Category Archives: Litigation in the News

Does Facebook’s personalization of social media pages through the use of machine-learning algorithms constitute the “development” of content under the Communications Decency Act?

Catherine A. Tremble attempts to answer that question in her forthcoming Fordham Law Review note, Wild Westworld: The Application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to Social Networks’ Use of Machine-Learning Algorithms.

Here’s the abstract:

On August 10th, 2016, a complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York formally accused Facebook of aiding the execution of terrorist attacks. The complaint depicted user-generated posts and groups promoting and directing the incitement of terrorist activities. Under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), Interactive Service Providers (ISPs), such as Facebook, cannot be held liable for user-generated content where the ISP did not create or develop the information. However, this case stands out because it seeks to hold Facebook liable not only for the content of third parties, but also for the effect its personalized machine-learning algorithms — or “services” — have had on the ability of terrorists to orchestrate and execute attacks. By alleging that Facebook’s conduct goes beyond the mere act of publication, and includes the actual services’ effect on terrorists’ abilities to more effectively execute attacks, the complaint seeks to prevent the court from granting section 230 immunity to Facebook.

This Note argues that Facebook’s services — specifically the personalization of social media pages through the use of machine-learning algorithms — constitute the “development” of content and as such do not qualify for immunity under section 230 of the CDA. Recognizing the challenge of applying a static statute to a shifting technological landscape, this Note analyzes recent jurisprudential evolutions in section 230 doctrine to revise the original analytical framework applied in early cases. This Framework is guided by congressional and public policy goals but evolves to demonstrate awareness of technological evolution and ability. It specifically tailors section 230 immunity to account for behavioral data mined for ISP use, and the effect the use of that data has on users — two issues that courts have yet to confront. This Note concludes that, under the updated section 230 framework, personalized machine-learning algorithms made effective through the collection of individualized behavioral data make ISPs co-developers of content and as such bar them from section 230 immunity.

— Joe

LexisNexis sued by consumer for shoddy editorial work

Hoping to represent a class of consumers who bought LN’s New York Landload-Tennat Law (aka the Tanbook), the law firm of Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph brought a Feb. 23 complaint against the publisher in Manhattan Supreme Court.

“Rather than an authoritative source of state statutes, laws and regulations, the Tanbook, which is represented by the defendant as complete and unedited, is instead, at least as pertains to those involving rent regulated housing in New York rife with omissions and inaccuracies, rendering it of no value to the attorneys, lay people, or judges who use it,” the 25-page complaint states.

Details at Class Calls LexisNexis Publication Totally Useless (Courthouse News Service). Hat tip to and see also Jean O’Grady’s Dewey B Strategic post. — Joe

Who owns public law? Casemaker files answer and counterclaim in Fastcase dispute over publishing rights to Georgia law

Bob Ambrogi reports that Casemaker had a change of heart and is now preparing to fight Fastcase over the publishing rights to the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations. Casemaker, as you may recall, claims to be the only authorized distributor of Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations by virtue of its contract with the State of Georgia. Fastcase claims that a private publisher cannot create its own exclusive rights in non-editorial, non-enhanced public law by contract with the government.

For details about this latest development, including the text of Casemaker’s answer to Fastcase’s complaint, see Bob Ambrogi’s So Much for Casemaker Saying It Will Not Fight Fastcase Lawsuit. — Joe

Fastcase sues Casemaker over copyright claim to Georgia State Rules & Regs: Updated

In response to a takedown notice issued by Lawriter (dba Casemaker), Fastcase is seeking a declaratory judgement and injunctive relief in US District Court so that it can continue to publish the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations for the Company’s 800,000 member subscription base, including, interestingly enough, members of the Georgia state bar. In a nutshell, Fastcase is hoping for a ruling that states that no one can own and publish exclusively public law. Here is the complaint in what may be a landmark case for the Open Law movement. — Joe

Update: Bob Ambrogi reports that Lawriter will not fight Fastcase’s lawsuit.

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

Short Takes On The News: “Exceptional” Lawsuits, Denial of a Law License, and Law School Accreditation

Boy, I haven’t done one of these in quite some time.  Wandering down the Internet news can bring up some mighty unusual items where the law gets involved.  Take, for example, this story in Wonkette about one Sylvia Driskell from Auburn, Nebraska.  She has filed a handwritten complaint in the federal court for the District of Nebraska against all homosexuals on behalf of God and his Son, Jesus Christ.  The complaint alleges “sin.”

I expect the suit will be dismissed for any number of reasons including the inability to provide an address for service much like this earlier case from Nebraska where a state senator sued God to comment on the ability of court access by the public.  There is also the question of jurisdiction, to wit which federal law or rule can the plaintiff invoke that gets the case properly before the Court.

I’ve worked with a lot of public patrons/pro se litigants over the years.  They have ranged from, in my opinion, fairly competent to having no grasp on reality in regard to what is a justiciable issue.  I feel for the librarians, if any, who had to discuss the case with Driskell pre-filing.

In a somewhat related story, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court denied a law license to one Randy Britton for a variety of reasons.  One is that he used a letter of recommendation that was part of a settlement agreement in a civil suit against the lawyer who wrote it.  The lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Britton which was later dismissed.  The letter was part of related civil actions.  The Court also found Britton failed to disclose other cases including one where he sued over a denial of a license for assault weapons.  He also had a “substantial history of initiating pro se legal actions, the majority of which have been unsuccessful, and some of which have resulted in sanctions or an order to pay restitution.”  Read more at the ABA Journal.

Finally, the new Indiana Tech Law School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has not received accreditation in its second year of operation.  I’ve written before about the school, most of it wondering why it exists in the current academic climate.  If I remember correctly, it had to do with that part of Indiana being an underserved market with potential applicants going off to Michigan and Ohio for an education.  The story in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel quotes school representatives as saying the school will make improvements to the program once it receives the inspection report.  Well, good luck to that.

Mark

Law Faculty Blogger Defamation Case Dismissal Upheld on Appeal

There are reports from the ABA Journal online and the National Law Journal (the link is in the ABA story) of a plaintiff who sued a law blogger, Professor Shaun Martin of the University of San Diego, for defamation resulting from statements about her case on his blog.  Professor Martin opined on some of the details in the case(s) of Melanie Welch in her actions against the school where she worked and the  California State Teachers’ Retirement System.  I’m not going to go into detail here about those cases.  The information is in the stories online and in the appellate opinion that affirmed the dismissal of her defamation suit on anti-SLAPP grounds.

The gist, if I read the opinion correctly, is that Professor Martin offered opinions about the evidence presented in the case, the technical correctness of the ultimate decisions, and suggested to his readers to determine for themselves whether the results were justice:

[M]aybe all of this is complete justice. But maybe not. Depends profoundly upon your point of view.” Op. at p 7.

That was one of the statements alleged to be defamatory.  The Court found that opinion is not actionable under defamation law and the plaintiff was unable to carry her burden under the anti-SLAPP burden-shifting framework.  Readers may be wondering why I’m not putting in more detail on the facts of the case.  I’ll just say that readers should read the article links and opinion and draw their own conclusions.  I’ll just say as someone who writes regularly writes about cases and their outcomes, I believe the result to be a correct one.  The text of the document is linked in the ABA Journal article above, and for convenience, here.  We’ll see if the California Supreme Court takes up the case if presented to it.

Mark

“Well, I’m back, baby”

I think those are the words Bender uses whenever Futurama rises from the dead.  That’s its current state unless one counted the cross-over episode with The Simpsons from the current season.  So, yep, I’ll be posting again, though not necessarily every day.  Keep those press releases coming.  I have a nine month backlog I’ll be going through to see if there is anything both interesting and still relevant to post.

The legal news today is that a judge allowed a woman to serve divorce papers to her husband via Facebook.  It’s a last resort, of course, when the other party avoids service.  But just think what this could mean for future litigation.  Interesting.  Here’s the story in Time Magazine.  Here’s a version of the same story from the New York Daily News, a paper with it’s own unique “character.”

Mark

 

Court Holds West, Lexis Legal Briefs Offering Is Fair Use

One of the running issues I had been following is the attempt to copyright legal briefs with the intention to gain royalties or prevent others from using them.  The particular case that litigates the issue is White v. West Publishing Company and Reed Elsevier (USDC Southern District NY).  District Judge Rakoff ruled that the use by West and Lexis is fair use.  Both companies transform the documents to a different purpose and use according to the Judge’s analysis under the four fair use factors:

The Court finds that West and Lexis’s use of the briefs was transformative for two reasons. First, while White created the briefs solely for the purpose of providing legal services to his clients and securing specific legal outcomes in the Beer litigation, the defendants used the brief toward the end of creating an interactive legal research tool. See Blanch v. Koons, 467 F.3d 224, 251 (2d Cir. 2006) (“The sharply different objectives that Koons had in using, and Bland had in creating [the work] confirms the transformative nature of the use.”). Second, West and Lexis’s processes of reviewing, selecting, converting, coding, linking, and identifying the documents “add[] something new, with a further purpose or different character” than the original briefs. Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579. While, to be sure, the transformation was done for a commercial purpose, “the more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh against a finding of fair use.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579. Thus, on net, the first factor weighs in favor of a finding of fair use.

The Court dismissed the claim with prejudice.  The entire opinion is here, courtesy of ARL.  I’m sure there will be an appeal.  Lawyers are sometimes too smart for their own good.  –Mark

Short Takes On The News: Tenure, Wikipedia, Campaign Finance, and Viacom Settles With Google

The ABA Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar met over the weekend.  The Council decided to leave the faculty tenure requirement in place.  The news that the Council had considered weakening it to a requirement of job security met with intense opposition from individual faculty and the Association of American Law Schools.  Readers will probably know that I was in favor of the change because I believe it would law school administrations more flexibility in dealing with law school costs in times of lower enrollment (like now).  The National Law Journal published details surrounding the decision as well as a few others made at the meeting.

Harvard is seeking a Wikipedian in Residence.  That person, according to an article in The Atlantic, is “someone who can serve as a kind of liaison between Wikipedia and the academic, cultural, and intellectual institutions whose source material its entries rely on.”  That would be Harvard and its collections in this case.  Other major institutions such as the British Museum have such a person in place.  I think it’s a great idea though I wonder how the Wikipedia community will take to the idea.  There have been situations in the past where pages became battlegrounds between historians and the editors.

Salon features a story about McCutcheon v. FEC which is an election case pending before the Supreme Court.  The question presented is:

Federal law imposes two types of limits on individual political contributions. Base limits restrict the amount an individual may contribute to a candidate committee ($2,500 per election), a national-party committee ($30,800 per calendar year), a state, local, and district party committee ($10,000 per calendar year (combined limit)), and a political-action committee (“PAC”) ($5,000 per calendar year). 2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(1) (current limits provided). Biennial limits restrict the aggregate amount an individual may contribute biennially as follows: $46,200 to candidate committees; $70,800 to all other committees, of which no more than $46,200 may go to non-national-party committees (e.g., state parties and PACs). 2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(3) (current limits provided) (see Appendix at 20a (text of statute)). Appellants present five questions:

1. Whether the biennial limit on contributions to non-candidate committees, 2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(3)(B), is unconstitutional for lacking a constitutionally cognizable interest as applied to contributions to national-party committees.

2. Whether the biennial limits on contributions to non-candidate committees, 2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(3)(B), are unconstitutional facially for lacking a constitutionally cognizable interest.

3. Whether the biennial limits on contributions to non-candidate committees are unconstitutionally too low, as applied and facially.

4. Whether the biennial limit on contributions to candidate committees, 2 U.S. C. 441a(a)(3)(A), is unconstitutional for lacking a constitutionally cognizable interest.

5. Whether the biennial limit on contributions to candidate committees, 2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(3)(A), is unconstitutionally too low.

If one hated Citizen United for striking down contribution limits, one will hate this case as well if the Court strikes down the remaining limits.  On the other hand, plutocrats with political interests everywhere should rejoice.

And finally, the Google/Viacom battle over alleged YouTube copyright violations was settled according to news reports.  Viacom lost twice at trial on the DMCA safe harbor provisions that YouTube claimed.  It took seven years to get to this point.  I’ve often said win, lose, or settle, the lawyers get paid.  CNET News has a good analysis of the case.  — Mark

Inside Boston College’s Belfast Project

Readers may remember the case where the U.K. government requested tapes contained in the Boston College archives consisting of interviews with I.R.A. members.  The nominal rationale for the request was to aid in solving a murder of an alleged British informant in 1972.  Britain asked the Justice Department for the tapes under a treaty that called for mutual assistance in criminal investigations.  The College resisted turning over the tapes and the matter went to litigation in federal court.  The District Court judge in Boston ordered the College to release 85 tapes from the interviews.  The Court of Appeals later modified that order for the release of 11 tapes.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a lengthy article on how the Belfast Project was conceived and carried out.  It’s a story of secrecy and misunderstandings.  The secrecy came from the sensitivity of the subject matter.  Former I.R.A. members would not speak freely if they weren’t assured that their comments were held in confidence while they were alive.  The misunderstandings related to the secrecy.  The College was agreeable to the project.  There are conflicts, however, in the understanding of what legal protections the College could offer to interviewees.  The contracts offered to participants were not vetted in advance and did not contain key language defining the legal extent of confidentiality.

Two of the principles in the project are Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney.  McIntyre, a former member of the I.R.A. who spent a number of years in prison for his actions, conducted the interviews.  Moloney was the project director.  He wrote a book in 2008 called Voices From the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland which used quotes from two participants who had previously died.  The book essentially revealed the Project and drew attention from law enforcement officials in Britain and Ireland.  This showed more misunderstandings in that McIntyre and Moloney had no idea the mutual assistance treaty existed as they carried out the interviews.  The lack of communication and legal oversight put the parties at odds in defending against release.  The College appears to be blindsided in some respects as were McIntyre and Moloney.

The article is useful in that it is a cautionary tale on how not to organize and manage an archival project on a sensitive subject.  There are quotes from outside archivists and others on the need to put a legal team together in advance of collecting interviews.  The Belfast Project is essentially dead at this point.  Interviewees are requesting the return of their tapes.  The University has said that it will honor those requests to the extent that it can, whatever that means.  The litigation is over though the fallout from the Project continues.  –Mark

Stay At Home Tuesday: The Faculty Security Issue Under Proposed ABA Standards, Last Year’s Library Stories, History For Sale, and Apple

Another frigid day with spotty train service means another day browsing the legal news and commentary.  There are several stories worth reading.  The first is the National Law Journal’s report about the AALS panel discussion on the ABA’s proposed standards.  Naturally, the standard eliminating tenure as a requirement for accreditation got significant discussion.  Faculty members on the panel as well as those in the audience were overwhelmingly against the proposal.  Their argument was that removing tenure would weaken academic freedom, among other negative outcomes.  This position is reflected in the published comments (scroll down to Terms and Conditions of Employment) to the draft of Standard 405 at the ABA web site.

The proposal was explained by Saint Louis University Professor Jeffry Lewis and ABA committee chair revising the accreditation standards.  He noted the text contains several options for job security and protection of academic freedom that can replace tenure.  The proposed ABA standards would require schools to have job restrictions in place that would attract competent faculty by having effective rules that provide provide job security and protect academic freedom.  The draft options and interpretations of the proposed standards are here

I wonder just how far schools will go in defining the faculty relationship if this is approved.  It will be pretty interesting to see what the employment contract’s terms sans tenure will be for new professors.  Will they be largely standardized or will they be negotiated individually?  How will publication reflect advancement?  Really, it could be the world turned upside down if this is approved.      

Publishers Weekly has a review of the top 10 library stories of 2013.  The items include the decision in the Google book scanning case, somewhat more liberal terms for libraries to lend e-books, and the emergence of the Digital Public Library of America.  The story nicely sums up the legal and technological issues affecting libraries in the last year.

Wandering over to the New Yorker finds two stories of interest.  One details the dismemberment of antiquarian books to sell parts to collectors through various exchanges, including eBay.  Everything is for sale these days.  Historical objects are obviously no exception.  The other story concerns the fight Apple is having with the court appointed compliance monitor over his rate (Apple is footing the bill, and it is large) and the level of access to executives and board members.  Apple filed objections in Court over the issues.  The story details the background to this particular aspect of the case.

Getting back to the tenure issue for a moment, I was reminded of the Pretenders’ song Brass In Pocket.  Or should the musical moment be Back On The Chain Gang?

Mark

Stay At Home Monday: Reforming Law Schools and Drug Testing the Poor

It’s cold in the Midwest.  The temperature is -15 outside as I write this.  I’m at home, comfortably indoors, as my institution had the good sense to close today.  I’m grateful as all commuter train service between Indiana and Chicago was cancelled making it impossible to get to the office in any event.  I spent the weekend shoveling excessive amounts of snow several times and can use the day off.  I’m being trailed by a calico kitten I rescued from my back yard on Christmas Eve.  If that’s the worst I have to deal with today I’ll take it.

The unexpected break gave me a chance to catch up on the news out there.  I’d like to recommend a couple of pieces.  One is from Brian Leiter in the Huffington Post.  He argues against mandatory experiential learning as it is being considered by the American Bar Association.  Personally, I’m a big fan of modifying the law school curriculum to include more practice oriented classes.  I can agree with Professor Leiter that the rules should allow schools to offer such classes and see where the market takes them.  Some people who want to be scholars would likely have no need for such learning.  Others, however, would benefit from changes in the curriculum.

The second article I would recommend is the commentary provided by Andrew Cohen in The Atlantic concerning the New Year’s Eve decision by a federal judge that struck down a drug test requirement before getting welfare benefits.  The state argued its “legitimate” concerns in preventing tax dollars used by recipients to buy drugs.  The Court, for the second time in this litigation struck down the requirement because the evidence didn’t support the state’s concern.  The Fourth Amendment factored in the decision as well on suspicionless drug testing.  Cohen quotes parts of the opinion and links to the full text.

I’m personally happy to see this result.  I can think of a parade of horribles in terms of policy decisions that could flow if the decision were otherwise.  I’ll give you one example.  It’s known that people drink and drive.  Or they use other stimulants that might impair them behind the wheel.  Would anyone care to take an alcohol and/or drug test to get or renew a driver’s license?  The state does expend considerable amounts of tax money to provide the licensing scheme as well as manpower and facilities for public safety.  It’s not that much of a leap to go from drug testing welfare recipients to drug testing license applicants.  There’s an actual track record based on DUI arrests and accidents.  I’ll be waiting for that kind of measure to be introduced in a state one of these days.    

Mark

Accurint, FCRA and the proposed class action settlement

In Another Troubling Future-Conduct Settlement, James Grimmelmann evaluates the proposed settlement in Berry v. LexisNexis Risk & Information Analytics Group. The lawsuit involves the sale of Accurint data to help debt collectors, private investigators, and others “Detect fraud. Verify identities. Conduct investigations.” The plaintiffs claimed that Accurint data includes “the kind of personal information that can trigger the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but doesn’t comply with the FCRA’s other requirements. They claimed that LexisNexis doesn’t give consumers access to their files, doesn’t let consumers fix mistakes, and doesn’t require Accurint customers to comply with the FCRA.” Oops. Grimmelmann’s post is highly recommended. — Joe

Apple Files Brief Opposing State and Consumer Actions In e-Book Case

Apple filed a brief last week opposing class certification for private consumers suing the company over alleged harms in e-book pricing during the time agency contracts were in effect.  Judge Cote found last July that Apple conspired with publishers to set fixed prices in the e-book market via agency agreements and most-favored-nation clauses in industry-wide distribution contracts.  Apple continues to argue that its entry into the market benefitted consumers as an alternative to Amazon.  I’m not sure about this myself.  The net result was that consumers were going to pay the same price no matter which retailer consummated the sale.  The Court found that consumers were harmed despite Apple’s statements to the contrary.

Apple defends against certification based on the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes case from 2011.  That case found that alleged injuries to members of the class were too disparate to support certification.   I’m not sure that this case applies here.  Consumers either bought an e-book at a set price or they didn’t.

Apple also opposes state lawsuits on jurisdictional grounds.  Apple argues states do not possess Article III standing because they have no direct injury despite language in the Clayton Act that supports parens partriae suits.  Apple further argues that the states need to meet the class action certification standards in Federal Rule 23 if the Court allows the suits to go forward.  Most commentators suggest this is a losing position on Apple’s part.  The brief does seem to be aimed at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals just as much as the District Court.

More details are in a report from Publishers Weekly.  A copy of the filing is here:  Apple Memorandumn Opposing Class Certification.

Mark

Mass Book Scanning By Google Is Fair Use

Judge Denny Chin ruled today in favor Google in the book scanning case.  The ruling is consistent with the results in the Georgia State electronic reserve case and the HathiTrust case in particular.   Judge Chin assumed that the Authors Guild established a prima facie case of copyright infringement at this stage of the proceedings.  He examined each of the four factors for the defense of fair use and found:

  • Purpose and character of the use (factor one):  Google’s use is “highly” transformative in that the word index helps readers, scholars, researchers, and other to find books.  Moreover, the manipulation of electronic text can help researchers discover historical trends in how words are used.  Google’s for-profit status is of slight concern because of the important educational purpose served by Google Books.  Factor one favors Google.
  •  Nature of copyrighted work (factor two):  The majority of books scanned are non-fiction.  Though fiction deserves greater protection, all scanned books were published and available to the public.  In any event, both parties in the case agree that the second factor is not determinative.
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used (factor three):  Google scans the entire book.  Courts have held, however, that copying the entire work can be fair use in some circumstances.  Judge Chin notes that the key to Google Books is its ability to offer full-text search.  Google tightly controls and limits the display as snippets in response to a search.  Factor three weighs slightly against a finding of fair use.
  • Effect of use upon potential market or value (factor four):  The Authors Guild argued that Google Books would act as a market replacement for books.  Alternatively, a searcher can use multiple word searches to construct a book out of snippets.  Google enhances the book market as each display links to sources where the book can be purchased.  As such, it provides a way for authors to get noticed.  As for the snippet to books argument, someone would have to have a copy of the book in order to construct a copy from the online display.  In any event, this would not be possible as Google has blacklisted some snippets as never displayable.    The fourth factor weighs strongly in favor of finding fair use.

If any of that wasn’t enough, Judge Chin had this to say:

In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.

Take that, Authors Guild.  Speaking of whom, the Guild issued the usual “we’re going to appeal statement:”

Judge Denny Chin today ruled that Google’s mass book digitization project to be a fair use, granting the company summary judgment in the copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild in 2005.

“We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision today,” Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken said. “This case presents a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court. Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of fair use defense.”

“We plan to appeal the decision.”

I’m sorry the Guild disagrees and is disappointed with the ruling.  I’m not.  The only question I have is why did it take this long to get to this point?  The opinion is here courtesy of Public Knowledge.

Mark

What role did the Volokh Conspiracy play in the legal debate over Obamacare?

The Volokh Conspiracy played a large enough role to produce what most likely is the first ever published compilation of long-form essays about the influence a law prof blog’s collective postings by multiple legal scholars had on the debate over the merits of a piece of federal legislation which in the case of the Affordable Care Act reached SCOTUS for review. See A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case (Palgrave Macmillan, Nov. 12, 2013) [Amazon]. Granted the essays are written by VC bloggers Randy Barnett, Jonathan Adler, David Bernstein, Orin Kerr, David Kopel and Illya Somin but this work is recommended for illustrating that law prof blogging can be viewed sometimes as “scholarship in action.”

Here’s the blurb:

The debate over the Affordable Care Act was one of the most important and public examinations of the Constitution in our history. At the forefront of that debate were the legal scholars blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, who engaged in a spirited, erudite, and accessible discussion of the legal issues involved in the cases – beginning before the law was even passed. Several of the Volokh bloggers played key roles in developing the constitutional arguments against the ACA. Their blog posts and articles about the Act had a significant impact on both the public debate and the legal arguments in the case. It was perhaps the first time that a blog affected arguments submitted to the United States Supreme Court on a major issue. In the process, the bloggers helped legitimize a new type of legal discourse. This book compiles the discussion that unfolded at the Volokh Conspiracy blog into a readable narrative, enhanced with new context and analysis, as the contributors reflect on the Obamacare litigation with the advantage of hindsight. The different bloggers certainly did not always agree with each other, but the back-and-forth debates provide momentum as the reader follows the development of the arguments over time. A Conspiracy Against Obamacare exemplifies an important new form of legal discourse and public intellectualism.

Joe

The Clinched Buttocks Case

Orin Kerr offers the short and the long answers to the Fourth Amendment issues presented in the “Clinched Buttocks” case, Eckert v. City of Deming [Traffic Complaint], on The Volokh Conspiracy. Recommended. — Joe

Annotating oral arguments

“It’s always interesting to see how a lawyer’s oral argument marries up to their briefing, and for me, it helps give greater context to the points,” wrote Jason Wilson at The Annotated Oral Argument: Tucker v. Thomas (#SCOTX). Check out his example of annotating an oral argument  conducted before the Supreme Court of Texas. (NB: the annotation links to open source texts of court opinions and statutory code sections.) He adds, “If y’all like these annotated arguments, I can start posting more here or on Annotations.”

I think Jason is onto something here. While I have little need for Lone Star State annotated oral arguments here in the Buckeye State, I think e-publishing high court annotated oral arguments by an editorial staff that actually knows something (and links to open or opened resources) is a great idea. Hell, that’s why I buy Jones McClure’s annotated federal codes instead of … well, you know.

I would be very interested in annotated US Supreme Court oral arguments, ditto for the Supreme Court of Ohio, if produced by a reliable publisher like Jones McClure. At the SCOTUS level, who might that be? Hint — who is the sponsor of SCOTUSblog and the publisher of USLW?

Joe

Hello World From The Other One

It’s nice to be back after what I will call a “vacation” from the blog.  As a way of getting back in the swing of things, let’s see what developments have taken place in the down time.  These are the kinds of things I covered at our former blog.

The Apple e-book trial ended in early summer with a finding of liability for attempting to fix e-book prices.  Apple continues to deny the finding by Judge Denise Cote and plans to appeal.  The Court issued an injunction specifying remedies on September 6th.  These include forbidding Apple from entering into publisher contracts containing MFN clauses for five years; retailers having the right to discount e-books for two years; staggered windows for negotiations with the settling publishers, in settlement order; and requiring an external compliance monitor who would make sure Apple complies with the terms of the Court’s order.  The one remedy denied to the Justice Department was its request to allow in-app purchases on iDevices without having vendors pay the standard 30% commission to Apple.  The Justice Department would further expand that requirement to other media besides books.  The Judge declined the request stating essentially that she did not want to regulate Apple’s overall business model.  More details, including a copy of the Court’s order, are at paidContent.

The ABA Taskforce on the Future of Legal Education issued its latest draft report on September 20th.  The key conclusions include the fact that a student with lower LSAT scores and GPA will not get a greater return on investment as they are less likely eligible for student aid.  The better students will get aid regardless of need.  “These practices are in need of serious re-engineering.”  I can hear a dean somewhere asking “but what about the rankings?”

The twin components of accreditation and innovation are addressed by noting how current accreditation standards are worthy of the profession up to now.  The problem is that they standardize much of legal education in a way that stifles innovation.  Regulation should allow for flexibility and experimentation in constructing a law program that prepares a student to deliver legal services.  “The Task Force thus recommends that a number of the Standards be repealed or dramatically liberalized.”  Here’s another conclusion that will not be popular with the faculty:  “The balance between doctrinal instruction and focused preparation for the delivery of legal services needs to shift still further toward developing the competencies required by people who will deliver services to clients.”  Legal Writing programs just became a little more important.

The Report additionally calls for expanding the number of people who can deliver common legal services through training and certification that is short of the full J.D. program.  The cost of legal services to the general public is skyrocketing because of the cost of training lawyers.  Something along these lines would make legal services more affordable.  The ABA Journal has additional details.

Regular readers of our old site know that I covered Supreme Court cases for the last several years.  I intend to continue that practice as the new term begins next Monday.  I’ll continue to add significant cases from the lower courts.  You may remember a case out of Virginia last year where a federal judge found that a Facebook “like” was not protected speech.  The Fourth Circuit recently decided otherwise.  I’ll also be covering significant technology developments.  The public update to Windows 8/8.1 is just a few short weeks away, and there’s the Surface 2 as well.  Yahoo has a new logo, and Google is still in trouble with the European Union and member states.  There will be commentary on educational technology as always. There will also be book reviews of new Oxford University Press items and other publishers.  Everyone take note that I am a slow reader when it comes to long form.  Law school (reading too many doctrinal cases lo those many years ago) lowered my desire to pick up a book, and if that desire ever re-awakened, well the pace of the Internet turned it into consumption of zombie short form.  Lots of it.

And I just may review the occasional media item.  I just picked up Simon Schama’s History of Britain (BBC Special Edition DVD set).  I highly recommend it.  If you’re interested in Scooby-Doo, well I’ve got something to say.  Beyond that, welcome to the new Law Librarian blog.  Thank you for reading.

Mark