Friday, February 26, 2010

RIAA News Roundup

Joel Tenenbaum filed a final brief on Feb. 18, 2010 in Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The link is to his attorneys' thoughtfully posted PDF of the brief. In sum, the lawyers are arguing for relief from the statutory damages of $150,000, stating that the company's lost profit is about 35 cents. Apparently, it's also substantially similar to the amicus brief filed in the same case and linked above by the attorneys, on May 18, 2009 by the Free Software Foundation.

On January 4, 2010, Tenenbaum's lawyers also filed this motion arguing that the $675,000 awarded in damages by the jury was violative of Tenenbaum's constitutional due process rights. The motion asks for a new trial or remittitur. (Remittitur means reducing the damages)

For all the RIAA matters, an excellent source of full text materials online is the Electronic Freedom Foundation ( For any of these if you use their excellent and very simple search function to look for the defendant's name (Joel Tenenbaum for instance, or Jammie Thomas) you can pull up a history of the case and lots of full text motions and briefs from what they call their DeepLinks Blog.

So, what about Jammie Thomas-Rasset, that other high-profile downloader sued by the RIAA and slapped with huge damages? She allegedly downloaded and shared 24 songs. A federal jury returned a verdict for the RIAA in 2006 for $222,000, or $9,250/song. The judge, however, Michael Davis, found that he had given a mistaken instruction to the jury, telling them that making the songs available to others constituted copyright infringement regardless of whether the friend actually downloaded and listened to the song. So a second trial had to be held, with correct instructions given to a new jury. But that jury returned a verdict against Thomas-Rasset for $1.92 million, or $80,000/song. On January 22, 2010, Judge Davis reduced the damage to $54,000 (remittitur!), calling the jury award "monstrous and shocking." If you follow the link to the Cnet story about this, you will see the author telling that his connections in the RIAA wish the Jammie-Rasset story would go away. They do not wish to pursue this any further.

Now, a few days after Judge Davis reduced the damages, the RIAA approached Ms. Jammie-Rasset and offered to settle the case with her for $25,000, less than half the damages that Judge Davis had set. She rejected this offer. Jammie Thomas-Rasset's lawyers told Cnet and RIAA that they wanted the damages to be zero. Sadly, in their letter to Thomas-Rasset, the RIAA told her that if she declined their offer, they would challenge the judge's reduction of the damages in further court action. So, I guess they are committed to this somewhat insane course of action.

And one last interesting link is to the Wired Threat Level feature for February 5, 2010, which has an article analyzing the Google Books project, "The Authors Guild: To RIAA or Not to RIAA". Here is the original blog post at the Authors Guild blog, dated February 5. It was titled, "To RIAA or Not to RIAA, That was the Question," and stated in part,

Some authors and authors' groups have asked why we didn't press the litigation through to the end. The answer (besides the benefits we saw for authors in creating new markets for out-of-print works), in part, is that copyright litigation is uncertain. Fair use law is complex. One could fill a good-sized law-school classroom with copyright professors who believe that Google's scanning of your books is a fair use. We don't agree with that view, but our opinion may not have prevailed. If we'd lost, it would then be open season on scanning of your out-of-print and in-print books. All one would need is a scanner and a friend with a little bit of technical knowledge to start displaying "snippets" at your science fiction, humor, Civil War, or Harry Potter website. All perfectly legal; all without obligation to authors to properly secure those scans. Nothing gets illegal file-sharing going quite so much as millions of unsecured digital works floating around the Internet.

We also could've won. That would've been sweet. But here's the thing: copyright victories tend to be Pyrrhic in the digital age. Our settlement negotiations went on with full knowledge of what happened to the music industry. The RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America) won victory after victory, defeating Napster and Grokster with ground-breaking legal rulings. The RIAA also went after countless individuals, chasing down infringement wherever they could track it down.

It didn't work. The infringement just moved elsewhere, in unpredictable ways. Nothing seems to drive innovation among copyright pirates as much as a defeat in the courts. That innovation didn't truly abate until Apple came along with its iPod/iTunes model, making music easily and legally available at a reasonable price. By then, the music industry was devastated.

All that couldn't happen to the book publishing industry? Sure could. The technologies are out there.

The stakes are even higher for authors than they've been for musicians. The ace in the hole for musicians is that they're not as dependent on copyright as book authors are. Music is a performing art: people buy tickets to see musicians. Writing is decidedly not a performing art. Nearly all authors give away their performances, through book tours and readings, and are glad for any audience they can find. For most authors, markets created by copyright are all we've got.

Protecting authors' interests has always been our top priority: in this case a timely harnessing of Google was the best way to do it.
The decoration for this blogpost is courtesy of New York Magazine online, at a post from 2008, RIAA, What Settlement Money?

Clarification on Spectrum Article

Dear OOTJ Readers,
Betsy has an article that just came out the the AALL Spectrum, Tracking Research Scents in the Wilderness. The article may inadvertently have caused some confusion, and this blog post is meant to clarify. I mention that Westlaw modified their tabs in response to an article by Julie Jones in AALL Law Library Journal, Not Just Key Numbers and Keywords Anymore: How User Interface Design Affects Legal Research. My article came out so close in time to the WestlawNext presentations that it may mislead readers into thinking that I am referring to bigger changes than I really meant. Julie asked me to clarify, in an e-mail:

As far as I know, the only changes made in response to my paper were the additions within the tabs to links to indexes and tables of contents where available, and this may have been limited to the law school tab which bore the brunt of my criticism in my paper. Really, in the scheme of things, these were fairly minor edits. But I do know that those changes were made in response to my paper because a person at West told me that.

I think with Westlaw rolling out WLNext right at the time this article was published, and Betsy's expansive language, there may be a good deal of confusion on this issue. I absolutely do not want unwarranted credit.
So, I hope that this makes it clear that the changes to the tabs that Westlaw made in response to Julie's article were very specific, and were somewhat back in time. My efforts were last summer and spring, trying to replicate Julie's research using Massachusetts databases. Part of the point of my article, alas, is that things to KAFLOOIE! Because that's what they did. I hope you enjoy both my article and Julie's original, which I found very exciting.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mass Attorney General files Motion for Judgement in DOMA Challenge

The Massachusetts General filed a pre-trial motion for judgement on the complaint in the constitutional challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act in the Federal District Court in Eastern Massachusetts. The case is known as Commonwealth v. Sebelius, et al. The Boston Globe carried a short story yesterday by Denise Lavoie:

Coakley’s office filed a lawsuit in July challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In court papers filed in US District Court on Thursday, Coakley asked a judge to deem the law unconstitutional without holding a trial on the lawsuit.

Coakley argues that regulating marital status has traditionally been left to the states. She said the federal law treats married heterosexual couples and married same-sex couples differently; for instance, when determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits and when determining whether the spouse of a veteran can be buried in a Massachusetts veterans cemetery.

The law forces Massachusetts “to engage in invidious discrimination against its own citizens in order to receive and retain federal funds in connection with two joint federal-state programs,’’ Coakley said in the court filing.

“Massachusetts cannot receive or retain federal funds if it gives same-sex and different-sex spouses equal treatment, namely by authorizing the burial of a same-sex spouse in a federally funded veterans’ cemetery and by recognizing the marriages of same-sex spouses in assessing eligibility for Medicaid health benefits,’’ she said.

The filing was made in response to a motion by the US Justice Department to dismiss the lawsuit and to support Coakley’s request to declare the law unconstitutional without holding a trial.

The Obama administration has acknowledged that the marriage act is discriminatory and wants Congress to repeal it. But the Justice Department has said it has an obligation to defend laws enacted by Congress while they are on the books.
Lawyers recognize these motions as civil procedure 101 type motions that have to be made at the beginning of civil actions to cover all the bases. Here is Coakley's original pleading from her website: link to PDF of Complaint. Here is a link to search more filings through Here is a link for the ACLU's contributions, including a downloadable amicus brief in Sebelius.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

DOJ decision on Torture Memo: not misconduct

The Department of Justice has spent five years investigating and carrying on an internal debate over the torture memos: was it professional misconduct for John Yoo and Jay Bybee to write and sign the memos that permitted the CIA to conduct waterboarding and other torture at Abu Ghraib and other "black ops" interrogation sites? From today's article in the New York Times, by Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane,

The ethics lawyers, in the Office of Professional Responsibility, concluded that two department lawyers involved in analyzing and justifying waterboarding and other interrogation tactics - Jay S. Bybee, now a federal judge, and John Yoo, now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley - had demonstrated “professional misconduct.’’ It said the lawyers had ignored legal precedents and provided slipshod legal advice to the White House in possible violation of international and federal laws on torture. That report was among the documents made public yesterday.

But David Margolis, a career lawyer at the Justice Department, rejected that conclusion in a report of his own released yesterday. He said the ethics lawyers, in condemning the lawyers’ actions, had given short shrift to the national climate of urgency in which Bybee and Yoo acted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Among the difficulties in assessing these memos now over seven years after their issuance is that the context is lost,’’ Margolis said.

Indeed, the documents provide new details about the atmosphere in which Yoo and the Justice Department prepared their initial findings in August 2002, shortly after the capture of Abu Zubaydah, suspected of being an operative for Al Qaeda.

The report quotes Patrick Philbin, a senior Justice Department lawyer involved in the review, as saying that because of the urgency of the situation, he had advised Bybee to sign the memorandum, despite what he saw as Yoo’s aggressive and problematic interpretation of the president’s broad powers as commander in chief in trumping international and domestic law.

Philbin said that “given the situation and the time pressures, and they are telling us this has to be signed tonight - this was like 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock at night on the day it was signed - my conclusion’’ was that it was permissible for Bybee to sign the memorandum. “They’’ apparently referred to officials at the White House, but the report does not specify who demanded that the memorandum be signed that night.
The Times also provides a link to Margolis' report, which takes a very long time to open; it's 289 pages! Here is the link. The link include Jay Bybee and John Yoo's rebuttals which are mentioned in more some news reports:
The documents released also included rebuttals from Yoo and Bybee that challenged the findings of two draft reports from the Office of Professional Responsibility.

An Oct. 9, 2009 response from Yoo's attorney Miguel Estrada read, "Of course the attorneys at OLC knew what the CIA wanted, since they knew the agency was attempting to get information to thwart further terrorist attacks, and indeed OLC obviously was being asked to opine on specific interrogation techniques that it knew the CIA wished to use if it legally could do so.

"This perversion of the professional rules," the Estrada rebuttal said, "and myopic pursuit of Professor Yoo and Judge Bybee, can be explained only by a desire to settle a score over Bush administration policies in the war on terror. But policy disputes are for the ballot box, not for the bar. Professor Yoo and Judge Bybee did nothing more than provide a good-faith assessment of the legality of a program deemed vital to our national security."
(from story about a Congressional hearing scheduled on the report for next week)

Here are the original reports from the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that Margolis overturned with that report.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Life as a Librarian

My Life as a Librarian

has consisted more of throwing books away than I ever thought it could...

has consisted more of budget disasters and red ink than I ever thought it might...

has had more personnel awfulness than I ever hoped...

and yet...

it's still been the best thing that ever happened to me.

The girl dancing with bubbles in courtesy of at Flickr.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Grab Bag of Goodies from Librarians

A couple of sources that are good to bookmark and check back with periodically:

ResourceShelf - "A daily newsletter with resources of interest to information professionals, educators and journalists." I'd call it a grab bag of goodies from the web from librarians for librarians. They hoover the internet for all sorts of miscellanies of interest. Some are weird, some are wonderful and some are really, really useful. Worth checking periodically.

DocuTicker - "Docuticker is a daily update of new reports from government agencies, ngo’s, think tanks, and other groups." This is a companion site to ResourceShelf. DocuTicker was featured once before here at OOTJ. It's more up our legal reference alley, not quite as miscellaneous as the ResourceShelf, much more focused on gubment, gubment, gubment. Which, after all, is what we come out of the jungle for!

Library kudos to Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy who are listed as the Senior Editors, and to anybody else who is out there hoovering the web on our behalf at these sites. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All

This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, by Marilyn Johnson (Harper 2010) 272 pp. $24.99. The Boston Globe includes a very nice book review of this book today, which brought it to my attention. If you follow the link to Amazon, you can see that the cover features a superhero librarian, which is always a nice change. According to the Globe reviewer, Judy Bolton-Fasman, the author of the book Marilyn Johnson, was inspired by an obituary of non-librarian library hero Henriette Avram. Mrs. Avram was the developer of the MARC record, and was blogged about here by my co-blogger, Marie Newman. Avram's development of the computer-readable code that translated millions of card catalogs into OPACs transformed librarianship in many ways. And that is part of this new book. The review is delightful and inspiring, and makes me want to get this book. There is more than I quote here, so you will want to follow the link back and read the whole thing, but I snipped the most delectable parts:

Among information professionals, Johnson notes there are librarians and archivists: “Librarians were finders [of information]. Archivists were keepers.’’ But the information revolution is affecting both. She affectionately portrays archivists as magicians that deftly distinguish between detritus and artifact, capturing history before it disappears because of a broken link or outdated software. For Johnson, archivists are the unsung heroes of the library, cataloging idiosyncratic, often paper-based collections. The digital age is making possible the creation of searchable databases of archives, but it’s also making information, especially on the Internet, more ephemeral and harder to collect.

On the art of cataloging Johnson reflects, “Who knows how many people are invisible because their stories don’t fit into our categories?’’ Here is an area in which the digital revolution offers help. Some of the invisible are brought to our attention by a group of sharp, blogging librarians who are not the stereotypical shushing, cardigan-wearing guardians of the reference room. Johnson introduces these ultramodern librarians as “open, casual, approachable, dedicated to demystifying technology and networked to the eyeballs . . . the public face of the twenty-first century librarian.’’

This new world of librarianship has also given rise to rogue librarians who personify the simplest yet most radical change in the profession: librarians who have left the building. They were first dubbed “Street Librarians’’ at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Armed with iPhones, they brought their information-gathering skills to the street, dispensing politically neutral information to visitors that included everything from breaking news to traffic reports.

The Street Librarians were inspired by Radical Reference, a national group serving ad hoc populations in cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. {sic;you can see from the site that there are cities with more active collectives than Los Angeles which last posted in 2006, unless it's a typo}

Radical Reference’s activism is rooted in the idea that “information justice is a human rights issue; the public library must remain ‘the people’s university’ . . . and librarians can get involved and shape the future or they can sit back and watch the changes.’’ E.J. Josey, a professional librarian and co-editor of “The Handbook of Black Librarianship,’’ wrote those prescient words in 1964 to American Library Association officials who attended state library associations that still practiced segregation. Two decades later, Josey became the ALA’s second African-American president.

Johnson writes that in a world where technology moves life at a breathtaking pace, “where information itself is a free-for-all, with traditional news sources going bankrupt and publishers in trouble, we need librarians more than ever’’ to help point the way to the best, most reliable sources.

She poignantly illustrates her point with an anecdote from author and bibliophile Nicholas Basbanes, whose search for a 1914 edition of “A Descriptive Catalogue of the Pepys Diary’’ brought him to the Boston Athenaeum Research Library.

“You wonder who they bought these books for anyway?’’ Basbanes mused to the librarian.

Delighting the writer with the obvious, the librarian answered, “We got them for you, Mr. Basbanes.’’

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Stay! an essay against suicide

The Boston Globe Ideas section today included a very moving essay by poet Jennifer Michael Hecht, adapted from a blog post she wrote at The Best American Poetry (The Lion and The Honey Comb). The Globe article in more polished and easier to read than the original blog post, though, so I recommend you go there. The Globe editors introduce the essay by explaining that Hecht wrote her essay in response to the suicide, separated by a few years, of two friends, both women poets, who met in graduate school. Rachel Wetzsteon took her own life on Christmas 2009. Boston poet Sarah Hannah had killed herself in 2007. Hecht made the blog post in January, 2010. Here are some of the most moving pieces, but I recommend you read the entire essay, which is not long!

So I want to say this, and forgive me the strangeness of it. Don’t kill yourself. Life has always been almost too hard to bear, for a lot of the people, a lot of the time. It’s awful. But it isn’t too hard to bear, it’s only almost too hard to bear. Hear me out.

In the West, in the past, the dominant religions told people suicide was against the rules, they must not do it, if they did, they would be punished in the afterlife. People killed themselves anyway, of course, but the strict injunction must have helped keep a billion moments of anguish from turning into a bloodbath. These days we encourage people to stay alive and not kill themselves, but we say it for the person’s own sake. It’s illegal, sure, but no one actually insists that suicide is wrong.

I’m issuing a rule. You are not allowed to kill yourself. You are going to like this, stay with me. When a person kills himself, he does wrenching damage to the community. One of the best predictors of suicide is knowing a suicide. That means that every suicide may be a delayed homicide. You have to stay. (snip)

In thinking about the friends I’ve lost to suicide, and in my own dark times, I have found myself noticing that if I’m grateful that you haven’t killed yourself (even though the fact of it only recently came into my mind), then you are also likely grateful that I haven’t killed myself (whether consciously yet or not). I have found that thinking about this can feel like a multitude of invisible arms linking to support me. I can fall back into faith in humanity. We have to carry each other, like Bono says.

The truth is I want you to live for your sake, not for ours. But the injunction is true and real. Anyway, some part of you doesn’t want to end it all, and I’m talking to her or him, to that part of you. I’m throwing you a rope, you don’t have to explain it to the monster in you, just tell the monster it can do whatever it wants, but not that. Later we’ll get rid of the monster, for now just hang on to the rope. I know that this means a struggle from one second to the next, let alone one day at a time. Know that the rest of us know that among the faces we have met there are some right now who can barely take another minute of the pain and uncertainty. And we are in the room with you, going from one moment to the next, in whatever condition you manage to do it. Sobbing and useless is great! Sobbing and useless is a million times better than dead. A billion times. Thank you for choosing sobbing and useless over dead. (snip)

We are grateful. Best of all, practicing tuning in to your gratitude for others’ staying alive also tones up your ability to feel the gratitude that people are extending to you, too, you start to feel the support of it, the invisible arms. Don’t kill yourself. Suffer here with us instead. We need you with us, we have not forgotten you, you are our hero. Stay.

Friday, February 05, 2010

iPad and E-Textbooks?

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in its Feb. 5, 2010 Technology section (or front page of the print edition), has a story "Tablet May Help E-Textbook Market, Publisher Hope," by Jeffrey R. Young. The story is careful to note as wrong previous rumors that Apple has made agreements with textbook publishers surrounding the new iPad tablet. But apparently textbook publishers are hoping that the new piece of technology will breathe life into the poor sales of e-textbooks. The article notes the problems with e-textbooks: students don't really like hauling their laptops everywhere, and e-textbooks sales have grown more slowly than expected. So publishers hope that the lighter, more portable and very hip iPad may make students more excited about e-books for class.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in San Francisco, he mentioned iTunesU, which already has major academic applications and partnerships. But mostly, his focus was on popular, non-academic uses for the iPad.

The article does not, however, really delve into other problems with the existing e-textbook platforms. Some of the problems students have with the e-textbooks that are out there now are:
* that it's difficult to turn pages and to compare pages side by side;
* you lose the illustrations, graphs, maps, etc.;
* you can't highlight text;
* you can't make marginal notes;
* you can't copy text from the book into your notes;
* you can't have audio read-aloud functions.

Some of these functions you have in print now and students are irked to lose them going into digital books. Other functions are available in other digital formats, and students are irked that they can't have them in their digital books. When these are solved, e-textbooks will have a much better shot at the market. I don't know if iPad is the solution. I don't know the specs.

I do know that West has developed a small line of e-textbooks of its own, that do have highlighting & marginal notes as functions. I think you can have read-aloud with them, if only because you can get a screen reader. In law textbooks, the illustrations, graphs and maps are rarely an issue, so this small line called "interactive casebooks," is probably going to be an interesting test case. The student buys a print casebook and for a small premium, gets an e-copy that they have access to for 1 year and then it disappears.

Aspen has, since 2007, had e-casebooks, and now offers AspenLawStudyDesk, a software package of law student study aids:

* Organize your case briefs, class notes, statutes, and more with easy-to-use templates and systematic filing tools
* Integrate Aspen Publishers’ eBook study aids into AspenLaw Studydesk
* Succeed in law school with flashcard, quiz, and outlining tools that save you hours of study prep time
They also offer a digital MBE test-prep software suite,
*Emanuel ExamEdge offers two complete modules:

* Exam Exerciser, with access to a database of more than 1,500 practice questions
* Exam Simulator, a set of two complete 200-question simulated MBEs
I would like to hear from any students or former students who have used e-books or these digital study aids, about how they liked them, and especially if you can compare them to non-digital products. I am not the person to test these, I am afraid!

The illustration is a photo of Steve Jobs introducing the iPad in San Francisco, from the Chronicle, but they credit Justin Sullivan of Getty Images.

More on Westlaw Next: some other voices

Paula Hane, of Information Today, sent me the link to her post on Westlaw Next, dated Feb. 4, 2010. Paula was at the Minnesota "press" early showing that I attended with other librarians and law bloggers. She does a very nice job of adding some depth to the descriptions I have tried to give here, so I recommend you trot over there. She also includes two screen shots and is able to offer readers the chance to enlarge them to full screen (I can't get Blogspot to do that -- grrr, envy!). She also does a very nice thing where she includes links at the end to a wide variety of other bloggers who were also at this event. So, it's a very worthwhile visit; go see Paula's story, and then see what other bloggers who were at the Eagan early viewing have to say.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Again, with the Westlaw Next

Pricing don't mean thing if it don't got that Algorithm:

As it was explained at this meeting in Eagan (though they may change it, I suppose!), there is no charge at all until you look at a result from the list. So the charge is not based in the Westlaw Next model on the size of the database searched, unlike the model we are used to.

What you understand is absolutely the current model -- in transactional or per minute pricing, they price by the size of the database unless your contract has "flat pricing" for certain databases -- meaning that no matter how long anybody searches on your password, the price is the same-- and even that flat price depends on the size of the database. That is, in Massachusetts Cases, for instance, I might pay $100/month (I have no idea!) for a flat fee at my firm. But for the All States cases database I might instead have to pay $1,000/month. (Again, I have no idea how realistic these numbers are, but it certainly changes radically on the size of the database, even for a flat fee).

The folks in Eagan explained that the Westlaw Next search plan is to look in ALL databases for ALL relevant documents, using an algorithm that starts with the terms the user enters. If the algorith recognizes boolean connectors, it will implement a terms & connectors search. If not, it runs a natural language search. There is a glitch where you might try to run a phrase search in Terms & Connectors, because it does not recognize the quotes, right now, and it does not deal with a single term search, which it always runs as natural language, even if you wish to run it as a Terms & Connectors search.

But the search is enhanced, no matter whether it is recognized as T&C or natural language in these ways. The search engine looks into the databases for similar or related terms in:

1) Secondary sources (treatises, law reviews, indexes, including "see also" entries to develop additional terms;

2) Key Cite, especially using the headnote feature to see which cases cite a case for what reason, to find related cases;

3) Key Number system, to look up the topic & key number for the query;

4) The web of related publications -- statutes, regulations, etc. that either cite the case found or use the term or if you are finding a statute or reg, the cases, law reviews, ALRs, encyclopedia entries that discuss; it all hangs together & this system pulls it together & brings it back.

5) User information; This last is very interesting. The system gathers information when users are printing, printing with citation, printing with reference & linking between the various documents as they do these actions. They add a metadata tag that either adds a term or links the documents to each other. So when you find one document, it pulls the other documents that previous searchers have indicated might be of interest.

I have to say that West needs to get the sample passwords out to the academic librarians so they can see what is being talked about. The folks who saw it at Legal Tech were much less than wowed. I don't know what happened at Legal Tech but it's too bad because it's a very important advance in legal research and deserved to be noticed more by those who attended. The mainstream legal press (N.Y. Times & ABA Journal) have addressed this much more as another ho-hum story about Westlaw reacting against recent changes by Google and the market hotting up with Lexis and Bloomberg. They are really not understanding what they are seeing. This was in production for five years, way before Google's Legal Search Button became public, and before Bloomberg became a major player. The academics are the future for this product, while the law firm market is certainly going to fund it, they need to get the law schools to buy in as well. Get those sample passwords out, please!

(post from an e-mail to the ALL-SIS listserve)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

More About Westlaw Next

OK. Well, I’ve had a little time to digest and grieve and generally process the big news that is Westlaw Next. I’m ready to talk a bit more about it.

It’s not the end of librarianship or quality in research. While it really does a lot to shore up sloppy queries, by doing away with selection of databases and by constructing much better queries based on “behind the scenes” searches of West’s indexes, key number system, etc., Westlaw Next still is not foolproof or magical. It actually is going to do some interesting shifting of the burdens in the research process, now that I think about it.

As I mentioned before, the best query is going to be a formulation of what you want your ideal document to say. That requires the researcher to actually front load a lot of legal analysis! Surprise! That takes us right back to Barbara Bintliff’s 1996 assertion that online legal research has changed the way that lawyers think. In From Creativity to Computerese: Thinking Like a Lawyer in the Computer Age, 88 Law Libr. J. 338, (Summer, 1996), Bintliff points out that in book-based research, lawyers had to think about the theory of the case and do at least some legal analysis before going to the digest index. In most online queries, she says, the keywords are based instead on the facts of the case, not on the legal cause of action. So online research does not require any pre-analysis of the case most of the time, more than deciding which facts are the relevant ones. Perhaps Westlaw Next will reverse the trend that Bintliff points out, and require more original analysis by the researcher before formulating a query.

Keep in mind that Westlaw Next still allows you to do a terms & connectors search. It recognizes a boolean type search and does it, but adds the power of enriched terms by still mining the indexes, KeyCite, KeyNumber system to help enhance the search. It’s just that you are no longer required to select whether you are going to do a boolean search or a natural language search. You simply type in a query and the system runs it, no matter what type of search you entered.

You can also select a particular database to search if you wish. But why would you want to restrict the search since it does not charge you until you look into the database? One of the genius things about the design of Westlaw Next is that they did not close any doors. You can still do all the things we do in the current incarnation, I think, but we are not forced to make the choices that cause so much anxiety in the search process, especially for tyros.

I did not talk much in my previous post about the foldering system. This is a nice new feature. It really improves the organization tools for managing the information a researcher retrieves. Westlaw Next allows searchers to save their searches for up to one year, and to use the power of Westlaw to search through the searches saved. It also allows team members to share the results (as long as they all have Westlaw passwords). The foldering system is very cool. Your drag information into the folders as you do the research and drop it in, but you can also subdivide folders, or re-organize them as you go along, or afterward. Then, you can set up various kinds of programs to keep the searches up to date afterward, just as you do now, but continue to feed it into the folder system. Frankly this is probably the feature that will be simplest for Lexis to match.

Finally, just a little update. Yesterday, our academic rep stopped by. He told me that last Friday, the folks in Eagan made a decision that the law schools would not be charged for Westlaw Next. And that the new version could be administered in law schools in three different ways. Schools could adopt it completely. Or they could completely ignore it and stick with the Westlaw we have now. Or they could adopt it in part for some of the students, say the incoming 1-Ls, but not for current students. (Oooh, what a bad idea!, she says, editorially).

Westlaw Next does not do away with the need for librarians or folks to teach research skills. In fact, we will be as important as ever. We will just be teaching different skills in different areas. We will have new and different headaches.

I am decorating this blog post with screen shots from Westlaw Next. These are official screen shots courtesy of the folks from Eagan. They asked us not to take our own shots, but to use their official shots, so here they are. The other thing to know is that this will probably look different over time; they are changing Westlaw Next in response to comments they hear from users, like YOU! I understand that there are day passes for law school faculty and staff password holders at the Westlaw lawschool site, so see if you can take a test drive!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Apple iPad adds to e-book platform confusion

The Boston Globe ran a piece today about the new Apple iPad's insistence on its own platform that will not be compatible with other electronic readers. The Associate Press article by Peter Svensson is a nice analysis of the problem that is cropping up, with Amazon's Kindle, and now the Apple iPad insisting on their own independent systems that will not allow users who buy an e-book for one reader to import that book to another reader. I am not clear whether the Sony Reader, the other major e-reader on the market also has their own platform that is incompatible. Rather than developing a uniform platform that would help build a market for e-readers, these marketers are more fixed on cornering their markets and driving competition to the wall.

Even as Apple’s iPad will probably energize electronic reading, the new device is undermining a painstakingly constructed effort by the publishing industry to make it possible to move e-books between different electronic readers.

The slim, 1.5-pound tablet computer unveiled last week will be linked to Apple Inc.’s first e-book store when it goes on sale in a few months. The books, however, will not be compatible with Inc.’s Kindle or with the major alternative e-book system.

Apple’s creation of a third choice is likely to further frustrate and confuse consumers if they accumulate e-books for one device, then try to go back to read them later on a different one. The effect could be akin to having to buy a new set of CDs every time you replace a stereo system. It could also keep people from buying new e-readers as better models come out if they aren’t compatible with the books they already have.

This could cool consumers’ enthusiasm for e-books, the way sales of digital music downloads were hampered by a variety of copy-protection schemes.

“There are going to be some potentially painful lessons’’ for consumers when they try to move e-books they already own to new devices, said Nick Bogaty, senior manager of digital publishing business development at Adobe Systems Inc., which provides the major alternative e-book system.
I am still hoping that Ray Kurzweil's Blio (blogged about here, will be a worthy entry into the fray. Blio is platform independent, being a piece of software you download to any electronic device you choose. Blio will work on an PDA, a cell phone, a laptop, netbook, tablet PC, whatever electronic device with connectivity to the internet you choose to read on. And it is free, with thousands and thousands of low-cost books when they are still in copyright. It has excellent audio capabilities where book publishers allow the read-aloud function to be enabled. For children learning to read, or those learning a new language, the read-aloud function can coordinate with a function to highlight words as they are read. Blio has graphics capabilities that allow the book to be displayed in the same manner as it would be in a printed book -- allowing graphs, charts, maps, illustrations of all types to be reproduced in full color and detail. Blio has not yet been released (perhaps this is a testament to the marketing savvy of Kurzweil, who knows his parade would have been rained out by Apple's release). But I am waiting! At this point, it is looking more and more as though it might be the product to save the e-books market.

The decoration is two dogs in a tugo'war (perhaps I should have tried to find three dogs!). This photo is "Coco and Trey tug" courtesy of