Category Archives: Electronic Resources

Ensuring President Trump “shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed:” There’s a blog for that

Take Care, a blog monitoring Trump’s adherence to the law of the land under Article II of the Constitution, has been launched and is staffed by an impressive list of contributors that includes Larry Tribe, Erwin Chemerinsky and more than 20 former Supreme Court clerks and numerous former senior Executive Branch officials. Recommended. — Joe

Want to search an out-of-date version of the National Survey of State Laws? There’s a very expensive online legal search service for that!

Westlaw carries the full text of the sixth edition of the National Survey of State Laws online. Therein lies the problem. In addition to not stating online that the sixth edition has been superceded by the much more recent seventh edition (which Westlaw is going to publish online), the compiliers of the State Laws Survey have released two updates and four (or is it five?) new chapters that are not online. Bottom line: if you are using the National Survey of State Laws on Westlaw, you are searching eight-year-old topical state laws surveys. Make a note of that, researchers, at least until the seventh edition is online.

Time for the folks in the Land of 10,000 Invoices to get the seventh edition of this valuable resource uploaded and to keep it updated once it is. Perhaps Lexis or BNA can do a better publishing job for this title.– Joe

PS: A reader has commented that the seventh edition of the National Survey of State Laws is available, apparently since Jan. 12, 2016, on HeinOnline.

10,000 documents: Is there a flaw in West Search?

10,000 documents is an awful lot. Truly a low precision, high recall search. But sometimes, one starts off searching very broadly because Westlaw and Lexis Advance provide a “search within results” option to narrow down initial search output. While I do not perform many broad searches in Westlaw, I have never once seen a figure higher than 10,000 documents in my search results. I have, however, seen “10,000+” documents in equally broad Lexis Advance searches on the same topic.  Unfortunately 10,000 documents appears to be a search results limit in Westlaw.

If an initial search pulls up 10,000 documents in Westlaw, there is no reason to believe all Westlaw documents identified by one’s search are really all the potentially relevant documents in the Westlaw database. Searching within the initial 10,000 documents search results would be, therefore, based on a seriously flawed subset of the Westlaw database, one defined by West Search, not one’s search logic. This is not the case in Lexis Advance where a broad search may yield 10,000+ documents for searching within initial results. If this is indeed a flaw in West Search’s output, one must conclude that Lexis Advance offers more comprehensive searching of its database than Westlaw. — Joe

What The [Bad Word] Is This Supposed Be?

I was helping a cite checker with Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes when I came across this free site called WestlawNext State Government Sites.  I’m not sure what TR is trying to do with this as FindLaw still exists.  The collection features a small but haphazard collection of primary and quasi-primary materials from what I would describe as all over the place.  The limited number of states represented are far from comprehensive.  The materials presented are just as puzzling.  Each collection has different ways to conduct searches.  Take a look.  Anybody with reactions please let me know.

Mark

Legal Analytics, A Legal Writing Conference, and Bats Turn Into Turkeys

Yes, it’s been a while.  Between the ever present health issues and building and teaching a set of lesson plans on legal research to our first year students, it’s been tough to get back to the blog.  Well, the teaching part is essentially over until the first week of classes in January.  Let me catch up with a few things, a couple of business and one essentially fun.

The first business item is the announcement I received recently noting that Lexis has purchased Lex Machina:

Today LexisNexis announced that it has acquired Silicon Valley-based Lex Machina, creators of the award-winning Legal Analytics platform that helps law firms and companies excel in the business and practice of law.

A look into the near future. The integration of Lex Machina Legal Analytics with the deep collection of LexisNexis content and technology will unleash the creation of new, innovative solutions to help predict the results of legal strategies for all areas of the law.

With its acquisition, Lex Machina becomes part of the ongoing LexisNexis commitment to offer modern, next-generation solutions that help legal professionals work more efficiently, make better-informed decisions and drive success for their clients, practice and business.

The acquisition is described as a “prominent and fresh example of how a major player in legal technology and publishing is investing in analytics capabilities.”  I can understand that.  As we grew up with Lexis and Westlaw we were taught (or taught) the utility of field searching.  The available information in a document allowed us to search particular judges or attorneys to do our own analysis of their involvement with topics and issues.  We have the ability today to make more detailed analyses.

Expert witness reports are where Lexis and Westlaw mostly provide background information and the track record of particular witnesses.  Both companies offer comprehensive details because there is quite a market for experts in litigation.  Lex Machina is identified with analytics associated with copyright and a few other forms of intellectual property.  I can imagine Lexis and Westlaw expanding analytics for other litigation prone subjects such as medical malpractice and products liability.  I can see this as a new area of competition between the major research databases.

The second business item is a one day conference at Ohio State University:

OSU reference librarian Ingrid Mattson is co-chairing a great one-day conference for the Legal Writing Institute.  I’m sharing the announcement just in case you’d like to attend.  There are several presentations by ORALL members.

Join us in Columbus, Ohio, on December 11 for our one-day workshop, “Collaboration In and Out of the Legal Writing Classroom.” Topics include collaborating with legal writing colleagues for successful scholarship; students working together in the classroom; librarians and legal writing faculty joining forces for more effective research instruction; and connecting with casebook and clinical faculty, the community outside the law school, and university offices to provide meaningful, resource-conscious instruction.

Our workshop website, which includes program details and hotel information, can be found here. Workshop registration can be found here.

Columbus offers a number of unique experiences year round and particularly during the holiday season. Consider staying through the weekend to enjoy a dessertcoffee, or beer tour of a city with a dynamic food scene. Those who are more literary-minded will enjoy a Dickens of a Christmas and a Dickens Dinner at the historical Ohio Village. If you have an interest in politics, history, or architecture, touring the Ohio Statehouse is fun and free. A short walk from the workshop site you can explore the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. Finally, for anyone visiting with children or who fondly remembers Jack Hannah and the Columbus Zoo on David Letterman, check out the zoo’s extraordinary holiday light tradition, Wildlights. For more information on the exciting goings-on in Columbus, visit Experience Columbus.

Columbus truly is the heart of it all. We are driving distance from places like Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Lexington, Chicago, Charleston; and a non-stop flight away from pretty much everywhere else.
We hope to see you in December! For more information about the conference, please feel free to contact us at Kelly.864@osu.edu or Mattson.30@osu.edu.

The conference cost is a very reasonable $45 aside from any lodgings.  I’m not expecting to sample the charms of Columbus while I’m there.  I was interested in going to a Blue Jackets game but it turned out the team is on the road in Winnipeg on December 10th.  The Islanders come in to Nationwide Arena on the 12th but unfortunately I can’t stay over.

And now the fun part.  As part of the Halloween picture extravaganza, I shared costumes and decorations from a number of libraries.  One of those picture sets from Wayne State included periodicals turned into bat decorations.  Well, it seems the bats have turned into turkeys for the coming holiday.  See the pictures below.

Thanksgiving 2 Thanksgiving 3 Thanksgiving 1

Well, I hope to publish more frequently now that my major semester project is effectively over.

Mark

“Free The Law:” Ravel and Harvard Law Team Up To Do Just That

There is so much to catch up on.  The recent news is that Ravel Law is teaming up with Harvard to scan significant portions of the primary law collection with the ultimate goal of placing the bulk online for use by the public.  The story in the New York Times mentions the fact that the librarians are cutting the books apart so the pages could go through high speed scanners.  The implication here is that there is no turning back for the project. Here is another story from the Harvard Law School News.

The interesting part for me aside from having as much primary law on the web is that this is the first major scanning project announced since the Google Book decision from October 16th.  Most primary law is in the public domain so there shouldn’t be any question about the legality of scanning.  Nonetheless, that decision should comfort the project managers.  I wonder if the decision will be giving impetus to any other large scale digitizing projects.

Mark

Librarian of Congress Announces Current DMCA Exemptions

The DMCA Exemptions for 2015 were announced by David S. Mao, the Acting Librarian of Congress, and effective as of October 28.  This is a series of exemptions allowed every three years upon review.  There is now a limited exemption for jailbreaking software in cars, 3D printers, phones, tablets, other portable devices, games, and allowance for the use of excerpted DVD clips for educational use.  Some of the items on the list, such as limited use of DVD excerpts had been approved in last reviews.  The process requires a renewal to prevent the exemption from expiring.

I often found the refusal to exempt making archival copies of DVDs a bit hypocritical as there are quite a few software packages that can accomplish this for sale on large commercial retail sites.  And then there are stories such as a review of the Five Best DVD Ripping Tools from Lifehacker.  Let me state up front that I am not encouraging anyone to violate copyright law.  I’m merely pointing to examples that show how little the prohibition against copying/ripping seems to be enforced.  Maybe this software is bought mostly by academics for classroom use.

Some of the commentary on this year’s announcements are in Wired, boingboing, the EFF, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Mark

Libguides Are Appearing in Google Scholar Results

I’m in the middle of creating lesson plans for three introductory legal research classes to be taught to first year students by librarians next month.  That’s one reason why there has been a lack of posts in the last couple of weeks, among others.  The task is, how can I put it, time consuming.  That’s another story.

I thought I’d take a moment this afternoon and wander through Google Scholar to see what literature it contains on the process of legal research.  I did the obvious and searched the phrase “legal research.”  At about two or three pages into the search I noticed an entry for Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Legal Research Guide: Home by Vicky Gannon at Pace University.  The citation came up because the title contains the words “legal research.”  I have to admit that I had not expected a libguide to be one of the results in Google Scholar as I had not seen any prior to today.  I use Scholar a lot.  I mean, a lot.

I decided that I would try and search the word “libguide” all by itself and sure enough there were citations linking to any number of guides mixed in with the scholarly articles about the use of libguides.  Many of them were listed as [citation] which linked to an entry in either Bepress or a university commons page that in turn linked to the actual guide.  I found this all quite interesting.  Scholar apparently can be another vehicle for researchers to get to the intellectual output of a law library staff.  My suggestion is for all of you out there to give it a try.  Create some sample searches and see what happens.  I know I will.  This may be another strategy I can use in teaching or advising at the reference desk.

Mark

It’s Only A Friday Fun If You Like The Result: Google Wins Again at Second Circuit Over The Book Scanning Project

The Second Circuit handed Google another victory in its battle with the Authors Guild, et al., by upholding the District Court’s determination that its book scanning project is fair use.  Here is the Court’s own summary of the decision from the end of the opinion:

In sum, we conclude that: (1) Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-infringing fair uses. The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals. Google’s commercial nature and profit motivation do not justify denial of fair use. (2) Google’s provision of digitized copies to the libraries that supplied the books, on the understanding that the libraries will use the copies in a manner consistent with the copyright law, also does not constitute infringement. Nor, on this record, is Google a contributory infringer.

The Court relied on its decision in the HathiTrust case for declaring that Google’s scans were transformative.  The Court here noted that the libraries did not offer snippet view in local search in comparison to Google.  That wasn’t a problem, however, as Google’s snippets were no substitute for a copy of the book.  At best a research could determine whether the book would be useful in a research project.  That would not be a lost sale necessarily if the researcher rejected using the book in a personal project.

I’m still digesting the opinion and may have more to say about this later.  I’ll refer readers to c copy of the opinion on Google Drive as supplied by the Chronicle of Higher Education.  I’ll also point to a copy linked in a statement of disappointment in the ruling by the Authors Guild.  Note, however, that the Guild links ultimately to copy placed on Google Drive as well (oh the irony).  I would also draw your attention to the fact that the link from the Chronicle allows the reader to download the document.  The version from the Guild does not offer that option.  I’m guessing the Guild is hard-wired in that regard.

Mark

Copyright Office Issues New Report on Orphan Works and Mass Digitization Projects

The U.S. Copyright Office has issued a new report, Orphan Works And Mass Digitization, which identifies legislative proposals and other considerations to create mechanisms that allow for legal use of orphan works and mass digitization.  The report builds on earlier examinations of the issues released in 2006 and 2011.

From the Executive Summary:

While the fundamental aspects of orphan works and mass digitization have remained unchanged since the Office’s prior reviews, a number of important domestic and international developments have affected the legal landscape. In the United States, it is difficult to separate the issue of mass digitization from two lawsuits arising out of the Google Books project, in which authors and book publishers have asserted violations of their exclusive rights and Google and libraries have asserted fair use.4 Recent decisions in these cases have magnified the public debate surrounding the costs and benefits arising from digitization projects more generally, and how best to license, except, or otherwise regulate them under the law.

Meanwhile, a growing number of countries have adopted legislative responses to both orphan works and mass digitization, ranging from calibrated exceptions to government licenses to extended collective licensing. And, private entities have developed innovative new copyright information registries and other resources to more efficiently bring rightsholders together with those seeking to use their works.

These combined developments – all of which will have substantial ramifications for U.S. copyright stakeholders – strongly suggest that it is time to revisit potential solutions in the United States. The goal in doing so is not to interfere with jurisprudence, but rather to ensure that the rules are clear and that all parties are on equal footing. Indeed, with so many equities at stake, the complexity and breadth of the issues make them well suited for legislative action.5 While the Office has addressed these issues together in this Report, we recommend separate solutions.

The Copyright Office was opposed to the Google Book Settlement which was ultimately rejected by the trial court.  The current report (PDF) is available here.  Perhaps Congress will get around to actually making reforms in the copyright laws to account for orphan works and digitization projects.

Mark

Study: Academic Publishers Rake In The Dough

There is an interesting article from the CBC called Academic publishers reap huge profits as libraries go broke.  The sub-title is “5 companies publish more than 70 per cent of research papers, study finds.”  There is a constant cry from academic libraries in the United States, and I assume Canada, over the cost increases in scientific, medical, and social science journals.  Harvard University in fact joined that chorus three years ago in encouraging its scholars to publish in open source publications.  Academic libraries in some situations dropped Elsevier subscriptions in protest.  Others joined in as well.

The CBC article documents a study of publishers by Vincent Larivière and others from the University of Montreal’s School of Library and Information Science.  He found that the top five journal publishers held 53% of the academic journal market and had a 40% profit margin.  This sentence explains why that is possible.

“The quality control is free, the raw material is free, and then you charge very, very high amounts – of course you come up with very high profit margins.”

Indeed.  There is a link to the full paper within the article.  Here’s the abstract:

The consolidation of the scientific publishing industry has been the topic of much debate within and outside the scientific community, especially in relation to major publishers’ high profit margins. However, the share of scientific output published in the journals of these major publishers, as well as its evolution over time and across various disciplines, has not yet been analyzed. This paper provides such analysis, based on 45 million documents indexed in the Web of Science over the period 1973-2013. It shows that in both natural and medical sciences (NMS) and social sciences and humanities (SSH), Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis increased their share of the published output, especially since the advent of the digital era (mid-1990s). Combined, the top five most prolific publishers account for more than 50% of all papers published in 2013. Disciplines of the social sciences have the highest level of concentration (70% of papers from the top five publishers), while the humanities have remained relatively independent (20% from top five publishers). NMS disciplines are in between, mainly because of the strength of their scientific societies, such as the ACS in chemistry or APS in physics. The paper also examines the migration of journals between small and big publishing houses and explores the effect of publisher change on citation impact. It concludes with a discussion on the economics of scholarly publishing.

It’s published in PLOS ONE, which is an open source journal.

Mark

Print Isn’t Dying, It’s Just Shrinking

There is an interesting discussion going on at my library.  As others may be doing, we are considering the proper mix between print and online resources.  ABA law school accreditation Standard 606 now allows for “a core collection of essential materials through ownership or reliable access.”  It’s that last part, “reliable access,” that triggers deep soul searching of what to buy in print or what to buy as an electronic subscription.  Tempering the rule are other qualifications that state the core collection should support faculty scholarship and the curriculum, and that a collection that consists of a single format may violate Standard 606.

In this context I’ve recommended that we drop the National Reporter System, ALRs, CJS, multiple state codes, and selected treatises that are online.  This may sound radical to some.  I know that law schools and libraries are experiencing budget cuts due to lower enrollment.  That drives part of the analysis.  Another factor that bears thought is what we teach these days.  The legal writing program at DePaul started teaching all electronic research.  We experienced a drop in library visits as a consequence.  No more treasure hunts, no answering the same questions over and over at the reference desk.

I can remember how far we’ve come in electronic access.  We used to teach print resources because that’s what the legal market had out there.  Now electronic access to case law and other primary sources is ubiquitous.  At one time it was viable to teach print because the databases were based on print.  Understand the organization of print and the online version would make more sense.  That’s not so true anymore.  Online database providers no longer think in terms of echoing print other than citation and star paging.  Certainly there was a time when case law on Westlaw was organized by reporter.  Not anymore.  It’s all jurisdictional, and that seems natural now compared to looking for a database containing the Northeastern Reporter.

Look at how citators have changed.  There was a time when Shepards online would be no more current than the latest print update.  Even the CD-ROM product mirrored print.  Now everything is dynamic.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to subscribe to the print edition at this point.  We cancelled our print copies years ago. If anything was made easier by online access, Shepards, KeyCite, and citators in general are it.  They are more complete, can be filtered, and everything is spelled out instead of interpreting symbols attached to citations.

Then there are law reviews.  I have to say how much I like Hein Online when it comes to law reviews.  Everything back to day one is there in PDF format more or less.  We still get paper copies of law reviews but discard them once they appear on Hein.  No more binding these books for the collection.  Google Scholar works as a handy index to Hein content as well as other scholarly databases.

So now the next question is what is the proper mix for print and online?  I know that some libraries have already dropped major primary resources such as reporters.  In one sense, we are behind the curve on making that set of decisions.  Never in my career had I thought I would be part of this kind of decision.  Times change.  I find that I’m not very sentimental about physical materials that no one uses at my library.

Mark

What Do Legal Employers Want In Law School Graduates?

One of the many issues coursing through law schools these days is revising the curriculum to produce more practice-ready graduates.  This makes a school’s students more likely to be attractive to firms in that they would need less training on the job to be successful.  I attended a panel discussion several months back at the LexisNexis offices here in Chicago that featured librarians from large firms, small firms, and the federal courts.  The discussion centered on the expectations each of their respective organizations had for interns and new hires.

I found it pretty interesting as we in academics teach research from the perspective of skill and strategies without context.  We talk about being cost effective here in the law schools but sometimes I’m not sure our version of cost effective is the same as that as a firm or legal practice.  One would think that a firm would like to keep costs down as much as possible while at the same time getting the research right. That may be true generally, but the approaches the librarians discussed varied depending on the research topic and the available resources.  The point really is that a student/graduate versed in online legal research should ask how research is conducted at the firm in order to use learned research skills effectively.

One of the other things that came up in the discussion was security.  That’s something I admit I never really thought about.  I’m used to seeing email messages with the standard disclaimer to the effect “this communication is intended for ….”  Client privacy, after all, is an ethical issue.  Those same issues come up in research where graduates find that they are restricted in where and when research is conducted.  I’m sure firm librarians reading this will say “Yes, and?”  It may be a shock to students to learn that firms and courts lock down information with prohibitions against thumb drives containing confidential information and other electronic devices that do the same.  Remote access to a firm’s system is definitely not as casual as logging into a law library’s database list.  Or putting it another way, there is a big difference between what is possible and what a firm allows and how it allows it.

With all of that, there is a recent study funded by Lexis that measured some of the expectations of some 300 hundred hiring partners for so-called practice ready graduates.  Here is the executive summary with links to the full report:

Executive Summary

Law Schools and individual faculty are in the process of revising their curriculum and classes to address the demand for more practice-ready graduates. But what are the most desired research, writing and transactional skills and how can law schools develop these skills most effectively? An independent survey was conducted by 5 Square Research, Inc. and funded by LexisNexis®, to answer these questions and more.

The result is a new white paper, Hiring partners reveal new attorney readiness for real world practice, which shares the responses of 300 hiring partners and associates from small to large law firms practicing in litigation and transactional law.

Key findings include:

  • 96% believe that newly graduated law students lack practical skills related to litigation and transactional practice.
  • 66% deem writing and drafting skills highly important with emphasis on motions, briefs and pleadings
  • Newer attorneys spend 40% – 60% of their time conducting legal research
  • 88% of hiring partners think proficiency using “paid for” research services is highly important
  • Students lack advanced legal research skills in the areas of statutory law, regulations, legislation and more…
  • The most important transactional skills include business and financial concepts, due diligence, drafting contracts and more…
  • A law firm spends approximately $19,000 per year, on average, to train a new associate

This study reveals the most important and most lacking practical skills desired by legal employers and will help inform law schools of the specific content and tasks they can integrate into applicable classes and experiential learning programs pursuant to employer demand and the new ABA standards.

Read the full article with charts, Hiring partners reveal new attorney readiness for real world practice, or view this Executive Overview Prezi*.

*Chrome or Firefox is best for viewing Prezi

Mark

HathiTrust Wins On Appeal

I haven’t read the decision yet, so I can’t comment about it yet.  The opinion is here.  The Court’ summary states:

Plaintiff‐appellant authors and authors’ associations appeal a judgment  of  the  United  States  District  Court  for  the  Southern District  of  New York (Harold  Baer, Jr., Judge)  granting  summary judgment  to  defendants‐appellees  and  dismissing  claims of copyright infringement. In addition, the court dismissed the claims of  certain plaintiffs‐appellants for lack  of  standing  and dismissed other copyright claims as unripe. We hold, as a threshold matter, that certain plaintiffs‐appellants lack associational standing. We also hold that the doctrine of “fair use” allows defendants‐appellees to create a full‐text searchable database of copyrighted works and to  provide those works in formats accessible to those with disabilities, and that the claims predicated upon the Orphan Works Project are not ripe for adjudication. We vacate so much of the judgment as is based  on the district court’s holding related to the claim of infringement predicated upon defendants-appellees’ preservation of copyrighted works, and we remand for further proceedings on that issue. Affirmed, in part; vacated, in part.

The American Library Association issued a statement on the case:

Today, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in Authors Guild v.HathiTrust, deciding that providing a full text search database and providing access to works for people with print disabilities is fair use. The court also ruled that the Authors Guild lacked standing, and therefore could not assert infringement claims against the HathiTrust. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), of which the American Library Association (ALA) is a member, filed an amicus brief in support of the HathiTrust.

ALA President Barbara Stripling released the following statement in response to the ruling:

“The Second Circuit today affirmed more than a lower court decision—it affirmed that the fair use of copyrighted material by libraries for the public is essential to copyright law. ALA is pleased that the court recognizes the tremendous value of libraries in securing the massive record of human knowledge on behalf of the general public and in providing lawful access to works for research, educational, and learning purposes, including access for people with disabilities.

“The continued acknowledgement of the importance of fair use to enable learning and support for the development of a well-informed citizenry makes the U.S. copyright law unique and well-functioning.”

This decision affirms that libraries can engage in mass digitization to improve the discovery of works and provide full access to those works to students with print disabilities enrolled at the respective HathiTrust institutions.

The general public can search the database using keywords and locate titles held in 80 member institutions. Full text access to the underlying works is allowed only for students with print disabilities enrolled at the University of Michigan and certified as disabled by a qualified expert. Students with print disabilities are blind or have a handicap that prevents them from reading printed text. Because of the full conversion of the texts to digital format that is accessible, these students can use adaptive technologies, such as text-to-speech, to read.

ALA will continue its defense of fair use in the HathiTrust case, should additional appeals be filed.

I expect that some of the reasoning in this case may affect the Guild’s case against Google.  We’ll see.  — Mark

More Info On The New LexisAdvance Interface

LexisNexis held a 28 minute webinar last Wednesday about the new interface for LexisAdvance.  Playback for Exclusive VIP Preview for Librarians: Be the First to Know is available here.  The playback requires a Cisco WebEx plugin.  A viewer will be given a download link for the software when invoking playback.  Another plugin is required to download the video.  –Mark

Sneak Peek at the New LexisAdvance Interface

For those who want to get an idea of the new LexisAdvance interface there is a YouTube video that Lexis has provided.  I can’t tell whether the new design improves searchability or not.  I see an example of a search result but not necessarily the way to get there.  That’s not a criticism.  Anything is better than the one that exists now.  All I would say at this point is Lexis, please do not get rid of the Lexis.com part of the site until the new interface takes hold and works.  Check out the promotional (and I do mean promotional) video here.  Note that comments are disabled.  I wonder why? –Mark

Short Takes On The News: Digitizing the Vatican Library, the Good Law School Classes, and Public Privacy

The Vatican has announced that it will digitize manuscripts contained in the Vatican Library that date back to the very beginning of the Church.  Some 1.5 million pages will be digitized and placed online over the next four years.  NBC News has more details on the project.  Some of the libraries holdings were microfilmed during World War II when it was thought that Rome would be bombed.  The film now resides at St. Louis University in Missouri, of all places.

The Volokh Conspiracy asks the magic question “What law school classes have you found especially useful for your practice of law?”  There are 25 responses as of this writing and most of them identify courses such as evidence, legal writing, constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, civil procedure, and other substantive classes.  No one (so far) has identified practice oriented classes such as trial advocacy or clinical experience.  Then again, no one has identified what I call the “touchy feely” classes—those that are based in legal philosophy or social sciences.

Those interested in privacy, especially in the context of filming police officers on duty in a public place might find interesting two decisions from the Illinois Supreme Court.  Illinois has criminalized such conduct with a statute deemed on of the toughest in the nation.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a determination that the statutes are likely unconstitutional.  See A.C.L.U. v. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2012).  The Illinois Supreme Court also found the statute to be unconstitutional and an overbroad burden on speech.  This is from the summary of People v. Melongo 2014 IL 114852:

In this decision, the supreme court said that its analysis was guided by its holding in People v. Clark, 2014 IL 115776, announced on the same day as this case, in which the court held the eavesdropping statute violative of the first amendment to the United States Constitution under the overbreadth doctrine. Here, the supreme court said again that the statute is simply too broad in deeming all conversations to be private and not subject to recording absent consent, even if the participants have no expectation of privacy, and in also criminalizing the publication of those recordings. All of this burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to serve any legitimate interest in protecting conversational privacy, making the statute invalid on its face. This defendant cannot constitutionally be prosecuted for divulging the conversations she recorded.

Both Melongo and Clark were decided without dissent.  – Mark

Short Takes On The News: Google and Wikipedia, More Tenure Stuff, and Windows 9

Things I read this morning:

Visits to Wikipedia pages in English declined by 21% in 2013.  The Register reports that this may be due to Google implementing its Knowledge Graph in its search results.  That’s where the search giant ads basic facts about the subject of the search.  Some of the information placed directly in the search results may fulfill the ultimate purpose of the query.  I’ll just add that Microsoft’s Bing product does the same thing.

Last week I wrote about the (predictable) reaction by law faculty to the ABA’s proposed accreditation standard that called for job security for faculty, though not requiring tenure.  Most of the arguments in favor of keeping tenure centered on academic freedom.  Inside Higher Ed has a lengthy article about Professor Louis Wozniak who teaches at the University of Illinois in the Engineering School.  The Board of Trustees at Illinois revoked his tenure for revealing the emotional state of student on his blog.  The article suggests that Wozniak is a “difficult” colleague.  I’ve dealt with all kinds of faculty over the years in the various law schools where I have worked.  Some of them were total jerks.  Could Wozniak’s situation become a cautionary tale for law if the new standards go into effect?

While we’re on the subject, this article in the ABA Journal about a faculty member barred from his campus due to anger issues is also worth reading.  Professor Joel Cornwell is suing the John Marshall Law School in Chicago under the ADA.  The suit claims that the school did not accommodate his Asperger’s Syndrome in violation of the Act.

Finally, this story from the Christian Science Monitor reports on Microsoft’s successor to Windows 8/8.1.  Microsoft will apparently detail what Windows 9 (name subject to change) will contain in terms of features.  A similar article in ZDNet suggests that Microsoft may make more significant changes that balance the tablet/desktop interface, though these aren’t detailed beyond running a windowed version of the Metro interface from the desktop.  That’s kind of the opposite of the way it is now where the desktop runs as a “Metro” selection.  Microsoft needs to figure out what it’s doing here.  It’s pretty much acknowledged that Windows 8 has not penetrated the market as much as Microsoft has liked.

I’m of the belief that the tablet interface makes no sense on a large, non-touch screen connected to a desktop computer.  I appreciate that the company has made it easy to bypass its tablet interface with the release of the Windows 8.1 update.  The tablet apps are interesting, but my traditional desktop applications work well, or well enough, that I need to change.  I may not be typical.  Other speculation in the news is that Windows 9 could be out in early 2015.

Mark

How I got lazy as an attorney and how you can avoid it

That’s the title of a recent Fastcase Blog post by Joshua Auriemma. Here’s his open salvo:

I often wonder whether the Googleification of legal research isn’t a terrible thing for the profession (at least in this stage of the technology’s development). In law school, I was a master of Boolean searching. I thought about my research question, figured out which words probably appeared closest to other words, and crafted a narrow and specific search.

Somehow, when I became an appellate attorney and had access to WestlawNext through my firm, all of that training went out the window.

If interested, continue reading the post here. — Joe

McGraw-Hill Professional’s eBook catalog is now available on OverDrive

Quoting from the December 5, 2013 press release republished in full on No Shelf Required:

Through OverDrive, K-12 school libraries and public libraries will be able to offer 24/7 access to McGraw-Hill Professional digital titles in four broad categories: Business/Consumer, Science/Technical, Test Prep/Education, and Medical.

The eBook collection for schools and public libraries includes more than 700 recently released titles for researchers, business, medical, and technical professionals, and students preparing for ACT, SAT, MCAT or LSAT exams. These titles and more are available now for libraries and schools to lend for virtually any device with a modern browser… .

I think this would not have happened, at least not this soon, if not for ALA robust consumer advocacy campaign. Isn’t it time for AALL to get its act together? — Joe