Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Readex online training

Readex is offering free fall training sessions for its various database collections, including a September 29 training in America's Historical Government Publications (including U.S. Congressional Serial Set and American State Papers).  You can find out more about the trainings and register on the Readex website. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Voting booth privacy and selfies

The ABA Journal has an article about... well, another article, in the New York Times... about whether people who take selfies in the voting booth (to show their cast ballots) are violating laws that protect privacy in the voting booth.  The NYT is quoted as saying "concerned that the practice could threaten voting rights, some lawmakers have expressly banned doing so. In other states, existing laws concerning voting and photography at least arguably prohibit selfies".

New journal focuses on technology and privacy

beSpacific reports the launch of an important new academic journal, The Journal of Technology Science.  The new journal focuses on the intersection of technology and its various impacts on society. The journal is examining this topic in breadth and depth, explaining on its web site: “The scientific study of technology-society clashes is a cross-disciplinary pursuit, so papers in Technology Science may come from any of many possible disciplinary traditions, including but not limited to social science, computer science, political science, law, economics, policy, or statistics.”  Institutional one-year subscriptions are listed as costing $25,000, "which (according to the license agreement) is currently discounted at 50 percent from the $50,000 regular license fee. " (!)
The first articles in the new journal include:
Did you really agree to that? The Evolution of Facebook’s Privacy Policy, and
Who’s Paying More to Tour These United States? International Travel & Price Discrimination.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Amusing musings on The Bluebook

With school starting and a new batch of 1Ls arriving and the publication of the 20th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, the ABA Journal has published some amusing commentary by Bryan Garner on the Bluebook.
A few quotes:
"What I’ve come to realize is that when it comes to The Bluebook, small changes are made for the sake of making small changes."
"From an author’s standpoint, the most irksome thing about a new Bluebook is the nettlesome changes that take place."
"There are rules, you see, exceptions to rules and exceptions to exceptions. These are all elaborated in the 560 pages of the 20th edition. By contrast, the earliest edition of The Bluebook in my possession is the 10th edition of 1958. It weighs in at 124 pages."

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Orientation!

1L orientation for the Class of 2018 begins Tuesday August 18 and runs through Friday. The schedule is available here on the Pitt Law website.
 Welcome everyone!

Monday, 17 August 2015

New HeinOnline interface for the new school year

HeinOnline has updated their website for the new academic year. The Hein interface is clearer and better than ever - and it has always been a straightforward website to use. In addition, Hein is continuing to link to caselaw on Fastcase, and Fastcase has also made some major improvements to their website - you can read a review titled "Fastcase 7: Better than a Tesla" on Internet for Lawyers.

Laptops in the Classroom?

Whether or not to allow students to use laptops in the classroom has been something of an issue for many years - but usuallly it's the faculty who question laptop use. Now the Harvard Business Review has published an article titled "What You Miss When You Take Notes on Your Laptop" that may convince some students that they will learn a lot more if they go back to the old-fashioned pen-and-notebook method of note-taking. Studies show that synthesis and retention of lecture information are much better when notes are taken by hand.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Georgia sues Public Resource for publishing annotated state code

The ABA Journal reports that the state of Georgia is suing Carl Malamud's Puublic Resource organization for publishing the annotated code of Georgia online. His website provides members of the public access to a searchable and downloadable scan of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated -- that is, the entire body of state law. The state is seeking a court order forcing Malamud to stop.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

An independent Copyright Office?

The American Library Association - among others - has questioned a proposal from Congress to remove the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress and make it an independent agency according to Publishers Weekly. Called the CODE Act (Copyright Office for the Digital Economy), the draft legislation was released on June 4, and pitched as a bid to “modernize” the Copyright Office. However, the ALA president said that "“The bill’s proposal to make the Copyright Office an independent agency does not address the longstanding problems facing the agency, specifically that the Copyright Office’s information technology systems are woefully inadequate in serving both rightsholders and the public in the digital environment,.. Instead of independent authority, the Copyright Office needs resources—both in the form of funding and technical expertise—to bring it out of the typewriter age."

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

New trial FOIA policy for some federal agencies

Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press reports that several federal government agencies recently announced a trial program of  a “Release-to-One is Release-to-All” policy. Under the program, documents responsive to most Freedom of Information Act requests would be published online and accessible to any member of the public.
Hat tip: BeSpacific

Saturday, 11 July 2015

New learning platform for law students learning cases

JD Journal has a story about LearnLeo, a program that was developed to help 1Ls read through their casebooks faster so they can spend more time studying the information they have read. Currently it is available at the top 20 law schools in the US, and hopes to be in more law schools by the end of 2015. Students at the supported schools are able to view cases organized by their class and syllabus.
You can see how LearnLeo helps students do the tedious highlighting of cases in casebooks and organize their studying on this example from Chicago Inno news. 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Everything Science Knows about Reading on Screens

LIS News tells us that thanks to technology, we’re reading more than ever—our brains process thousands of words via text messages, email, games, social media, and web stories. According to one report, the amount people that read tripled from 1980 to the late 2000s. Do you prefer reading a print book or reading on a screen? Here's info about how reading on a screen is different. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

learn about the ERIC thesaurus

ERIC, the national education database, is giving a free webinar on using the ERIC Thesaurus on Thursday, July 16 from 2-3 pm. The ERIC Thesaurus is a valuable search tool and an authority on the vocabulary of education. There are more than 11,000 education-related terms in the ERIC Thesaurus. The webinar will discuss the behind-the-scenes activities used to maintain this large controlled vocabulary, and how the Thesaurus supports ERIC users in their search for education resources.
The database includes peer-reviewed articles on legal education - for example, using the thesaurus users can quickly drill down to such articles as: Perrin, J. et al., Do Learners Fear More than Fear Itself: The Role of Fear in Law Students Educational Experiences (2014).
Registration for the webinar is free.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Free Webinars from the Government Printing Office

The GPO has announced free webinars that will be available during July. These sessions are presented virtually through GPO's FDLP Academy. Presenters from GPO, other Federal Government agencies, and from Federal depository libraries will present on topics related to Federal Government information and the Federal Depository Library Program.
 The upcoming webinar sessions:
 SHA in Action: An Overview of a Selective Housing Agreement An Overview of a Selective Housing Agreement, July 7 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern), 60 min
SHA in Action: CONSORT and Case Western Reserve, July 15 at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern), 60 min
Introduction to GPO's Federal Digital System, July 16 at 11:00 a.m. (Eastern), 60 min
Advanced Navigation in FDsys, July 16 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern), 90 min
SHA in Action: Experiences of a Regional Depository Library, July 23 at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern), 45 min
StatsAmerica – A Portal to Apps and Rich Data Tools for Economic and Community Development, July 30 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern), 60 min
Webinar attendees will receive a Certificate of Participation from GPO for each webinar they attend. GPO's FDLP Academy offers a wide range of educational opportunities, tools, and resources related to Federal Government information.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Important FOIA decision for TRAC

the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University reports that in an important FOIA decision, Judge Christopher R. Cooper of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia has ruled that the purpose of TRAC is educational and journalistic and not business-related (the case docket number is 1:14-cv-00807-CRC). Judge Cooper's ruling focused on the response of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a November 2013 FOIA request from TRAC seeking data on immigration enforcement.
The decision is important to TRAC's data gathering mission because fees charged to non-commercial entities for obtaining records are substantially less than they would be if the organization were considered commercial. In clarifying several key issues underlying the rules to be applied in assessing fees, the decision may also prove significant to other non-commercial requesters who might otherwise be persuaded to abandon their efforts to obtain government information by the imposition of unjustified fees.
The Bloomberg citation for the case is 2015 BL 206945; the Lexis citation is 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83835; the  Westlaw citation for the case is 2015 WL 3961312.

2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

ABA Journal reports that Deborah Johnson has been awarded the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for The Secret of Magic. The prize is intended for the best novel-length work of fiction published that year to illuminate the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. It is sponsored by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law, and named for the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. “We’re thrilled with this year’s selection,” said Allen Pusey, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal, who was on the selection committee for the Harper Lee Prize finalists. “The Secret of Magic is exactly the kind of book the Harper Lee Prize is intended to honor; and the quality of legal literature we hope to encourage. The language is rich, the storytelling is gripping, and the subject fits squarely in today’s discussions about race, courage and the rule of law.”
You can visit Deborah Johnson's website to find out more about her and the book; links to online booksellers are also there.
For University of Pittsburgh faculty, staff and students the book is also available online through the University Library System

Friday, 19 June 2015

European Court of Human Rights agrees websites are responsible for user comments

Slashdot reports that a recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Delfi AS v. Estonia has found it perfectly acceptable to hold websites responsible for comments left by users. In the surprise decision, the court has ruled that the Estonian news site Delfi may be held responsible for anonymous and allegedly defamatory comments from its readers.
A blogpost from the Media Legal Defence Initiative summarizes the reasons why the court came to this unexpected decision. The ECHR cited "the 'extreme' nature of the comments which the court considered to amount to hate speech, the fact that they were published on a professionally-run and commercial news website," as well as the "insufficient measures taken by Delfi to weed out the comments in question and the low likelihood of a prosecution of the users who posted the comments," and the moderate sanction imposed on Delfi.
Experts are worried the ruling will encourage websites to censor content posted by users out of concern that they're opening themselves up to legal liability. The judgment also seems to support the claim that "proactive monitoring" can be required of website owners.

Congress dot gov webinar available as recording

If you missed the Introduction to Congress dot gov webinar on June 11, it is now available as a ~1 hour recording from the Library of Congress. Very useful.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports availability

The New York Times has an editorial titled "Congressional Research Belongs to the Public" in which they urge the incoming Librarian of Congress to make CRS reports readily available to the public. "Given the extreme partisanship and gridlock in Congress, it’s more crucial than ever to have an informed electorate. Putting these reports in the public domain is an important step toward that goal."

Thursday, 11 June 2015

LLOC index of Congress reports

In an effort to highlight the legal reports produced by the Law Library of Congress (LLOC), their display on the Library of Congress website has been revamped. The new Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports will link to all reports available on the website. This will also be the exclusive location to find reports written before 2011, including some of the more popular reports. The reports listed on the Comprehensive Index page are divided into specific topics designed to point users to the reports of greatest interest and relevance. Each report listed is under only one topic and several topics are not yet filled (“forthcoming”). The LLOC plans to add many reports from our archives to this page over the next few months, filling in all of the topics.
The Current Legal Topics page will now only contain the most current reports. This list of reports also includes a short description explaining what you will find in each report.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Congress dot gov webinar June 11

The next Congress.gov Webinar offered by the Law Library of Congress is June 11 from 2:00-3:00 EDT. Congress.gov, the official website for U.S. federal legislative information, was launched Sept. 19, 2012. This orientation is designed to give a basic overview of the site. While the focus of the session will be searching legislation and the Congressional member information attached to the legislation, the new features of Congress.gov will be highlighted. Registration is free.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

News from the US Copyright Office

"The U.S. Copyright Office has published a Federal Register notice requesting written comments to assist it in developing draft legislation that would establish a legal framework for certain mass digitization activities. For the past several years, the Copyright Office has been exploring ways to facilitate and support mass digitization projects serving the public interest while appropriately balancing the interests and concerns of copyright owners. In its recently issued Orphan Works and Mass Digitization Report, the Office proposed the creation of a limited “pilot program” that would allow certain types of mass digitization projects to be authorized through a system known as extended collective licensing (ECL). The ECL pilot program recommended by the Office would enable users to digitize and provide access to certain works for research and education purposes under conditions to be agreed upon between rightsholder and user representatives. Because the success of such a system depends on the voluntary involvement of both copyright owners and users, the Office is inviting public comment on several issues concerning the scope and operation of the pilot program. The Office will then seek to facilitate further discussion through stakeholder meetings and, if necessary, additional requests for written comment. Based on this input, the Office will draft a formal legislative proposal for Congress’s consideration.
Written comments are due on or before August 10, 2015."

Monday, 8 June 2015

Albany Law School & U. Albany move toward affiliation

The Albany Business Review reports that the Albany Law School and the University at Albany have announced they are finalizing an agreement to affiliate. A joint letter from the Albany Law School Dean and the President of the University of Albany describes the plan, and says that the schools plan to complete a formal agreement by the end of October. The letter states that the affiliation is not a merger, as both schools will remain financially independent and there are no plans to change their names. Additionally, the schools would retain their respective accreditations and continue to issue their own degrees. But benefits of affiliation include cost-savings for students, expanded course and degree offerings and joint research and funding initiatives..  Albany Law has an enrollment of 477 students. U Albany enrolls more than 17,000.

Friday, 5 June 2015

FBI tells Congress new law needed to address social media

Computerworld reports that the FBI told the the U.S. House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee that a new wiretap law is needed that will require social media websites to share customers' communications with law enforcement agencies the same way that telecom carriers do. Terrorists are increasingly using social network tools to recruit converts, but much of the recruiting is done in the open, three government witnesses told the committee.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Federal Courts report improved use of jurors

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the Federal Judiciary reports that 2014 shows a better Use of jurors in the Federal Courts. According to their statistics, the national average of jurors in federal district courts who were not selected, serving or challenged (NSSC) on the first day of jury service fell to 36.8 percent in 2014, compared to 37.7 percent in 2013. They add that "If you’re a potential juror, that’s very good news. It means 3,046 potential jurors were not called to the courthouse unnecessarily." Decreasing the number of prospective jurors who are NSSC is a Judiciary-wide goal. The Federal Judicial Center conducts regular Juror Utilization and Jury Management Workshops, the most recent in March 2015, to help courts better use jurors.

Open Government Guide to state open records policies

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has an online Open Government Guide containing a complete compendium of information on every state's open records and open meetings laws. Each state's section is arranged according to a standard outline, making it easy to compare laws in various states. There is also a search function that allows you to compare one "outline point" across your selection of multiple states.
hat tip: BeSpacific

Friday, 29 May 2015

Open-access academics denounce Elsevier's new policy

Both The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed have articles this week discussing how academic, library and technology organizations are denouncing a new academic sharing policy announced by Elsevier. Critics say it undermines open-access policies at colleges and universities and prevents authors from sharing their work. 23 organizations, among them Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and library and open-access associations in countries such as the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, Brazil and the U.K., have issued a joint statement calling on Elsevier to reconsider the policy.

The Bluebook!

The 20th Edition of The Bluebook is now available. For this edition, when you purchase a printed copy of The Bluebook, you will get a FREE 30 day trial to the Bluebook Online; look for your free trial key on the back of the title page. The Bluebook for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch are available via the Rulebook app in the App Store.
Perma.cc is pleased to see that this Bluebook now recognizes Perma.cc as a reliable tool for preserving internet sources. The Bluebook includes a new rule: 18.2.1(d), which states:
“Archiving of Internet sources is encouraged, but only when a reliable archival tool is available. For citations to Internet sources, append the archive URL to the full citation in brackets” – the rule includes the following example: Letter from Rose M. Oswald Poels, President/CEO, Wis. Bankers Ass’n, to Elizabeth M. Murphy, Sec’y, SEC (Sept. 17, 2013), http://www.sec.gov/comments/s7-03-13/s70313-178.pdf [http://perma.cc/B7Z7D9DJ]. Perma.cc is also the example used to demonstrate the archived sources rule in the Rule 18.1 Basic Citation Forms for Internet Sources table on page 178: Rocio Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s Status Debate Continues as Island Marks 61 Years as a Commonwealth, HUFFINGTON POST (July 25, 2013, 9:00 AM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/25/puerto-rico-status-debate_n_3651755.html [http://perma.cc/C6UP-96HN].

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Dejure Design: where law & justice go to be seen

An interesting legal-related firm in San Francisco,  Dejure Design provides interactive and visual design services to social justice organizations seeking to make their legal work more accessible and engaging. Dejure Design was founded in 2014 by an experienced human rights lawyer and acts as a bridge between the legal and visual design communities. You can see some of their infographics work on the main page of their website.

Sundowning Westlaw "classic"

Law Sites blog has a post titled "Westlaw's Days are Numbered" which points out that the end date of Westlaw Classic will be August 10.  The post also gives a nice history of Westlaw, Westlaw Classic, and Westlaw Next, from dial-up terminals to internet access to plain-language searching. As author Bob Ambrogi says, "Of course, with Westlaw gone, there will be no need to call its successor WestlawNext. In just a few months, that means, there will be just one Thomson Reuters legal-research service, WestlawOnly."

Friday, 22 May 2015

Bloomberg BNA launches new tool for corporate transactions

Bloomberg BNA today announced the launch of Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions, a  web-based product that includes a technology-driven drafting workflow tool with its analytics powered by Bloomberg's financial databases, primary resources, secondary materials and practical guidance. This new offering allows corporate lawyers to know what deal terms are "market standard." Putting "big data" to practical use, the new tool searches over one million documents, comparing agreements and clauses to yield "market standard" language. According to the press release, "Just as searchable databases of case law revolutionized the way litigators approached their work 30 years ago, Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions is set to dramatically change the workflow for transactional lawyers".
"We've developed an all-in-one solution that allows transactional lawyers to quickly draft, negotiate, and finalize a wide variety of agreements," said Carl Sussman, Commercial Product Director for Bloomberg Law. "The product's real power is the way it synthesizes over a million documents and returns results that are easily incorporated into a deal document. This is what leveraging big data is all about and where we clearly differentiate ourselves from the competition."

Thursday, 21 May 2015

resources for learning to code

Knowing how to write code (various types) is a skill that is always useful, and especially useful for librarians and others in the information biz.  The Digital Inspiration blog has a post titled The Best Websites to Learn Coding Online that provides links to websites where you can a variety of programming languages like Java, SQL, PHP, Ruby, Python etc. The post also has links to free programming books and online sites and apps for children that can help them learn programming basics. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Federal Agencies aren't making docs available online...

The National Security Archive reports that an FOIA Audit has found that 19 years after the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA) were passed by Congress, only 40 percent of agencies have followed the law’s instruction for systematic posting of records released through FOIA in their electronic reading rooms. The Archive team audited all federal agencies with Chief FOIA Officers as well as agency components that handle more than 500 FOIA requests a year — 165 federal offices in all — and found only 67 with online libraries populated with significant numbers of released FOIA documents and regularly updated. More details on the findings are available in an article on NetworkWorld.
hat tip: Sabrina Pacifici on beSpacific

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fair Use Index from the US Copyright Office

Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante recently announced the launch of the U.S. Copyright Office's Fair Use Index, which is designed to provide the public with searchable summaries of major fair use decisions. The Index was undertaken in support of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement prepared by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator within the Executive Office of the President. Although not a substitute for legal advice, the Index is searchable by court (all federal courts) and subject matter (16 Subject categories, including "Other") and provides a helpful starting point for those wishing to better understand how the federal courts have applied the fair use doctrine to particular categories of works or types of use, for example, music, internet/digitization, or parody. For each decision, the index provides a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair. Users can browse all of the cases, search for cases involving specific subject matter or categories of work, or review cases from specific courts. The Index ordinarily will reflect only the highest court decision issued in a case. It does not include the court opinions themselves, but it does include the full legal citation so you can look it up easily.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

New BloombergLaw enhancements

Bloomberg BNA has announced new enhancements to transactional resources in the Bloomberg Law database. To find them, look under the Transactional Law tab/menu bar, where you will now see  links for the new "Draft Analyzer" and "Deal Analytics" tools.
The "Draft Analyzer" allows you to take your draft provisions/language and build out market based standardized versions of that language. It shows you the developing consensus among drafters based on Bloomberg's analysis of each paragraph from virtually every agreement and organizational document filed as an EDGAR exhibit. After running the analyzer, the results page shows you up to 10 matching consensus templates (market based standards) as well as analytical information so that you can determine the consensus template’s strength and relevance to your transaction. For example, for each market based standard you will see information telling you the number of documents making up that standard, the law firms that used that language, when they used it, etc.
The "Deal Analytics" tool contains information on 500,000 public and private M&A deals and allows you to search through all these deals using a plethora of search filters/options. For example, you can search by party, advisor, industry sector, deal type, deal size, exchange, date, etc.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Updated Federal Courts website launched

The federal Judiciary website, uscourts.gov, has undergone a major facelift.  The newly launched site has a fresh look, improved functionality, and webpages that adjust automatically for optimal use on all sizes and types of devices. Features include:
-  An improved Court Locator that helps users find their local court more easily. Search by city and state or ZIP code, and choose a court type on any page of the website.
- Maps display with search results.
- Individual district court information pages include direct links to the court’s website, e-filing, juror information page, and eJuror log-in.
- All court forms are now grouped in a central location, so users can search by keyword or filter by topic. Download forms directly from the main forms page, or click on the form name for more information. Relevant form instructions or committee notes are found on the specific form’s page.
-  Federal Rules:  Records and Archives of the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules and Practice and Procedure and its advisory committees can be filtered and searched by committee and year for meeting Minutes, Committee Reports, Agenda, Books, Rules Suggestions, and Rules Comments.
- Statistics:  An enhanced search for Judiciary data tables allows users to search by publication, specific type of data, and date range, and includes related analysis of the data tables.