Wednesday 25 May 2011

Judgmental website: UK case law made usable

Judgmental is a new UK website that aims to make UK case law "available, searchable and usable". The case law is browsable by jurisdiction and court, and then by date. The entire set of data can be searched by Google.
As for the spelling of the website's name, the website says "Why doesn't it have an 'e" in it?
"Judgment" is the usual spelling for an act of legal adjudication, and is similarly used in the Bible, eg Day of Judgment. "Judgement" is used in the wider sense, for instance when referring to someone as having "sound judgement".  Who knew?

Tuesday 24 May 2011

This year's outstanding govt. information resources announced

Each year, the Notable Documents Panel of the American Library Association Government Documents Round Table (GODORT)  recognizes outstanding government information resources issued by state and local governments, national governments, and intergovernmental organizations, such as the World Bank and the UN.  This year's report from the panel is titled "Digital Diamonds and Budget Cuts," has been published in Library Journal.  The report points out that the strides made by GPO during that past year are "tempered by the prospect of massive federal budget cuts that will likely slow down progress."  Among GPO's successes this year are the successful migration of millions of documents from GPO Access to FDSys, which has implemented archival standards for long-term preservation of important documents.
The subject matter of this year’s Notable Documents list reflects an essential characteristic of these releases: their diversity. Nearly half of these titles focus on animal and plant life, climate change, and the environment. Half of the remaining titles deal with social topics, such as crime, human rights violations, economic development, the global economic crisis, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. City planning, construction, history, food and gardening, geospatial data, and engineering are among other themes addressed. The number of works available only in print, only online, and in both analog and digital media is roughly equal.
The list of this year's Notable Documents available online includes:

Monday 23 May 2011

LLMs face increased scrutiny

The National Law Journal has a story (note: you must register for a free 90day trial to NLJ to access the online article)  today titled "Increased scrutiny for LL.M.s: New hurdles, options for foreign-trained attorneys". LL.M. programs offer the master of laws degree for foreign lawyers who want to be eligible to take the bar exam in the US.  The article notes two shifts affecting LL.M. students: first, the New York Court of Appeals has adopted stricter requirements for the curricular content of LL.M. programs.  Secondly, the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has proposed specific curriculum requirements for LL.M. programs geared toward foreign-trained lawyers. Individual states adopting the proposed model would then allow LL.M. program graduates to take their bar exams. 

Netflix is the top bandwidth use in North America

Techradar  reports that the Netflix video streaming service is not the biggest user of bandwidth in North America, accounting for 22% of total internet use. These figures come from the recent Global Internet Phenomena Report (18 page pdf) by Sandvine Broadband Network Solutions. At peak periods, Netflix accounted for 29.7% of bandwidth use.  If you add in other forms of "real-time entertainment" - sites providing on-demand streaming - they account for almost half of bandwidth use. The report includes data on bandwidth use in Europe and Latin America, as well as an analysis of how the Royal Wedding on April 29, 2011, affected internet use worldwide.

Friday 20 May 2011

West Virginia closes regional law libraries

The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register reports that regional W. Va. law libraries are being closed "because of a lack of use".  In the article, the administrative director of the W. Va. Supreme Court of appeals said they have been considering the closure for several years, and a a study conducted in the Huntington law library found that in a 3 month period nobody used the library. He also said that judges in the 1st Judicial Circuit have first pick of the books, and a community college is interested in using the books for its paralegal training program. 

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Turnitin study on student plagiarism using the internet

Turnitin, the online plagiarism resource used by Pitt,  recently conducted a study that examined which Internet sites students use in their written work. They looked at 40 million student papers submitted to Turnitin over a ten-month period. Some of their findings:
• One third of "matched content" (content that has been copied) is from social networks, content sharing or question-and-answer sites where users contribute and share content.
• 15 % of content matches come from cheat sites.
• One fourth of matched content is from legitimate educational web sites, almost double the number that comes from paper mills or cheat sites.
Wikipedia is the most popular site for matched content (7%).  The other most popular sites, in order, are,,,,,, and
• Institutions with widespread adoption of Turnitin see a reduction in unoriginal content of 30-35 % in the first year. By the fourth year, many institutions see levels of "unoriginality" fall by up to 70 %.
You can request a free download the White Paper, "Plagiarism and the Web: Myths and Realities," from the Turnitin website.

AP Stylebooks addresses digital terminology

The new edition of the AP Stylebook, a style and usage guide used by journalists (it calls itself "the journalists' Bible), clarifies the spelling of some digital terminology and has also added commonly used acronyms.  For example, "email" is now spelled without a hyphen or capitalization, and both "cellphone" and "smartphone" are one word. The acronym "ROFL" (rolling on the floor laughing) has been added. 

Tuesday 17 May 2011

New à la carte libraries from Hein coming in June

HeinOnline is introducing two new à la carte libraries on June 1, 2011. The first is the History of International Law Collection, which will contain more than 500 titles and 550,000 pages dating back to 1690 on subjects such as War & Peace, the Nuremberg Trials, Law of the Sea and International Arbitration. It will include classic books and serials such as the International Law Studies Series [U.S. Naval War College], International Conciliation, and Studies in Transnational Legal Policy.The second is the Hague Academy of Collected Courses which will include the complete archive of collected courses dating back to their inception in 1923, twelve periodic indexes, plus the official publications from the Workshops organized by the Academy.

Sunday 15 May 2011

NTIS offers new service for getting federal technical reports

The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) has announced the availability of a new information dissemination service known as NTIS Selected Research Service (SRS). NTIS serves as the largest central resource for government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business related information; federal agencies are required to make copies of their scientific and technical reports available to NTIS.   The SRS is a tailored information service that delivers complete electronic copies of government technical publications from agencies such as the Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program offers:

  • Full Text PDF format of Federal technical reports
  • Comprehensive coverage of Federal technical content
  • Ability to select from 378 subject categories
  • E-mail notification when new documents in subject areas of interest are available. 

The cost of each document you request from this NTIS program is $3.00.  The 378 subject areas are detailed in the SRS Catalog (pdf).

Friday 13 May 2011

E-reserves trial to begin Monday

Ars Technica reports that on Monday May 16 the e-reserves lawsuit pitting several academic publishers (Cambridge, Oxford and Sage) against Georgia State University will begin in the Northern District Court of Georgia. E-reserves are electronic compilations of course material that faculty gather for students in circumstances where they would not be using enough material to make it worthwhile for students to buy entire books. According to Ars Technica the issue is "notoriously murky", and in this case the publishers approached Georgia State before embarking on the lawsuit, but the university claimed the e-reserves were legal. The publishers are suing Georgia State on the claims of contributory infringement and indirect infringement.

CIA declassifies oldest documents

The CIA's Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room provides public access to CIA information that has been released through the FOIA and other disclosure statutes. Recently they added the US government's 6 oldest classified documents, which have finally been declassified. The documents date from 1917 and 1918, and were the only documents remaining classified from the World War I era.  These documents all describe methods of "secret writing" that spies might use to sneak information past the enemy.   Document 4, for example, has several methods - tedious and involving chemicals and hot irons - for exposing hidden writing. Document 4 also describes "how to open sealed letters without detection" which involves copper acetyl arsenite, acetone and amyl alcohol (though there is a notation in the margin saying "Tried - not successful").  Document 6 warns to "Suspect fresly-painted metal walls on ships, etc. - Often... they cover communications scratched on the underlying metal surface". It also gives instructions on "how to make microscopic writing on a 2-cent red U.S. postage stamp", and warns that "spies and smugglers" sometimes engrave messages on toe-nails. 

Wednesday 11 May 2011

National Jukebox from LOC

The Library of Congress recently launched the "National Jukebox: Historical Recordings from the Library of Congress."Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the collections of the LOC Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives. Recordings in the Jukebox were issued on record labels now owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which has granted LOC a gratis license to stream acoustical recordings. Currently, the Jukebox includes more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. According to the LOC, Jukebox content will be increased regularly, with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other Sony-owned U.S. labels.
You can browse the contents in a variety of ways, including by language, place, label, date, composer, lyricist, performer and genre. The collection includes recordings of vocal music, instrumental music, as well as spoken recordings.
According to the LOC site, "The goal of the Jukebox is to present to the widest audience possible early commercial sound recordings, offering a broad range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning.  These selections are presented as part of the record of the past. They are historical documents which reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these recordings, which may contain content offensive to users."
Here's an example of a 1906 recording of "Home Sweet Home."

US District Court for the Western District of PA: PDF/A filing requirement begins phasein June 1

The Federal Judiciary is planning to change the technical standard for filing court documents in PACER from PDF to PDF/A. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts this change will improve the archiving and preservation of case-related documents. Each federal court is to set its own deadline date for setting the requirement in place, and the US District Court for the Western District of PA has announced that it will begin posting documents in PDF/A format on June 1, 2011 and that all uploaded court filings must be in PDF/A format beginning on Jan 1, 2012.
The PIT IP Tech Blog (from the Pittsburgh law firm of Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton) has a post explaining what PDF/A means, and pointing to online  resources that can help with the transition. According to their post, "In theory, by moving to the PDF/A format, electronically-filed documents will be more accessible in the future and less dependent on technologies or features that may become unsupported."

hat tip: legal blog watch

Forum on the future of the CRS

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a nonpartisan government agency located within the Library of Congress that provides policy and legal analysis to members of Congress on a wide range of issues.
On Monday, the Sunlight Foundation hosted a forum to discuss the current state of the CRS as well as its future.  A panel of speakers talked about the expertise of CRS analysts, the relevance of CRS Reports, and the possibilities for improving public access to CRS Reports that are not considered confidential.  A video of the forum is available on C-SPAN (90 minutes). During the discussion, it was reported that a Transparency Bill, that would make CRS reports already in existence public,  will  be reintroduced this session of Congress as well as a separate, stand-alone CRS bill mandating public access (possibly through Clerk of House/Senate)

Monday 9 May 2011

The Economist on the business of law

The May 5 edition of The Economist online has a story titled Law firms: A less gilded future discussing changes in the "legal business" over the past few years. The article describes how the recession hit the lawyering profession hard- even American firm Howrey, one of the top 100 firms in the world, went bust because of dismal profits. The article says that "(u)ltimately, lawyering is becoming more of a business than a profession. Some lawyers decry this. Others welcome it. Few deny it. Because the American market cannot grow as it used to, firms will have to find new strategies and make use of sophisticated branding to stand out."

hat tip: Mike Madison

Friday 6 May 2011

Cost Effective research training

Everyone (ok, everyone who is a law librarian and tweets)  is tweeting about a blogpost by DC lawyer Jean O'Grady titled "The Myth and the Madness of Cost Effective Lexis and Westlaw Research Training". It is well worth reading, if somewhat depressing. The basic premise is that focusing on "cost effectiveness" distracts summer associates from the real goal of legal research, which is finding the right answer for the client. The big database vendors could do a lot to gear their databases towards focusing on finding the right answer, rather than worrying about lots of tangential pricing factors - but they don't. Instead they offer highly complex, opaque and expensive research tool that in some ways defeats the real purpose of legal research.

College bookstores asks BBB to investigate Amazon claims

Inside Higher Education has a story today reporting that the National Association of College
Stores (NACS)  has asked the Better Business Bureau to investigate advertising claims made by Amazon on the Amazon textbook page.  The page claims that one can "Save up to 90% on used textbooks and up to 30% on new textbooks, then get up to 60% back when you sell textbooks back at Amazon".  Then on Tues May 3, Amazon filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgement (15 page pdf) in the US District Court, Western District of Washington, asking the court to "grant relief against NACS" by declaring that the Amazon pricing claims are NOT misleading, and asking that Amazon be awarded its costs and expensives of litigation as well as "such other and further relief as the Court deems just and equitable".
Stay tuned. 

Wednesday 4 May 2011

FBI warning: bin Laden links may contain malware

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned computer users Tuesday to be cautious about opening emails claiming to include photos or videos of Osama bin Laden's death. Such emails may contain viruses that could steal personal information and spread throughout your email Contacts list.  

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Nolo Publishing sold to new media company

Publishers Weekly reports that Nolo Inc. has been sold to Internet Brands, a "new media" Internet company. Nolo was founded in Berkeley, CA in the late 1960's by two legal aid lawyers who assembled a group of radical lawyers, editors, and writers frustrated by a legal system too complicated and pricey for much of the US middle class. They began publishing plain-English books with information about dealing with a variety of everyday legal situations. Internet Brands was founded in 1998 as and has diversified its interests into many including legal, careers and shopping. Internet Brands will keep Nolo in Berkeley where Nolo's operations will be combined with those of ExpertHub (, Internet Brands' existing legal-focused division, with domains including, and PW says that Nolo's print operations will continue under Interrnet Brands.
Nolo publishers in 1971

Monday 2 May 2011

Legal Information Preservation Alliance celebrates Preservation Week

Last week LIPA, the Legal Information Preservation Alliance, highlighted true stories of recent preservation projects undertaken by LIPA member libraries. Every day LIPA published one story about a digital law library project, with details about the planning and executing of the project. Today they published all of the stories on the LIPA website (LIPA is a committee of AALL).  The projects include an Indian Law portal developed by the state law library of Montana, digitized legislative histories of the Indiana General Assembly from 1858 to 1887 by the Indiana U. law library, and the digitization of Nebraska Supreme Court briefs by the Creighton University School of Law library. 

A movement to allow erasure of internet information

MIT's Technology Review has an article on further developments in the "Right to be Forgotten" movement in Europe. The article says that a "growing group of privacy advocates in the U.S. and abroad want the Internet to be written in pencil" (allowing for erasure).  They want internet users to have to opt IN before anyone could track their data in the first place. Spain is just the latest country that has become involved in the movement, when its Data Protection Agency ordered Google to remove hyperlinks to articles about 90 people. The article reports that in the U.S. an online-safety organization called Common Sense Media argued that "Web companies should develop tools that make it easier for young people—or their parents—to completely opt out and delete this information." They wanted, they said, an "Internet Erase Button."
There are 2 sides to the "internet erase button" or Right to be forgotten" argument though. There are sticky questions about freedom of the press and freedom of speech; when does the right to privacy outweigh the right to information?  And the information that is available on the internet can also make all sorts of academic research much easier and less expensive. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article  on how women and men behave differently in looking at sexual content on the web - research that was accomplished by analyzing a billion web searches by men and women. The research was done by computational neuroscientist Ogi Ogas who has published the book A Billion Wicked Thoughts

Book statistics

The University of Dayton Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop for humor writers has a list of statistics on the reading and publishing of books that bibliophiles might find depressing. The statistics come from various sources; one can only hope that some of them may be questionable. For example: 

  • 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. 
  • Each day in the U.S., people spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.  (hat tip: Library and Information Science News blog)

And if you find this interesting, you might also be interested to learn that Inside Higher Ed reports the University of Denver's library plans to move 4/5 of the collection to off-site storage, in order to add more seating and group space during a major renovation. The library's 1.1 million books, gov docs, journals, microfiche and CDs will all be moved to an off-site storage facility 10 miles from campus during the renovation; only 20% of the material will return to the library when the renovation is completed.