimes should remind folks that through the vast collections of both the law library and the University of Pittsburgh Library System we have access to many interesting and random digital collections. For example, reading about Prof. Jessie Allen's blog, Blackstone weekly, reminded me that our quirky LLMC Digital collection contains the whole Yale Blackstone Collection; though not all of it has been digitized yet. Eventually they will get around to digitizing the whole collection.  But meanwhile they have a number of old editions of Blackstone's Commentaries available in pdf format; as well as some American editions, abridgements, parodies, quizzes, and others. It's fun to peruse the collection.  
Also today we learned that Prof. McCarthy had a letter responding to an earlier article on the constitutionality of health reform published in the New York Review of Books. We  quickly pointed out that the article and exchange of correspondence are available via Pitt's electronic NYRB subscription. Pitt has so many electronic resources that it's always a good idea to  check PittCat  for any journal or publication you are interested in reading. 

E-Textbook study

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus Blog reports that California State University is running one of the nation’s largest pilot studies of e-textbooks, involving thousands of students, and it seems that whether or not students like digital textbooks depends on the terms  publishers set on how the ebooks can be used.  Usage terms such as whether a student can print the whole book or only a portion of it, or whether the text can be downloaded to a computer or only accessed online, have a strong effect on how students view the ebooks.
The university system has prepared a preliminary report that was first reported last week by Converge Magazine.
The study involved 3,870 students in 30 courses where an e-textbook was assigned. Thousands more students were in a control group of similar courses using traditional textbooks. Of the 662 students who answered a survey after the fall semester about one-third said they were satisfied with the experience, one-third said they were neutral, and one-third said they were dissatisfied.
Students who were assigned e-textbooks were more likely to buy the book than those in courses that required traditional texts, which university officials took as a positive result. In the survey, 73 percent of students in e-textbook courses bought the course material, while only 46 percent of students in traditional courses bought the book. University officials believe that the lower cost of the electronic texts led to the increase.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Cornell won't sign nondisclosure agreements with vendors

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the Cornell University Library has publicly declared that it won't sign contracts with vendors that require nondisclosure of pricing and terms. The full announcement explains that "To promote openness and fairness among libraries licensing scholarly resources, Cornell University Library will not enter into vendor contracts that require nondisclosure of pricing information or other information that does not constitute a trade secret...In the past, some libraries have tolerated these clauses in the belief that they might result in a lower cost. This, however, is a position that CUL can no longer accept...The more that libraries are able to communicate with one another about vendor offers, the better they are able to weigh the costs and benefits of any individual offer. An open market will result in better licensing terms. Additionally, nondisclosure agreements conflict with the needs of CUL librarians and staff to work openly, collaboratively, and transparently.

SSRN launches Purchase Bound Hard Copy service

SSRN has sent an announcement that the Purchase Bound Hard Copy service is now available. With this service authors and readers can order printed copies of select papers in the SSRN eLibrary. In order to be eligible for this service, a paper must be free, publicly available, and none of the authors have opted-out of the service.

Tip: don't put your weddings photos on Facebook if you're already married to someone else

There is a news story from Grand Rapids, Michigan about Richard Barton Jr., who was arrested for polygamy thanks to incriminating wedding photos posted on Facebook. Apparently he had "unfriended" (or is it "defriended"? Both have been used in the story) his first wife on FB before marrying his second, but didn't get around to a legal divorce. The first wife became suspicious when he unfriended her and started looking for more information by going to the Facebook pages of other friends and relatives - and she found a picture of him getting married to someone else. She then  notified police about the new marriage simply because she did not know what to do; Michigan state police arrested him on felony polygamy charges. According to detectives, Barton is sorry for the pain he's caused. He is quoted as saying "I let love get in the way".

Friday, 18 March 2011

Le droit à l'oubli: do we have a right to expunge our online traces?

In a recent blogpost by Peter Fleischer, Google's Global Privacy Counsel, he discusses the concept of  le Doit a l'Oubli - which translates into something like "The Right to Oblivion" or "The Right to be Forgotten".  This is a growing movement in Europe,  with roots in France, that posits a right for individuals to erase their internet tracks forever. In fact, the European Union is considering proposals to make the EU the first jurisdiction to establish the "right to be forgotten".
  Fleischer says that it's a well-intentioned attempt to give people the right to delete embarrassing stuff or start afresh; but making laws about it is much more complicated. While the notion might sound attractive on some level, the implications of erasing the historical record could have serious unintended consequences.  Fleischer points out that using "privacy" as a justification for censorship now crops up in several different, but related, debates and there are no easy answers.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis: Information Resources

A geology librarian at the University of Illinois has created an excellent quick resource guide of information about earthquakes and tsunamis.
hat tip: Pat Roncevich

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Farewell, Statistical Abstract

Apparently it's true: the demise of the Census Bureau's Statistical Abstract of the United States is slated for next year.  Rumors first surfaced on the govdocs listerv, and the guys over at the Free Government Information blog have confirmed; they provide a link to the Dept. of Commerce's Budget Justification document (pages 82-92). What is the Stat Ab? A publication of the United States Census Bureau, it's been published annually since 1878 and is the standard summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. It is also designed to serve as a guide to other statistical publications and sources.  It's one of those reference books that every library keeps at the ref desk because it gets so much use.  The 2011  (130th Edition) Statistical Abstract of the United States, available from the Census Bureau website, contains 30 sections (each section can be downloaded as a separate pdf) and 1,010 pages covering over 200 topics from detailed birth, marriage and death stats to stats on all the bodies of water in the US to banking stats and everything in between.  

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Solar Table charges your gizmos wirelessly

Inhabitat blog reports that Panasonic recently unveiled a solar table that will charge electronic devices using the solar energy it collects.  According to the blog, the table will be available in late 2011 or early 2012. 

Music Copyright Infringement Project

The old Music Copyright Infringement Project that used to be at the Columbia Law library website has found a new home at UCLA law school. The purpose of the project is to make  information about U.S. music copyright infringement cases universally available, including cases from the mid-ninteenth century forward.  You can listen to the disputed music and read what the courts have to say about the cases. 

LexisNexis Advance for Associates

LexisNexis is continuing their strategy of designing online tools specifically targeted to user types.  The first release they announced is "LexisNexis Advance for Solos", geared to the needs of solo practitioners; you can see an online demo on the LexisNexis website. Now they have announced the upcoming release of "LexisNexis Advance for Associates", geared specially towards law firm associates, who perform much of the legal research in law firms.  Greg Lambert over at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog got a sneak peak at the Associates product and has a lengthy description in his blogpost

Friday, 4 March 2011

Uniform Resource Locator news

There's lots of exciting news about the internet every day, but the news isn't usually about Uniform Resource Locators, aka urls.  Urls are the long string of characters -that start with "http" and go on and on -that we type into our browsers to find webpages.  But this week there were 2 interesting stories about urls in the news.
The first is from MIT Technology Review, titled "A Tangled Web of Shortened Links".  The story is about how the unrest in Libya has caused unforseen consequences online, especially on the popular social media platform Twitter, According to the story, when "the Libyan government temporarily cut off access to the Internet within the nation's borders...the goal was to control the flow of information to the public and disrupt coordination among the demonstrators. The shutdown failed to do either, but for a while it threatened to have an odd side effect: impairing the functioning of websites using Libya's ".ly" domains, including the popular service, which millions use to turn long Web links into short ones that can be sent out on Twitter." It turns out that  backup domain servers in Oregon and Amsterdam kept running through the blackout. But the incident drew attention to the fact that link-shortening services are now used to share huge numbers of links.
The second story is an excellent article on LLRX titled "Breaking Down Link Rot: the Chesapeake Project Legal Information ArchiveLegal Information Archive's Examination of URL Stability".  It reports on a study of link rot, a topic that is of great concern to librarians who are involved in preservation of online digital content. The Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive is a collaborative law library project of the Georgetown Law Library and the state law libraries of Maryland and Virginia that is preserving web-published law and policy related materials.  The results of the study demonstrate that among the original URLs from which content was harvested for the Chesapeake Project, link rot has increased steadily over time.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

"Dr. Googleberg" resigns

The BBC reports that German Defence Minister Karl-Thodor zu Guttenberg resigned yesterday after 2 weeks of political pressure following allegations that he plagiarized a large portion of his Doctor of Laws thesis. His thesis, which compared the U.S. Constitution with a proposed EU constitution, had earned him a summa cum laude doctorate from Bayreuth University. However, law professor Andreas Fischer-Lescaro last week alleged that long passages of the thesis had been plagiarized without citation. Once the allegations became public, plagiarism hunters went through the document and say that 20 percent of the 475 page thesis was plagiarized, including a passage copied from a US embassy website and one from a speech by the former president of Stanford University. The allegations earned him the nicknames "Dr. Googleberg" and "Dr. Cut and Paste".
Guttenberg has apologized to the writers he plagiarized and requested the revocation of his degree; Bayreuth University revoked his degree. Guttenberg tried to retain his government position but resigned yesterday under intense public scrutiny of the plagiarism allegations.
The BBC has responded to the scandal with a lengthy article on the plagiarism "boom".