Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Legal Issues of NSA Domestic Surveillance

If you are interested in the NSA domestic surveillance/wiretapping controversy, you won't have any trouble finding something to read about it. But, as with any research, the trick is finding something that has the information you need or want.

Two posts that do a decent job of analyzing the complex legal issues are:

Thanks to Marty Schwimmer at Between Lawyers for the recommendations. Marty also writes the Trademark Blog, "the first IP law blog and the one with the most pictures."

How Search Engines Work

Google Librarian logo

The first edition of the Google Librarian Newsletter is available. Future issues will include articles contributed by librarians, links to library-related web sites, and updates on Google products and services.

The feature article in this first issue addresses the frequently asked question, How does Google collect and rank results? It covers the basics of search engine indexing and how the Google algorithms determine the order in which your search results appear. There are also some exercises for students.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sound Familiar?

A friend sent me this quote:

Inside your head, you're yakking away to yourself all the time. Getting that voice down on paper is a depressing experience. When you write, you're trying to transpose what you're thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music. This writing voice is the voice that people are surprised not to encounter when they "meet the writer." The writer is not so surprised.

Louis Menand, "Bad Comma," The New Yorker, June 28, 2004 (reviewing Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

15 Internet Legal Research Tips

Dennis Kennedy has reposted his "15 Internet Legal Research Tips" article. You can never have too many internet tips, so check it out. You are bound to learn something new.

New Feed Features

Those of you who subscribe to our FeedBurner feed, either with a feed reader or by email, may receive a number of our recent posts that you have already read. This is caused by the activation of some new features and should be a one-time occurrence. I think you will agree that the benefits of these new features make up for the rerun posts.

The first new feature, which will appear at the bottom of each feed item, is a link that will open your regular email program to send a feed item to someone else. In the past, if you wanted to email an item from a blog or news feed, you probably had to enter your email address and your friend's email address at a website, exposing both of you to the possibility of additional spam.

If you would like to have these features, you can subscribe to our FeedBurner feed.

The other new feature that will appear at the bottom of each feed item is a link to "Add to del.icio.us," a bookmarking service that we will tell you about in a future post. You may also see additional links if the item has been linked at Technorati or tagged at del.icio.us.

If you do not see the "Email this" and "Add to del.icio.us" links at the bottom of each feed item, you are probably subscribed to our old feed. We will continue to add all new entries to that feed until we move to a new blog server, but you won't get the FeedBurner features. If you would like to have these features, you can subscribe to our FeedBurner feed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Free eBooks at Project Gutenberg

leaving hellNow that your exams are (almost) over for this semester, you may be interested in reading something that is not law-related. Check out Project Gutenberg for free books you can legally download under U.S. copyright law.

Books at Project Gutenberg are free because copyright for these books has expired in the United States, and because the collection is produced by volunteers. The top ten ebooks in the last 30 days have included:

  • The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci — Complete by Leonardo da Vinci;
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens;
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen;
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells; and
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The image on the right is from Project Gutenberg's The Divine Comedy by Dante, The Vision of Hell, part 10.

Thanks to the author of Infamy or Praise, who reminded me of Project Gutenberg and gave me the idea of using its public domain images for illustrations.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What RSS Feeds Can Do for You—Recap

First, a belated credit: I recently came across an article by Robert J. Ambrogi that I had read before – entitled What RSS Can Do for Lawyers. That title probably inspired the title of this series.

You can link to all the posts about What RSS Feeds Can Do for You here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5. You may also be interested in What Is a Site or RSS Feed? and Subscribing to RSS Feeds.

RSS is an exciting technology for delivering information that you want, when and how you want it. We have only begun to discover its potential. The diagram below, from Burning Questions, shows how feeds have expanded in the past two years. Stay tuned for more exciting new uses for feeds.

Venn diagram of RSS feeds in 2003 and 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wex, everyone's resource for law learning

One of our favorite free websites for legal research is Cornell's Legal Information Institute (LII). In fact, it was one of our September Research Tips.

LII has recently undertaken a major updating and revamping of its topical section. Building on the topical material that was originally developed for its "Law about..." pages, LII has launched Wex, a collaboratively-created, freely available, public-access legal dictionary and encyclopedia.

drawing of a wheelbarrow stacked high with booksHow does Wex differ from the "Law about..." section? Wex will continue to provide reliable, accessible legal resources at no charge. By adopting a collaborative approach, LII plans to involve a larger pool of experts and bring together more limited efforts into a "unified, rich, community-based resource." See the Wex:FAQ for further information.

Wex is an example of a wiki, of which Wikipedia is probably the most well-known example. However, in the interest of generating higher-quality material in the short term, LII will keep the authoring pool selective for now. If you would like to volunteer, see Editorial contributions. You can subscribe to be notified of new pages via RSS or Atom feed.

Yesterday Evan Schaeffer posted some information about Wikilaw at The Illinois Trial Practice Weblog. Wikilaw does not currently require screening or registration to contribute. You can subscribe to new pages via RSS or Atom feed.

Sources: BoleyBlogs!; Between Lawyers; Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Become an Advanced Internet Searcher

Lee Peoples has written an excellent article about "The Trials and Tribulations of Internet Research" for the November 2005 Oklahoma Bar Journal. He provides a good overview as well as links to other good resources on:

  • assessing the quality of information,
  • advanced internet searching tips,
  • finding information on the "deep web" that search engines don't reach, and
  • using the Internet Archive to find previous versions of websites.

You don't have to be a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association to read this article online. While you are at the OBA website, take a look around at all of the resources for attorneys and members of the public. The Oklahoma Bar Association is to be commended on making so much valuable information freely available.

Seven Quick Negotiating Tips from Columbo

Columbo season 1 imageDennis Kennedy reruns these negotiating tips he gleaned from watching reruns of Columbo, yes the old TV detective show. Anyone who has to deal with technology vendors or publishers’ sales representatives will get some good ideas from these. I can already envision a situation where number 2 might be fun.

Monday, December 05, 2005

What RSS Feeds Can Do For You, part 5

In addition to the many law-related RSS feeds, there are also many other feeds that may be of use to attorneys. You can subscribe to any of the following feeds at no cost.

This summer the National Library of Medicine announced the availability of RSS Feeds for delivery of daily updated search results from PubMed. See instructions for creating and subscribing to PubMed feeds from the NLM Technical Bulletin. You can also set up automatic email updates using My NCBI.

Auto Recalls is a public interest project of Justia.com, a company that designs and optimizes law firm websites. You can subscribe to RSS feeds of recall information for All Vehicle Makes, a single manufacturer, a particular model, or a model and year.

PubSub is a matching service to which you can subscribe to receive RSS updates when new content is created that matches your subscription. With PubSub SEC Filings, you can subscribe to receive notifications of SEC filings by company, subject or form type.

The Washington & Lee School of Law Library has created a nice service to which you can subscribe to receive Current Law Journal Content. Set up a profile to subscribe to a feed containing tables of contents from as many or as few journals as you choose.

Subscribe to customized searches of blogs and news with Yahoo and Feedster, and news searches with Google. Can LexisNexis and Westlaw be far behind on use of RSS technology to deliver updated search results?

Use RSS to track UPS and USPS packages at Simple Tracking. RSS feeds for tracking DHL and FedEx are coming soon.

There are RSS feeds for National Weather Service watches, warnings, and advisories; comic strips; new music and video releases; and almost any current information need. Find more feeds here, here, and here.

For previous entries in this series, see part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and Subscribing to RSS Feeds.


  • Bonnie Shucha's WisBlawg.
  • Robert J. Ambrogi, "Feed Me! Don't Have Time to Surf the Web? Let RSS Do It for You," 3 Internet Law & Strategy 5 (Nov. 2005).

New Resource Available: Chronicle of Higher Education

We are pleased to announce that the Law Library (in conjunction with Morris Library) has made arrangements with the Chronicle of Higher Education for complete, campus-wide access to the Chronicle web site. Some key points about this access:

Access is full and complete. All capabilities of the online Chronicle site, formerly available only to print subscribers, is available. Some key examples of functionality are:
-- Full text access to all current Chronicle stories, news, and special features articles as soon as they are available. Stories may be emailed, printed, or saved electronically as a text or HTML file.
-- Ability to search by keyword of all stories in the Chronicle back to 1989 with full text.
-- Ability to search Chronicle advertisements and job postings, including use of a search agent. (It appears that the Chronicle keeps ads on a current academic year basis only; there is minimal historical capability.)
--The home page also includes RSS capability.

To access the Chronicle, simply click on the link from the Law Library's Subscription Electronic Resources page, or go to chronicle.com (if you are on campus).

Sunday, December 04, 2005

While You Were Studying

Copy protection notice on a CD

You may have been so busy studying for classes and preparing for finals that you missed the news stories about why you should not play Sony CDs on your computer. Here's a summary.

Anyone who uses CDs, DVDs, software, or databases of electronic information has encountered "copy protection" or "digital rights management" (DRM), usually suffering only minor inconvenience or annoyance. Terms like "copy protection" and DRM refer generically to the techniques that recording studios, software manufacturers, and other producers of electronic content use to limit how you can use the music, videos, software and other content you license from them.

DRM includes click-through licenses that you would never accept if you actually read them, FBI warnings about copyright law that stay on the screen for a specified time before you can play the DVD, and limitations on how many times you can copy a song. As a side effect, these techniques also frequently limit which electronic devices, operating systems, and software you can use to listen to the music you have purchased. But most people have not paid much attention to DRM restrictions.

Now, thanks to SonyBMG's overreaching, that may be changing. SonyBMG included two hidden program in over 20 million music CDs, ostensibly to prevent purchasers of the CD from copying it or converting it. The programs were essentially spyware, monitoring customer listening of the CDs and sending information to Sony BMG via the internet, but – even worse – both the programs and the uninstaller create huge security holes that make computers on which Sony CDs have been played vulnerable to viruses and identity theft. There has been an outcry from both fans and artists, Sony is facing at least three consumer class-action lawsuits and a Texas civil law enforcement action, and the story will undoubtedly continue to develop.

Click on the image at the beginning of this post for a guide to spotting affected CDs. In response to discovery of the vulnerabilities caused by Sony DRM, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a part of the Department of Homeland Security, recommends that you "do not install software from sources that you do not expect to contain software, such as an audio CD." However, there have been reports that the Sony software installs itself on computers even when purchasers click "Decline" and cannot be completely uninstalled.

For more information, after your finals, see the following links. In the meantime, don't play Sony CDs on your computer.

Correction: The Texas AG is pursuing a civil law-enforcement action, not a criminal investigation.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ernie the Attorney and Katrina

Ernie the Attorney has been blogging for a long time about law, technology, and an eclectic mix of other topics. He is a good writer and always has something interesting to say about his subjects.

For the past three months, Ernie has been blogging about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His interest and perspective come from his New Orleans connections. He lives in New Orleans, left the day after the hurricane hit, but returned shortly thereafter. Typically, his posts about Katrina have provided insights rarely seen elsewhere. For example, take a look at two recent entries.

In Mississippi after Katrina – and the limitations of our imagination Ernie writes about the impossibility of comprehending the scope of the devastation left by Katrina, even for someone who has seen as much as he has.

mall Christmas village display Blue roof Christmas village condemned is a follow-up to a previous entry about a shopping mall's Christmas village display, whose designer had the creativity and humor to include details of real life in New Orleans this year. Among the realistic details were little blue roofs, recognizing the Army Corps of Engineers’ Blue Roof program. Many people came to see the display and were charmed. But someone complained, so the mall ordered the special details removed. See Ernie's post for his comments and links to other photos and commentary.

Update: The mall management has reversed itself and asked the designer to reinstall most of the display. Source.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Inter Alia and Other Things

Inter Alia is "an internet legal research weblog, among other things." It features a Blawg of the Day, links to internet legal research and technology resources, and tips on information quality, privacy and security, among other things. It also has the best definition of inter alia I have seen. Inter Alia has RSS feed and email subscription options.

Tom Mighell, editor of Inter Alia, also posts regularly to the group blog Between Lawyers, and he has been writing Internet Legal Research Weekly since 2000. ILRW is a quick and painless way to stay up-to-date on internet resources and legal research, computer tips, and an assortment of fun sites. You can subscribe to receive ILRW by email.