Thursday 28 October 2010

Survey of social media use in state government

NASCIO, the National , has released a survey (37 page pdf) of how state governments are using social media. The bottom-line is that social media tools are being actively adopted and used throughout state governments across the country, and this poses challenges to states in the areas of security, privacy, and acceptable use.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Amazon Purchases free from Govt. Oversight

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that Seattle federal district court judge Marsha Pechman ruled Monday that the First Amendment protects a buyer from the government demanding to know the books, music, and audiovisual products they've bought. Amazon filed the lawsuit in its hometown of Seattle and said that that disclosing the names, addresses and purchases of its customers as requested by the North Carolina Revenue Department would harm anyone who may have bought controversial books or movies. North Carolina requires residents to pay taxes on online purchases if buying the same item in a physical store would result in a sales tax. But out-of-state retailers can't be forced to collect North Carolina's tax if they have no physical presence in the state. More information and the decision are available online on the ACLU's website.

20 dying technologies

Bloomberg Businessweek has an online article with a slideshow of "20 Dying Technologies".   Some of them should go sooner rather than later (powercords, remote controls, fax machines) but others... will be missed if they go away completely (desktop computers, metronomes, keys).

Tuesday 26 October 2010

US Patent & Trademark Office, European Patent Office work toward joint classification system

USPTO press release has announced plans to work with the European Patent Office on the formation of a joint patent classification system aligned with global standards. While they will base the new joint system on the European Patent Office (EPO) standard, it will also incorporate the best practices of both offices. The press release says that a unified classification system would help the two agencies "move closer to eliminating the unnecessary duplication of work between the two offices, thus promoting more efficient examinations, while also enhancing patent examination quality." Since the PTO and EPO are already involved in work-sharing arrangements, "the idea of having a consistent classification system is a good one," said Pitt Law alum Q. Todd Dickinson, executive director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association.  "It's a very important aspect of quality," Dickinson said. "The more efficient the classification system, the better the search. [But a] key question is how long it might take and how much it might cost. Those are key issues. In concept, it's a very good idea; we await the details."

Monday 25 October 2010

WestlawNext:change in copy with citation

When I demonstrated some of the features of WestlawNext to librarians and faculty a few weeks ago I noted that one of the features is that you can highlight text in any document you are viewing and you will automatically see a popup window that offers the options of copying and pasting the text with the citation in your choice of format: Bluebook, ALWD, California, Florida or New York. I noticed last week that this feature has changed in that Bluebook is no longer offered as a choice of citation format; instead, that choice is now called "Standard". But be careful: several people on the law librarian listserv have pointed out that the citation format you get if you choose "Standard" is not necessarily Bluebook format.

Ms JD 2011 Writers in Residence application period open

Ms JD, an organization that seeks to support and improve the experiences of women law students and lawyers, is currently seeking law students and professionals to serve as 2011 Ms. JD Writers in Residence. According to the announcement (which includes information on how to apply), the Writers in Residence program consists of a small group of columnists who provide monthly articles on a selected topic; the program launched last year and gave rise to some of Ms. JD's most inspiring, hilarious, and provocative content.  The application deadline is Nov. 15, 2010.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Justia's legal portal for Mexican law

 Justia has launched a legal portal for Mexico called Justia México. The portal provides access to Mexican federal law, including the Constitution ,  statutes, codes, and regulations.  It also has  legal information about the 32 Mexican states, with state laws and codes, as well as links to state government resource.
Justia México also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account,  where you can keep up to date on Mexican legal news.
Of course, the website is in Spanish.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

New enhancements to the Lexis interface

LexisNexis has changed the interface we see when we log on to our accounts.  You can read about these "new enhancements" on the Lexis website.

Best practices for open access law journals

This Friday, Oct. 22, the Duke Law Library  is hosting an all-day program called "Implementing the Durham Statement: Best Practices for Open Access Law Journals."  The Durham Statement was created in 2008 by a group of law library directors and calls for all law schools to stop publishing their journals in print format and to rely instead on electronic publication coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats.  The Agenda for Friday's meeting includes sessions with experts on open access in legal publishing and technologists who are addressing issues in access and preservation of digital documents.
If you haven't signed up to attend the program you can still participate as it will be streamed live through Duke's ustream channel.

Monday 18 October 2010

Lawyer reprimanded for plagiarism in brief

The ABA Journal reports that a lawyer in Iowa was reprimanded by the Iowa Supreme Court for filing briefs in a bankruptcy case that were mostly copied from a law review article.  According to the Court opinion in the case, one of the judges reading the brief noticed that it was "of unusually high quality"  and asked the lawyer to certify that he was the author. At that point the lawyer admitted the plagiarism to the court, his client, and the bar association.   The judge found that the lawyer had copied 17 out of 19 pages of legal analysis in his initial brief and a long citation string in the reply brief. The lawyer was ordered to refund fees charged for preparing the briefs and to return to law school for a legal ethics course.

Email signature files: smaller, please

The New York Times has a Gadgetwise blog post titled "Stop the Signature File Insanity.".  An example of a way-too-long email signature, with 15 lines (!) of information, is given - along with suggestions on how to make it a lot shorter.  We should remember that many people are looking at email on their phones and really, this kind of thing can be very annoying, even if we're using a desktop.  :-)

The commercialization of academic libraries

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a special Chronicle Review issue this week that looks at "The Making of the Corporate University" with articles on how various aspects of academia have been commercialized.  One of the articles is titled "Library Inc." and it argues that academic libraries are the most commercialized academic area within universities, with troubling implications for the future of higher education. Written by an academic librarian from UC Davis, the article describes how information technologies have erased the division that used to exist between the commercial process of acquiring materials and the academic objective of using those materials.  Because many materials now are owned by publishers or vendors, libraries pay for access rather than ownership  and the commercial interests of the publishers and vendors have unfortunately become entwined as part of the academic library's interests and values. This is a must-read article for any academic librarians, both technical services and public services.

Friday 15 October 2010

Friday fun

xkcd has a comic strip about an electronic services librarian's dream. How true!

Hat tip (and thanx for the laugh): Meg Kribble

New law school breaks ground in Nashville

Belmont University in Nashville, TN, broke ground yesterday on the $32 million, 71,000-square-foot Randall and Sadie Baskin Center, home for a brand  new College of Law (with eventual enrollment of 360 students) and "state-of-the-art" law library,slated to open in fall 2012 The building is being designed with the needs of law students in mind and will feature numerous amenities including a student commons, wireless Internet access, offices for student organizations, a locker room and food service, according to the university's press release.

Federated search engine for US government documents

Speaking of the Government Printing Office, it has recently introduced Metalib, a library portal that provides an easy interface to search simultaneously through a variety of electronic resources, such as catalogs, reference databases, digital repositories or subject-based Web gateways. This federated search engine ("federated" means it searches multiple databases) searches across U.S. Federal government databases, retrieving reports, articles, and citations while providing direct links to selected resources available online. When you find the information you need, MetaLib provides tools to save it for future reference in your E-shelf, save it to disk or send it by email. You can search multiple databases in parallel using the Basic, Advanced or Expert interface. You can also search individual databases using theA-Z Resource List , which enables you to locate specific databases from the wide range of databases available. The A-Z Resource List also lets you create your own sets of databases for searching at your convenience. In addition you can link to the native interface of a database and use that for searching.

hat tip: Joe Hodnicki

U. Va. celebrates 100 years as depository library

The University of Virginia library is celebrating 100 years as a federal depository library. To mark the occasion, he library is mounting an exhibit called "An Army of 100,000,000": Celebrating 100 Years of Government Information at U.Va." The exhibit focuses on WWI and how the Government Printing Office, along with the Committee on Public Information, urged Americans to support our soldiers as well as our allies and the war effort. WWI posters, pamphlets and other materials from the depository collection are in the exhibit. There is more information and a few posters available for viewing at the U. Va. library website.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Religious vanity plates OK

The WSJ Law Blog reports that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has reversed a lower court ruling in favor of the state of Vermont in a case where the state had rejected a Vermonter's request for a vanity license plate containing a Biblical reference. The appeals court ruled Friday that the First Amendment leaves room for religion on vanity plates. Shawn Byrne, the Vermonter who brought the case, had applied to the state for a vanity plate reading "JN36TN", which he says is a reference to the Bible verse John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world..."). The AP said of the ruling ""THE REV" and "PSALM48" can now join "ARMYMOM" and "DARE2BU" on the license plates of cars in Vermont."
In its opinion the court writes, ""The state rejected Byrne's message only because it addressed ... areas of otherwise permissible expression from a religious perspective.  This the state cannot do." The court also emphasized that its ruling was limited to the state's ban on religious messages;  the state can keep its ban on vanity plates that refer to scatological subjects, genitalia, illicit drugs, racial epithets and other objectionable material.

More on social networks and politics

Just after Malcolm Gladwell's article was published in The New Yorker, Frank Rich had an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times called "Facebook Politicians ARe Not Your Friends". The op-ed brings together Gladwell's article and the new movie about the Facebook founder called The Social Network and takes  a generally cynical view of social networking and its effect on democracy. Mr. Rich writes "the democratic utopia breathlessly promised by Facebook and its Web brethren is already gone with the wind.  Nowhere, perhaps, is the gap between the romance and the reality of the Internet more evident than in our politics. In the idealized narrative of digital democracy, greater connectivity has bequeathed more governmental transparency, more grass-roots participation and even a more efficient rendering of political justice... But you can also construct a less salutary counternarrative....The more recent miracle of Twitter theoretically encourages real-time interconnection between elected officials and the citizenry. But it too has been easily corrupted by politicians whose 140-character effusions are often ghost-written by hired 20-somethings...When South Carolina governor Mark Sanford was pretending to hike on the Appalachian Trail during his hook-up with his mistress in Argentina last June, his staff gave him cover by feeding his Twitter account with musings about such uncarnal passions as 'Washington D.C. financial recklessness.'"

Friday 8 October 2010

Malcolm Gladwell : Why the revolution will not be tweeted

Malcolm Gladwell had a thought-provoking article in the New Yorker last week, titled "Small Change
Why the revolution will not be tweeted", in which he looks at social media like Facebook and Twitter.  He compares social activism in the 1960's and social (media) activism today: the civil rights protests that engulfed the South in the '60's, he points out, happened without e-mail, texting, Facebook or Twitter. He goes on to discuss how low-risk online social activism is.  He says " Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires. The Facebook page of the Save Darfur Coalition has 1,282,339 members, who have donated an average of nine cents apiece. The next biggest Darfur charity on Facebook has 22,073 members, who have donated an average of thirty-five cents. In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice. We are a long way from the lunch counters of Greensboro."

Thursday 7 October 2010

law prof posts free, downloadable Torts casebook

North Dakota law prof Eric Johnson has posted a free, downloadable casebook for torts. He says that after using three different casebooks over the past three years he decided to create his own casebook and make it available as a pdf through SSRN.
He advises: "Not only should all instructors and students feel free to download this casebook and use it for free, but if any instructor out there would like to customize it, add to it, delete from it, etc., let me know, and I will be happy to give you the original document to work from... This casebook is extremely basic. There are no notes, no questions, no problems, and no exercises. Volume One only has cases, plus one statute. The value of the work is solely in terms of the editing. With no bells and whistles, it's not for everyone. But if you tend to use a casebook only for the cases, then mine might be worth checking out."
Since Torts is a 2 semester course at ND, he has posted the first volume, for the first semester, which covers negligence and liability relating to health care. For the spring semester he will post a second volume, which will include intentional torts, strict liability, economic torts, dignitary torts and a few other subjects.
Prof. Johnson says he was inspired by Prof. Thomas Field Jr. of the University of New Hampshire School of Law, who had already posted his own IP law casebook, Fundamentals of Intellectual Property: Cases & Materials, on SSRN.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Post-Gazette, Legal Intelligencer partnership

American Lawyer Media has announced that he Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Legal Intelligencer (the nation’s oldest daily legal newspaper) have formed a new content partnership that will expand coverage of legal news for the region’s business community. The Post-Gazette  launched a new print and online weekly legal news section on Monday October 4, which will be published in the newspaper every Monday and feature bylined news and analysis from both publications. The first section, published yesterday, featured a Legal Intelligencer column titled "After a Summer of Discontent, All Eyes on Pennsylvania Supreme Court"  and an article about pro bono work by Pittsburgh law firms.  The weekly section will run in the Post-Gazette’s business section with a “Legal Intelligencer” column, local legal news, as well as other news content from the LI selected by the editors of the Post-Gazette.
Coverage will focus on state and regional legal, court, legislative and law firm news of interest to business readers.


The Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law has started a Law Research Paper Series within the Legal Scholarship Network (LSN). Series publishes research papers authored exclusively by scholars of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law (editors: Prof. Juergen Basedow, Prof. Holger Fleischer, Prof. Reinhard Zimmermann). Papers cover topics on foreign, European and international private law including commercial law, business law and procedural law as well as comparative legal history and the foundations for comparative law and legal harmonization. You can subscribe to the eJournal at the SSRN website.