Category Archives: News

LexBlog launches Fastcase integration

Law bloggers frequently cite to primary sources but most offer no links to them because the sources they use reside behind a paywall, be it Bloomberg, LexisNexis or Thomson Reuters. For LexBlog bloggers, the paywall problem has been resolved by the integration of Fastcase’s legal search service into LexBlog’s WordPress platform. Now clicking on a LexBlog link will display within the same browser interface primary law sourced by Fastcase. For details, see Kevin O’Keefe’s LexBlog launches Fastcase integration. — Joe

RIP Eugene Garfield, September 16, 1925 – February 26, 2017

Sad news to report. On February 26th, Eugene Garfield, a giant in the LIS field who founded the Institute for Scientific Information and The Scientist, passed away. Here’s the link to The Scientist’s obituary and a review of his contributions. — Joe

Use Trump’s executive orders sourced on White House website with caution

In White House posts wrong versions of Trump’s orders on its website, USA Today reports that the texts of at least five Trump executive orders hosted on the White House website do not match the official text sent to the Federal Register. Quoting from the USA Today article, examples include:

► The controversial travel ban executive order suspended the Visa Interview Waiver Program and required the secretary of State to enforce a section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act requiring an in-person interview for everyone seeking a non-immigrant visa. But the White House version of the order referred to that provision as 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires a physical and mental examination — not 8 U.S.C. 1202, which requires an interview.

► An executive order on ethical standards for administration appointees, as it appears on the White House website, refers to”section 207 of title 28″ of the U.S. Code. As the nonprofit news site Pro Publica reported last week, that section does not exist. The Federal Register correctly cited section 207 of title 18, which does exist.

— Joe

Elsevier acquires Social Science Research Network

SSRN, the social science and humanities repository, has been acquired by Elsevier. Elsevier plans to leverage its Mendeley technology to enhance SSRN’s repository and online community. Mandeley is a free reference manager and academic social network Elsevier acquired a couple of years ago. Here’s the press release. — Joe

AALL announces new product award

Congratulations to Ravel Law for winning AALL’s New Product Award for its legal analytics service. Ravel FAQ here. — Joe

Candidates for AALL Executive Board announced

And here they are:

Vice President/President-Elect

Kathleen (Katie) Brown
Associate Dean for Library Services
Charlotte School of Law

Femi Cadmus
Edward Cornell Law Librarian &
Associate Dean for Library Services
Cornell University Law Library

Secretary

Luis Acosta
Law Library of Congress
Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II

Scott D. Bailey
Global Director of Research Services
Squire Patton Boggs LLP

Board Members (pick two)
 
Beth Adelman
Director of the Law Library &
Vice Dean for Legal Information Services
The University at Buffalo
State University of New York

Katherine M. Lowry, JD
Director of Practice Services
Baker Hostetler LLP

Catherine M. Monte
Chief Knowledge Officer
Fox Rothschild LLP

Jean P. O’Grady
Director of Research & Knowledge Services
DLA Piper

The election will be held September 30 to October 31, and successful candidates will begin their terms of office in July 2017. — Joe

DocuTicker Shuts Down

DocuTicker, the resource for grey literature published by government agencies, think tanks, etc., announced that it stopped publishing in 2016. Since its launch in June 2004, the site has posted 35,754 items. DocuTricker observed that there are many other web resources that perform the same grey literature service.

HT to Information Today. — Joe

Rosenthal for Congress: Fastcase co-founder seeking New York’s 10th Congressional District seat

Bob Ambrogi has the story. Here is Phil Rosenthal’s campaign website. — Joe

RELX reports 7% increase in Lexis Legal & Professional’s profits

RELX, parent company of Lexis Legal & Professional, reported its annual earnings yesterday. Lexis L & P’s revenues for 2015 were £1,443m, compared to £1,396m in 2014, yielding a modest 1% increase in revenue. Operating profit for 2015 was £274m up 7% from £260m in 2014 and yielding an operating profit margin of 18.9%, up 40 basis points from 2014.

Using today’s pound sterling to US dollars conversion rate, the combined revenue of TR Legal and Lexis L & P for 2015 was $5.45 billion, with TR Legal capturing 62% of the market, leaving 38% to Lexis. Of course, we do not have Bloomberg Law’s financials because it is a privately held company so market share cannot be more accurately determined. — Joe

Justice Scalia

The fact that Justice Scalia passed away over the weekend from natural causes is, of course, all over the news.  There are any number of articles speculating on how nominating a successor would affect the coming presidential election; who are the potential nominees; how this changes the ideological make-up of the Court, and so one.  All are worthy questions for speculation.  I’d like to highlight what this event means for coming decisions.  The Court has had a certain stability despite the two appointments resulting in the confirmation of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.  As a side note on that, check out the CNN story by David Axelrod where Justice Scalia quietly expressed a preference for Elena Kagan to replace Justice Souter.  He got his wish when Justice Stevens retired.

Court watchers were always interested in Justice Scalia’s questions in oral argument given the Court’s ideological split, mostly 4-4 with Justice Kennedy in the middle.  While he was identified as a conservative, he didn’t always side with a conservative point of view.  I remember that he was fairly protective of the Fourth Amendment (See U.S. v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012) as an example) when the trend in Federal Courts seemed to find plenty of exceptions in its prohibitions).  Justice Scalia’s questions were as much a clue to his influence on the resulting decision as it was a bit of theater.  He certainly seemed to enjoy the intellectual banter with those presenting arguments.  CNN has another article listing six cases the site highlights as more significant cases than others.  How the Court will handle these and other issues will send Court watchers back to re-analyze the arguments.

The cases that concerns me is the potential appeal of the Google Books case and the Apple antitrust case, both affirmed by the Second Circuit.  The Authors Guild has filed a petition for cert which is pending.  Apple has yet to file its petition but has indicated that it intends to do so.  Justice Scalia will not be a participant in the case whether the Court accepts the cases or hears them.  These cases may stand if the Court splits 4-4 on the issues.  If it makes any difference, Justice Scalia joined Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in the Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. first sale doctrine case.

I have a minor personal story about Justice Scalia.  He came to DePaul several years ago and spoke to the faculty in our Rare Book Room.  Security was exceptionally tight.  I believe it was the first time ever I had to show multiple IDs just to get into the building.  I was sitting at the Reference Desk when the Justice was shuttled up to his engagement via the service elevator.  That was less than 100 feet from where I was sitting.  That is effectively the closest I will likely get to a member of the Court.  It was amusing to have security watch me while I answered the occasional reference question.

I have written pointed things about Justice Scalia in the past.  I’ll remember him as the Justice who rejected legislative history in all possible forms as a vehicle for interpreting statutes.  He did not join all of Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Kirtsaeng.  He skipped every section that mentioned legislative history, even if appearing only in a footnote.  His attention to original intent had him questioning whether the King could hide a sentry in a coach as an analogy to whether the government could place a tracker on a defendant’s car in some circumstances.  That’s from the Jones case mentioned above.

Goodbye Justice Scalia.  You were larger than life on the Court.  While you will be replaced, there will never be a Justice exactly like you.

Mark

AALL is not ready for ALI: Membership rejects association name change proposal by a very wide margin

AALL’s rank-and-file turned out to vote down the Executive Board’s unanimously recommended rebranding of AALL as the Association for Legal Information (ALI). The “I am a law librarian and I work in a law library” argument opposing the initiative apparently resonated with many voters. The vote wasn’t even close:  80% opposed to 20% in favor. By AALL standards, voter turnout was extremely high at almost 60% of the membership, indicative I think of the collective nerve the Executive Board struck with its proposal. Rare indeed it is for the rank-and-file to stand up to be counted in opposition to the Executive Board. This aging and decrepit law librarian cannot remember the last time the membership so forcefully slapped around the Executive Board.

I voted for the name change. It offered the admittedly long-shot chance at presenting additional opportunities for reforming AALL so I wanted to see this recommendation pass. I just wish the Executive Board had brought this issue to the attention of the rank-and-file in a more direct way.

While the Executive Board and HQ staff did a good communications job — emails, enewsletters, videos of Executive Board members, AALL communities, etc., I would have preferred to see the issue also debated at our annual meeting’s members open forum before the Executive Board took any action whatsoever. Had the Executive Board heard the hue and cry calling for adding the word “professionals” to the proposed name, the Association of Legal Information Professionals (ALIP) might have persuaded many of the “I am a law librarian and I work in a law library” voters to accept changing AALL’s name.

I, however,  would have voted against renaming AALL ALIP because this matter should be about what we work with — legal information — and who we work for — private, government and academic sector employers — not about our professional self-identification be that as law librarians or legal information professionals. While I will keep paying my membership dues to Ye Olde AALL, I also would pay membership dues to an Association for Legal Information, if some of the 496 rank-and-file members and Executive Board members who voted for the name change were to take it upon themselves to establish ALI. That, however, seems highly unlikely; I think the carpe diem moment may have passed.  – Joe

NB: AALL has scheduled a virtual town hall for Tuesday, February 23, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. (CST) “to provide time for further discussion and to answer any questions you may have.”

RIP Westlaw Classic and WestlawNext

Earlier this month Thomson Reuters announced that WestlawNext has been renamed Thomson Reuters Westlaw “in light of Westlaw Classic’s retirement.” Hat tip to LLB readers who called the name change announcement to my attention after reading this post. — Joe

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

Here’s a Novel Way to Cut the Cost of Law School

Oakland University and Wayne State University have partnered so that the last year of undergraduate work and the first year of law school are essentially the same year.  According to the Detroit Free Press (the “Freep”), the first 30 hours of law classes at Wayne would count as the credits to complete a bachelor’s degree at Oakland University.  That’s a saving of $13,350 in tuition for both degrees.  In my value system, that money could by 26,000 cans of cat food, or a small car.

More information is available from Wayne State University and Oakland University:

For more information about the partnership, current and prospective OU students can contact David Lau at 248-370-3229 or lau@oakland.edu. For more information about Wayne Law, contact Wayne Law Admissions at 313-577-3937 orlawinquire@wayne.edu.

Mark

Most Valuable Brand List Released

Interbrand released its annual survey of the top 100 of the most valuable brands.  Apple and Google hold the number 1 and 2 spots respectively.  Barnes & Noble is nowhere to be found, but Amazon comes in at number 10.  Lego broke into the list for the first time at number 82 (Ninja Go!!!!).  Facebook is listed as a top rise are number 23.  I guess having 1 billion users helps with brand awareness.  My old friend Jack Daniels makes the list at number 84.  Thomson Reuters comes in at number 63, though that represents a drop of 12% in brand value.  There must be some people out there still pining for Westlaw Classic I imagine.

Mark

OCLC Prints The Last Catalog Card

It’s the end of an era certainly.  OCLC has produced its last printed catalog card.  We may take online catalogs for granted these days, but someone, somewhere has been using printed cards.  An article in the Columbus Dispatch noted that the last set of printed cards went to Concordia College in Bronxville, NY.  The peak total for cards within a year was 135 million in 1984.  That’s the year personal computers by Apple and IBM started hitting the mainstream.  At the end, some 1.9 billion cards had been produced.  There is a forest somewhere that is sighing a breath of relief.  What to do with the table and drawers that formerly held the carefully organized cards?  We use ours to hold snacks for the library staff.

Mark

The Advertising Empire Strikes Back

If one hates ads on the web, one would tend to use an ad blocker.  I don’t mind ads on sites.  I know I’m being tracked by Google and whoever.  As a librarian looking for information used by other people, I’m not sure if I’m confusing the trackers.  I get some very interesting ads as a result.  I sometimes get ads for fantasy baseball after I browse sites for sports law news.  Every time I look at a product on Amazon I’m certain to see whatever I viewed on various newspaper sites.  I’m sure everyone has similar experiences.  Don’t like it?  Get an ad blocker.

Advertisers and the large corporations that push products are not fond of this technology.  It threatens the eyeball count.  What to do then.  The Register is reporting that the Washington Post (owned by Amazon’s very own Jeff Bezos) has tried an experiment.  When the server encountered an ad blocker, it in turn blocked the Post content with a message that informs the reader to turn off the blocker to see the content.  The same article describes a Google effort to do something of the same thing with ads on YouTube.  The company even disabled the skip ad function for those who block ads.  But…but…I just wanted to see a cute cat video without the ad for comfortable underthingies I seem to keep getting.  Note:  I have no idea why this ad recurs.  None of my searches, including personal, have anything to do with these kinds of products.  Then again, Google profiled me as a NBA fan at one point.  It’s hockey you robot.  How many times do I have to visit NHL.com for you to figure that out?

I guess the world isn’t going to work that way if this technology becomes popular with sites.  Papers are starting to distribute content directly via social medium, which, as this article in The Verge points out, offers some immunity from blockers as well.  Apple offered a blocker app in the App Store for a short time.  The company took it down and even made the unprecedented move of offering refunds because it worked too well.  Ads in Safari did not come through. The app threatened one of Apple’s revenue streams and that is a no no.

As I said above, I don’t block ads.  I treat them as a game to see how my searches and other web content I use generate ad subjects.  I’d like to think I can make that Google Robot serve up ads for a me that doesn’t really exist.

Mark

Is/Was Law School A Bad Deal, Or Is That Just The Way It Was Portrayed In The Press?

There is a post on Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports from last week that analyzes negative coverage of law schools.  The first paragraph sets the tone:

In a recent column, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof confessed, “One of our worst traits in journalism is that when we have a narrative in our minds, we often plug in anecdotes that confirm it.”  The quote is timely, given recent controversy surrounding New York Times’ coverage.

The decline in law school enrollment and available jobs for graduates is one such narrative.  Michael Simkovic’s analysis of newspaper coverage is worth a read.  The Wall Street Journal, for example, is far and away the paper that publishes the most negative stories about law school(s).  Other fun facts include that the negativity peaked somewhere around 2011 and slowly declined to almost nothing today.  I’m guessing that journalist got bored with the story.  Check out the charts and other data Simkovic gathered for the piece.  Read it here.

Mark

A Few Quick Thoughts on Windows 10, Available Today

Windows 10 is available for download today.  If anyone had noticed, there is a link in the notification tray for systems running Windows 7 and 8/8.1 offering a free upgrade that’s valid for a year.  I wasn’t part of the Windows Insider Program though I followed the news on developments.  A modified version of the Start Menu is back that combines search, applications, and the Start Page from Windows 8.  Aside from the deeper integration to OneDrive, Windows 10 gets Cortana, a virtual personal assistant that learns more detail about a user over time in order to be more helpful.  Personal assistants are all the rage these days with Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Amazon Echo.  As John Lennon sang in I Am The Walrus, “Ompa Ompa Everybody’s got one.”

I’m not personally a fan talking to a computer though I can see the utility in integrating this technology into operating systems, especially mobile.  I’m a desktop guy through and through.  I have an Android tablet that I use to play solitaire when I’m on the train.  Other than that, all my real work is on the desktop.  It’s nice that Microsoft doesn’t force this kind of interactivity on people as it is possible to turn Cortana off and/or clear the accumulated information.  My biggest question about this data is how secure it will be?  Hackers might find it interesting.  I’m going to wait for that story to break.

Windows 10 has had favorable reviews given the reception to the radical change Windows 8 brought to computing.  A lot of people felt that the changes were forced on them with no regard as to how they actually used Windows.  The Windows blog entries by former head of Windows development, Steve Sinofsky basically stated that features and design were driven by telemetry from people who used Windows 7 and the test versions of Windows 8.  He left the company shortly after Windows 8 went public.  I wonder why.

This version of Windows, suggested to be the last, took into account tester comments as well as a more detailed look as to how people used the system.  Thus there are a lot of familiar features with new that are for the most part customizable.  I can appreciate that.  My desktop in Windows 7 looks an awful like XP even down to the bland task bar and desktop shortcuts.  What can I say, I’m a sentimentalist.

I plan to upgrade my two desktop computers, though not immediately.  I just want to make sure that the mass upgrade process goes smoothly.  Any bugs or annoyances should work themselves out in the next month or so.  I’m looking forward to the upgrades in any event.  I’ll report more on the experience once I get the software on my machines.  A guide to Windows 10, features, and the upgrade process is available here from Microsoft.

Mark

Vizio Smart Televisions May Be Spying On You

Your smart TV may be spying on you if it’s manufactured by Vizio.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of the brand.  I’m on my second set, a 65 inch E Series.  That doesn’t mean I like the creepy fact that the set apparently sends back details of what I’m watching regardless of source.  That little tidbit came in a story in Fortune about Vizio’s upcoming IPO:

Vizio uses technology integrated into its televisions to determine what a user is watching, regardless of the source. In other words, Vizio knows what you’re watching even if it’s a DVD being played on a gaming console or show being watched via cable TV.

Vizio offers what it calls “smart interactivity.”  It’s all in the name of customization that alleges to cater to the individual customer.  Fortunately, there is a way to turn it off.  Vizio instructions to that effect are here.  I can understand (although not approve of) a cable or satellite provider tracking its shows, but DVDs and other delivery mechanisms?

It reminds me of the story about Samsung smart TVs actually listening in on conversations through a digital assistant.  Anyway, I’ll be disconnecting my set later on this evening.  Any libraries or organizations that use Vizio TVs as displays should take note.

Mark