Tuesday, 29 November 2011

British Library announces historical newspapers site

The British Library has announced the launch of the British Newspaper Archive, offering access to 4 million pages from 200 18th & 19th Century newspapers from the UK and Ireland. The project is a collaboration between the British Library and Dundee-based IT firm Brightsolid. Over the next 10 years the project will digitize an additional 40 million pages spanning 3 centuries. The archive includes articles reporting on the Great Exhibition of 1851 plus stories on infamous murder trials and men, women and children being transported to the other side of the world for minor crimes. It also includes eyewitness accounts of social transformation – newspaper reports, commentary and letters to the editor on topics ranging from the railway mania of the mid-19th century to the extraordinary expansion of the temperance movement; as well as advertisements and illustrations. According to the press release, "Alongside first-hand accounts of historic events such as the wedding of Victoria and Albert and the Charge of the Light Brigade, these newspapers also provide countless vivid details of how our ancestors lived and died, how they went up and down in the world and how they fed, clothed and entertained themselves."

Canadian government data free

Embassy Magazine reports that all of Statistics Canada’s standard online products, including the census, socioeconomic and geographic data, will be offered to the public for free starting February 2012. While Statistics Canada has been working towards opening up more of its data for several years, it still currently charges for some online data, including some data sets inside its its “key socioeconomic databas”, the Canadian Socioeconomic Information Management System. Researchers, economists and other individuals buy these products, and several firms are also licensed by the agency to act as redistributors. Some of those firms charge for reselling the data, and some roll it into other value-added products they sell. Organizations currently buying the data from Statistics Canada will be “encouraged” to redistribute information under the government’s new open data licence agreement.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Lawschools & Lawyering: front page news in the New York Times

Yesterday's Sunday New York Times had a lengthy  front page story titled "What they don't teach law students: lawyering."  The article discussed a lack of "practical training" in law schools, saying "Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”"  and "nearly half of faculty members (at top tier law schools) had never practiced law for a single day." 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Report on the status of digitizing vital legislative documents

The Sunlight Foundation has posted a review of the progress that's been made in digitizing 3 key legislative documents: the Constitution Annotated, the Congressional Record, and the Statutes at Large. A year ago the Congressional Joint Committee on Printing directed that these three sets of  documents be published online "as quickly as possible." According to the Sunlight Foundation review there's only been progress on one, the Statutes at Large. The review says that "Unlike with the other two publications, there is tangible evidence of progress. GPO has now publishing a digitized version that covers from 1951-2002, which is a significant undertaking. However, the documents have not been integrated into THOMAS, and are still somewhat difficult to use because of their large size. Moreover, GPO published another set of digitized documents, from 2003 to 2007, that are kept in a separate location on GPO's website and stored at a much greater level of granularity. This project is only partially complete, with a sizable gap in the public record from 1874 to 1951. Moreover, the documents haven't been integrated into THOMAS."

Friday, 18 November 2011

Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act

The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, introduced in the House (HR 1974) and Senate (S 1411), would require the Public Printer to establish and maintain a website accessible to the public that allows the public to obtain electronic copies of all congressionally mandated reports in one place.

Law faculty criticize SOPA in letter to Congress

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a group of more than 100 law professors have signed an open letter to Congress criticizing HR 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), as well as similar legislation pending in the Senate ( S 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, or Protect-IP.) The letter explains that the legislation would unfairly expand liability for online copyright infringement, allow the government to block access to Web sites that facilitate infringement, and permit private rights holders to block Web sites to host ads or conduct credit-card sales.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Trial of 2 BNA resources

We have a 30 trial of 2 BNA products that we currently don’t subscribe to: the Money and Politics Report and the Internet Law Resource Center. You can access both from the BNA main page dropdown box. The BNA MONEY AND POLITICS REPORT provides comprehensive behind-the-scenes coverage of campaign finance, lobbying, and government ethics issues at the federal, state, and local levels, including Full-text documents and summaries of Lobbying Disclosure Act filings. The BNA INTERNET LAW RESOURCE CENTER is comprehensive resource for case law, statutes, news, research, and analysis on Internet and e-commerce law all in one place. “Stay informed of the latest cyber law developments, quickly locate key legal primary sources, and benefit from the practical insights of experienced practitioners from a single integrated site.”

"Ten Top Tricks" from HeinOnline

As a part of Hein’s recent Customer Appreciation Week their "Support Guru" Tim Hooge presented his top ten tricks for using HeinOnline in two 15 minute webinars. Both are available on the HeinOnline webinars wiki. The tips are also available in pdf format on the HeinOnline website. The tips include how to use proximity searching in any HeinOnline library, how to find Supreme Court cases on a specific topic, and how to browse contents in the US Federal Legislative History Library.

PA unconsolidated statutes online

The librarian of the PA Legislative Reference Bureau has announced that Pennsylvania "unconsolidated statutes" are now on the General Assembly's website , joining the "consolidated statutes". They are listed under the category "Law Information".  You can search by "keyword" or "act number" or browse by "act name" or "year." The "chronological history" of each act is included and shows amendments, repeals, and certain decisions and rules of court by section.
 Also new under the "Law Information" category is a link to the Legislative Reference Bureau's  website for the historical Pennsylvania Session laws Preservation Project.  New to the site are the years 1802, 1803 and 1804. As time and manpower permit, the goal is to make all PA session laws available on this website.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Have Women’s Law School Numbers Peaked?

The ABA Journal online has an article this morning about a report (22 page pdf) from the National Assn. of Women Lawyers finding that women make up 47 percent of first- and second-year associates, down from 48 percent in prior years- suggesting that "the pipeline may be shrinking". The report also shows that the highest percentage of law degrees awarded to women occurred in 2004 and has been declining ever since. “The percentage of women entering law schools may have peaked,” the NAWL report says. In 2009-10, women made up about 47 percent of the law school population and 45.9 percent of all law school graduates.

PITTCat+ Summon

Links to the new Summon version of PITTCat+ have been added to the Barco Law Library webpages. Summon, from Serials Solutions,  has replaced Aquabrowser as the online catalog for the University Library System, is more robust and provides a much more user-friendly experience. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Prof. Bridy on copyright, internet regulation

Visiting Associate Professor Annemarie Bridy has a couple of terrific blog posts that I found via LLRX - LLRX reprinted her post on The Digital Death of Copyright's First Sale Doctrine. This article discusses the implications of the Supreme Court's declining to review Vernor v. Autodesk, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision involving the applicability of copyright's first sale doctrine to transactions involving software and other digital information goods. Prof. Bridy says that "As the transition from physical to streaming or cloud-based digital distribution continues, further divorcing copyrighted works from their traditional tangible embodiments, it will increasingly be the case that consumers do not own the information goods they buy (or, rather, think they've bought)."
A second blogpost, published yesterday, is titled Don't Regulate the Internet. No, Wait. Regulate the Internet. It talks about the RIAA's seemingly contradictory stances on regulation of the Internet.   Prof. Bridy says that "The RIAA’s political strategy in the war on piracy has been alternately to oppose and support government regulation of the Internet, depending on what’s expedient. I wonder if rights owners and the trade groups that represent them experience any sense of cognitive dissonance when they advocate against something at one moment and for it a little while later—to the same audience, on the same issue." 

Monday, 7 November 2011

GPO Access sundowning

On Friday, November 4, 2011, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) draws one step closer to shutting down GPO Access.  GPO has now stopped  updating GPO Access in terms of both database content and HTML pages. This marks the start of the "archive only" phase of GPO Access;  new content will only be loaded to FDsys. During this phase, GPO Access will remain publicly accessible as a reference archive.
In order to make the switchover from GPO Access to FDsys as seamless as possible for users, GPO is in the process of creating one-to-one redirects from GPO Access content to the FDsys equivalent. This will ensure that bookmarks, Web links, URLs in print publications, and other GPO Access references point to valid Web resources. Once this has been completed, GPO Access will be taken offline. A date has not yet been established for the final shutdown of GPO Access; however, it is slated for fiscal year 2012.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Report to Congress on mandatory minimum penalties

The United States Sentencing Commission has released a Report to Congress: Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System. The 645 page report says that the Commission "generally continues to believe that a strong and effective guideline system best serves the purposes of sentencing established by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984," and also recommends a number of reforms of mandatory sentencing. "While there is a spectrum of views on the Commission regarding mandatory minimum penalties, the Commission unanimously believes that certain mandatory minimum penalties apply too broadly, are excessively severe, and are applied inconsistently across the country."  
An Executive Summary of the report (49 page pdf) is also available.

Publisher sues Bit Torrent pirates

Publishers Weekly reports that publisher John Wiley and Sons has filed a "willful infringement" copyright suit and a trademark infringement suit in  the Southern District of New York federal court  involving 27 “John Does” it claims are illegally copying and distributing the  "FOR DUMMIES®" books "through the peer-to-peer file sharing software known as BitTorrent". Though Wiley doesn't know the identities of the accused infringers, in its complaint, Wiley lists their IP addresses and ISPs.

National Law Journal's law school blog on legal education

There is an interesting post in the Law School Review blog written by a law professor at Indiana University.  The post discusses the challenges facing law schools, faculty, and curriculum given a number of factors that are changing the way law is practiced.  The post is very thoughtful and there are interesting comments following the post.  

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Grocery shopping in the subway (with your smartphone)

This doesn't have anything to do with law, but one of the people on the CALI listserv posted this cool video:
I wonder if library books could work the same way?

Federal Court opinions on FDsys

The office of the United States Courts has announced that more than 12,000 opinions from three federal courts – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida – have been posted on the Fdsys website and made available to the public. By the end of 2011, 12 ofederal courts will have opinions posted on Fdsys and work is underway to bring the opinions from an additional 22 courts to Fdsys in early 2012.