Thursday, October 28, 2010

ARL's Future Visions for Libraries

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the Association of Research Libraries previewed at their annual meeting and now has released their scenarios for different futures that research libraries may face. The publication, "Envisioning Research Library Futures: A Scenarios Thinking Project," includes a User's Guide, and is entirely open and free on the web. The four scenarios imagine different futures for researchers, and do not explicitly mention libraries at all. The ARL imagines this may open the way for other types of organizations to use the scenarios as planning or visioning tools, as well. While the scenarios and membership are based on large research libraries, the thinking and futures may be worth considering for all types of libraries.

The ARL website includes:
* the User's Guide,
* a PDF of the Scenarios,
* a link to register for a free webcast scheduled for November 4, 2010, from 1-2:30 PM, Eastern Daylight time, on how to use the scenarios;
* a link to subscribe to an e-mail listserv discussion group on the scenarios

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Setback for Law School Clinics

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting the unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, that "has denied the legal clinics of that state's public law schools immunity from its open-records law, exposing them to new document requests that could greatly complicate their work." The defendants in the case were Rutgers University and the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic, part of the law school's well-regarded clinical program. The suit was brought by a "real-estate developer [Sussex Commons Associates] whose plans to build an outlet mall were successfully opposed by a citizens' group represented by the clinic." The attorneys for the developer "are seeking documents that .. will show that the owner of two existing outlet malls conspired with the citizens' groups and the clinic to thwart Sussex Commons's mall plans." At issue was New Jersey's Open Public Records Act, 47 N.J.S.A. 1A-1-1A-13, to which, according to the court, the legal clinics are subject as public institutions. Clinicians worry that short-staffed law school clinics will be drowned by discovery requests from law firms; most clinics do not have the resources to take on such requests, and having to comply with open-records laws might well result in clinics refusing to take on certain clients or cases. It sounds to me that New Jersey's law needs to be amended to make it clear that it is not meant to apply to the legal clinics at the state's two public law schools. It's hard to tell if that is feasible in today's political climate.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

National Digital Library Proposal

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an exciting article on a proposal for a National Digital Library. There are a cluster of related articles, but you may not be able to read them without a Chronicle password. Fortunately, Robert Darnton of Harvard, who is spearheading the proposal, has put a lengthy essay about his arguments, in a more accessible place, at the New York Review of Books. In the essay, A Library Without Walls, he sets forth his utopian vision for a national digital library. I am not sure quite how this either builds upon or competes with either Hathi Trust Digital Library, which already exists, or the Google Book Project, and Google Scholar. Darnton's essay is lovely to read, full of stirring language, referring to Enlightenment ideals and actual projects in a number of other countries to digitize their national libraries.

At Harvard, we have conducted a preliminary survey of the projects underway in other nations. We have even located an incipient NDL in Mongolia. The Dutch are now digitizing every Dutch book, pamphlet, and newspaper produced from 1470 to the present. President Sarkozy of France announced last November that he would make €750 million available to digitize the nation’s cultural “patrimony.” And the Japanese Diet voted for a two-year, 12.6 billion yen crash program to digitize their entire national library. If the Netherlands, France, and Japan can do it, why can’t the United States?

I propose that we dismiss the notion that a National Digital Library of America is far-fetched, and that we concentrate on the general goal of providing the American people with the kind of library they deserve, the kind that meets the needs of the twenty-first century. We can equip the smallest junior college in Alabama and the remotest high school in North Dakota with the greatest library the world has ever known. We can open that library to the rest of the world, exercising a kind of “soft power” that will increase respect for the United States worldwide. By creating a National Digital Library, we can make our fellow citizens active members of an international Republic of Letters, and we can strengthen the bonds of citizenship at home.
Quite stirring and very exciting, but I am a bit confused about how his project relates to the afore-mentioned existing projects. If it manages to pull them together into something that will definitely become and remain open to the public, that would, indeed, be something worth cheering about.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Accidental Prison Librarian

On NPR this morning I heard an interview with Avi Steinberg about a book he just published titled Running the Books: the adventures of an accidental prison librarian. Mr. Steinberg, having graduated from college, wasn't sure what to do with himself. He answered an ad for a prison librarian at the Suffolk County (New York) House of Correction. His book tells about his experiences and the people he met. It's an interesting interview. I wonder what the more long-term, professional prison librarians who may read this blog or be directed here might think about it?

Here's an excerpt from Chapter One as offered on the NPR website:

Pimps make the best librarians. Psycho killers, the worst. Ditto con men. Gangsters, gunrunners, bank robbers — adept at crowd control, at collaborating with a small staff, at planning with deliberation and executing with contained fury — all possess the librarian's basic skill set. Scalpers and loan sharks certainly have a role to play. But even they lack that something, the je ne sais quoi, the elusive it. What would a pimp call it? Yes: the love.

If you're a pimp, you've got love for the library. And if you don't, it's probably because you haven't visited one. But chances are you will eventually do a little — or perhaps, a lot — of prison time and you'll wander into one there. When you do, you'll encounter the sweetness and the light. You'll find books you've always needed, but never knew existed. Books like that indispensable hustler's tool, the rhyming dictionary. You'll discover and embrace, like long-lost relatives, entire new vocabularies. Anthropology and biology, philosophy and psychology, gender studies and musicology, art history and pharmacology, economics and poetry. French. The primordial slime. Lesbian bonobo chimps. Rousseau nibbling on sorbet with his Venetian hooker. The complete annotated record of animal striving.

And it's not just about books. In the joint, where business is slow, the library is The Spot. It's where you go to see and be seen. Among the stacks, you'll meet older colleagues who gather regularly to debate, to try out new material, to declaim, reminisce, network and match wits. You'll meet old timers working on their memoirs, upstarts writing the next great pimp screenplay.

You'll meet inmate librarians like Dice, who will tell you he stayed sane during two years in the hole at Walla Walla by memorizing a smuggled anthology of Shakespeare's plays. He'll prove it by reciting long passages by heart. Dice wears sunglasses and is an ideologue. He'll try to persuade you of the "virtues of vice." He'll tell you that a prison library "ain't a place to better yourself, it's a place to get better at getting worse." He'll bully you into reading Shelley's Frankenstein, and he'll bully you further into believing that it's "our story"— by which he means the story of pimps, a specialized class of men, a priesthood, who live according to the dictates of Nature.

He means it. Like many a pimp preoccupied by ancient questions, Dice takes the old books seriously. He approves of Emersonian self-reliance, and was scandalized that many American universities had ousted Shakespeare and the Classics from their curricula. He'd read about it in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"You kidding me, man?" he'd said, folding the newspaper like a hassled commuter, brow arching over his shades. "Now I've heard it all. This country's going to hell."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day: Clean Water is a Womens' Rights Issue|Start Petition

In too much of Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Asia, fetching water is the major life's work of girls and women. Easy access to clean water would transform the lives of the girls and women in these regions. Girls often drop out of school because they are needed at home to help haul water. Reporting in 2002, on a campaign launched at that time at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, aimed at cutting in half by 2015 the number of people worldwide without reliable access to clean water, Nicole Itano, reported
For Betty Sgawuka, water is life, but it's also backbreaking work. As a young child, she rambled after her mother with a small bucket; half a century later, now a grandmother several times over, she still makes multiple trips a day to a nearby stream.

Much has come to Sgawuka's village during her 54 years: apartheid, freedom, AIDS. But eight years after South Africa's first free, multi-racial elections, the only water that flows through Luphisi is the stream that nature put there.

Earlier this week, more than 100 world leaders met in Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. At the top on the agenda during the 10-day meeting were clean water and sanitation and how they could be brought to places like Luphisi. At the end of the summit Wednesday, leaders reiterated their commitment to halve the number of people without water by 2015, and set a new goal to try to halve the number of people without access to sanitation by the same year. Hundreds of millions of dollars from the developing world were also pledged to the effort.

More than 1 billion people around the world lack access to clean water and another 2 billion to sanitation. Waterborne diseases are estimated to kill more than a million adults annually and enough children to fill a jumbo jet each day.

But for millions of women like Sgawuka, clean water and access to sanitation also mean increased freedom and dignity.

"It's women and girls who bear the brunt of the lack of clean water; it's women and girls who are intimidated and humiliated by the lack of sanitation," said Sir Richard Jolly, head of a new United Nations campaign called WASH--Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All, speaking in Johannesburg. "Remember, the amount of water the African or Asian carries on her head is roughly equivalent to the amount of luggage most of us will bring home from Johannesburg, roughly 20 kg."

In most of the world, it is a woman's job to collect water for cooking, cleaning, drinking and sanitation. Girls often begin collecting water from a very young age and because the burden of collecting water is often so onerous, many are forced to drop out of school.

"The provision of clean water is particularly important because it has a liberating effect on women and young girls," said Kul Gautam, deputy executive director of UNICEF. "In many rural areas, the average woman spends one-quarter to one-third of her time fetching water."

Gautam also said UNICEF studies have shown that lack of water and sanitation are major factors leading to the high dropout rates of girls. In addition to the girls who drop out because their labor is needed at home, many girls also leave school because of inadequate sanitation at schools themselves.

Sanitation, say aid workers and government officials, is often the neglected sister of clean water. Here in South Africa, where 7 million people have been provided with clean water since 1994, the need for better sanitation was ignored.

"Ten years ago when we surveyed people about their priorities, water came up No. 2 behind jobs," said Mike Muller, director general of the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. "Sanitation wasn't even on the list."

But two years ago, a deadly cholera epidemic broke out in the largely rural, northeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. Since then, the South African government has redoubled its efforts on sanitation.

"Many of us in the aid industry thought that clean water was about better health and eliminating waterborne diseases," Jolly said. "But increasingly we're realizing that for women, often it's a safety issue."

About 200 miles away from Luphisi, in the rough shantytown of Kapok outside of Johannesburg, more than a dozen families share a single chemical latrine. Serviced by the city's water authority, the latrines are clean and sanitary.

At night, however, even a short walk from shack to toilet can be a dangerous proposition. South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world, and many of them take place in communities like this one.

Johannesburg Water, the city's state-owned but privately run water authority, is installing private latrines for each household.

Chantal Mofokeng says it's a small thing that makes a big difference.

"I used to wait rather than go to the toilet in the night," she said. "It wasn't safe."
Updating this information with an October, 2010 press release announcing that the United Nations Human Rights Council had declared safe, clean drinking water to be a basic human right, it appears that the facts have changed very little. "Almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies also indicate about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year and 443 million school days are lost because of water- and sanitation-related diseases." In fact, some places, merely fetching the water from the stream can be hazardous for the women and girls. A 2008 press release from South Africa AUMONITOR quotes UNICEF to the effect that fetching water can often be dangerous for African women and girls:
However, over half of Africa’s women and girls have no access to clean water and sanitation. According to UNICEF, “in rural Africa, 19 per cent of women spend more than one hour on each trip to fetch water, an exhausting and often dangerous chore that robs them of the chance to work and learn”.

The UN Human Development Report (HDR) for 2006, “Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis” noted that poor governance was at the root of water scarcity and lack of access to sanitation, asserting that the “global crisis in water (…) reinforces the obscene inequalities of life that divide rich and poor”.
And yet, recent reports on the mis-use of large aid agencies' funds make one think twice about how one gives aid. Think carefully about how to send help. Do not just send money to large aid agencies, where sadly, large quantities are bled off by corrupt government officials who then leave the vast majority of the victims' lives unchanged. Look for agencies that use the money with very little overhead, to build directly and work with local charities who are long-time in place. Use Charity Navigator or a similar checker to see if the agency or charity you are thinking of is a good one. For instance, I ran across WaterAid America as I was researching this blog post. The more I read about it, the better it sounded. So I ran it through Charity Navigator and I was pleased to see it got a very good rating. Be careful how you spend your charitable dollars!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Research Guides on Bullying and LGBT Teens, Suicide Prevention

Thank our colleagues at Santa Clara University Law Library and the ALA's LGBT Roundtable for two very timely resources:

The New York Public Library has a Gay Teen Suicide web page of Resources for LGBT teens and those who care about them, including 24-hour hotlines (for instance, 1-866-in addition to books. They also include a link to this YouTube video:

ItGetsBetter, words of wisdom from LGBT adults, who also lived through the difficult times, and survived, and can tell about how it does, get better. A similar YouTube message comes from Ellen DeGeneres, in this YouTube video. These videos bring hope. And it's largely a good thing. Except that for some LGBQT youth, it doesn't get better. Sad to say, especially for trans, for LGBT youth of color, things really may not get better as they grow up. It depends on where they live. Perhaps the newer generation will be more tolerant. We need to be alert in our communities to help make it better. has a Let's Make it Better for LBGT Youth, which actually has lots of self-help stuff. Lots of Civil Rights info with links to legal organizations like GLAD, Lambda Legal and ACLU, warning signs of depression and suicidal tendencies, another "It Gets Better" video, and lots of links to great support groups like TransYouth and Family Allies, TransActive, and Gender Spectrum. They have helpful hints for adults, petitions, and the 24/7 Trevor Hotline to talk about the problems of finding your gender/sexual preference identity at a time when life is already difficult for any teen:

1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386) and now on the Trevor Project website, a good informational resource for those who may feel isolated. The nice thing about this one is that it does not rely on books, and it has information links on all sorts of things that may not be accessible or may be taboo, depending on your family, culture, religion and/or geographic location.

LGBT youth are at higher risk for homelessness and subsequent exploitation than any other group. There are a number of specialized shelters and a few legal services that specialize in serving this group. In Boston, I know that Northeastern University Law School has a new clinic that focuses on the legal issues of LGBT youth, and works with a shelter service. It may be the Waltham House, a specialized segment of the Home for Little Wanderers, but I had the impression that it was a different program, which may not show up on a web search.

In New York City, there are,

In Los Angeles, I find the Gay and Lesbian Center,

Her Juicebox offers a listing by state of further resources, and seems to be up to date.

For parents of gay, lesbian, bi- or trans youth, Scott Bidstrup offers a bunch of resources that looks as though it might be somewhat dated, but a lot of advice is certainly timeless.

For teachers and folks in teaching-type positions, there is a helpful video titled, "Coming Out" in The Art of Teaching series. It's obviously aimed at high school teachers, but it may be helpful for people in other types of educational institutions, because it deals with stopping bullying, pervasive hostile environments and dealing sensitively with fragile students.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Prosecutorial Misconduct--Part 2

USA Today's series on prosecutorial misconduct has continued with an article discussing whether prosecutors' offices that hid exculpatory evidence should be immune from prosecution. This issue is in the news because of the case--Connick v. Thompson (09-571)--that was argued before the Supreme Court on October 6. "The court's answer could determine the extent to which prosecutors' employers are also shielded if they fail to make sure attorneys comply with their constitutional responsibilities." The Thompson case is a particularly egregious example of prosecutorial misconduct.

John Thompson was convicted of murder and carjacking in New Orleans and sentenced to be executed for the murder.

A month before his execution date, his lawyers discovered that prosecutors had deliberately covered up a police lab report that showed he could not have committed the carjacking. Then they uncovered still more evidence that undermined his murder conviction.
Thompson was released in 2003 after serving eighteen years in prison, including fourteen on death row. Today he runs a non-profit organization in New Orleans, Resurrection After Exoneration, to help other victims of wrongful convictions. Thompson is not suing the individual prosecutors who tried his case; he is suing the district attorney's office, alleging that it "didn't train its attorneys about their legal obligation to turn over evidence that could help defendants prove their innocence." My colleague, Professor Bennett Gershman, who has written extensively about prosecutorial misconduct, is quoted by USA Today:
"The importance of [Thompson's] case is prosecutorial accountability--whether or not violations of constitutional rights make a difference, or whether the prosecutors can just walk away without any accountability, any liability, any punishment, for breaking the law."
Prosecutors around the country will be watching the Thompson case closely.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Response to Justice Scalia

Pace Law School hosted the Blaine Sloan Lecture on International Law on Monday, October 4. This year's speaker was the Honorable Michael Kirby, formerly a justice of the High Court of Australia; when he stepped down from the bench in 2009, he was Australia's longest serving justice. More information about Justice Kirby is available here. In addition to Justice Kirby's biography, you will also find a link to a video of the lecture. I thoroughly enjoyed his remarks. In a genial and eloquent manner, he put forth the rationale for judges to review how the courts of foreign countries have looked at the issues that have come before them as a way of informing their own decision-making process; this approach is rejected by Justice Antonin Scalia and the other conservative members of the United States Supreme Court. Justices Scalia and Stephen Breyer have debated the controversial issue of original intent. To hear their debate at the Supreme Court Historical Society, click here.

According to Justice Kirby, the United States created the international system that has existed ever since World War II. In every area of human endeavor except one--the law--the United States is an outward-looking nation and seeks input from other countries. It would be inconceivable for American scientists, physicians, engineers, artists, and writers to cut themselves off from foreign influences, but that is precisely what American judges like Justice Scalia do when they refuse to recognize that foreign judicial decisions might inform their deliberations. This is particularly true when construing an international treaty to which the United States is a party, but is also true when deciding a case involving the United States Constitution. Justice Kirby recognizes that the decisions of other courts would never bind the United States Supreme Court, but they might provide useful insights, especially when they come from other common-law systems. Justice Kirby believes that our Constitution should not remain frozen in the times during which it was written, but can apply to modern situations that its Framers could not possibly have imagined. Justice Kirby's speech is well worth listening to.

False Confessions

Everyone in law enforcement knows that "nothing is more powerful than a confession." Robert Kolker, in the New York article "I Did It," goes on to state that

Decades of research on jury verdicts has [sic] demonstrated that no other form of evidence--not eyewitnesses, not a video record of the crime, not even DNA--is as convincing to a jury as a defendant who says "I did it." The police, of course, understand the power of confessions and rely on interrogation techniques to produce them quickly so they can clear their cases.

Kolker describes the case of Frank Sterling, a New York man who spent eighteen years in jail for a murder he did not commit.

Despite having a solid alibi, Sterling confessed to the murder and his videotaped confession was the "centerpiece" of the prosecution's case. A few days later, the police learned that another man was telling people that he'd committed the murder, but they chose not to pursue the lead as Sterling had already confessed. Why did Sterling confess to the murder if he did not commit it? He says that the police wore him down during twelve hours of interrogation and that he was deprived of sleep. They did not ask him to describe the crime, but rather asked him a number of leading questions. Sterling now feels that he wasn't in his right mind at the time and just wanted the ordeal to come to an end. He would have said anything the police wanted him to say if it meant he could go home. This, of course, is one criticism that has been leveled at aggressive interrogation techniques used against suspected terrorists.

The police officers who interrogated Sterling employed techniques laid out in a well-known handbook, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, by John E. Reid and Fred Inbau. First published in 1962, the handbook defined "the culture of police-interrogation training for the past half-century." Kolker describes the technique as follows:
The procedure basically involves three stages meant to break down a suspect's defenses and rebuild him as a confessor. First, the suspect is brought into custody and isolated from his familiar surroundings. ... Next the interrogator lets the suspect know he's guilty ... The interrogator then floats a theory of the case, which the manual calls a "theme." ... In the final stage, the interrogator cozies up to the subject and provides a way out. This is when the interrogator uses the technique known as "minimization"...

This leads to a confession. The Reid method is described in some detail here.
This method "wasn't physically coercive, [but] was certainly psychologically so. The Supreme Court's 1966 Miranda decision singled out the Reid method for creating a potentially coercive environment, citing it as one reason suspects needed to be informed of their right to remain silent."

After Sterling had served four years of his sentence, his appeals lawyer filed a new motion to overturn his conviction, which was rejected. The lawyer filed four more motions over the next eght years, but none was successful. In 2004, they sought the assistance of Cardozo Law School's Innocence Project, which "has won wide acclaim for its work in freeing the wrongly convicted." DNA evidence pointed to the man who had said he'd committed the murder shortly after Sterling's conviction, and he eventually confessed. Sterling was freed in April of this year.

How can false confessions be prevented? Probably the easiest way is to videotape "every minute of every police interrogation," a practice that is made much easier since the advent of digital recordings. Kolker reports that eighteen states (more than 800 jurisdictions) are now taping interrogations. New York is among the states that do not videotape whole interrogations (usually only confessions), although the State Bar Association has called for videotaping the entire interrogation. Click here for more information about the Association's work to reduce the incidence of wrongful convictions in New York State. Two police precincts in New York City will test recording interrogations in early 2011. Despite opposition from some members of the police force, "research shows that police and prosecutors forced to tape their interrogations often wind up supporting the practice [which] can lead to fewer motions to suppress and fewer claims that suspects were unduly deceived or abused."

Monday, October 04, 2010

COICA Internet Censorship and Copyright Bill

The "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (COICA), Senate Bill 3804 was just introduced on September 20, 2010, but seems to be moving quickly through the Judiciary Committee. Much opposition has arisen to the bill, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which then offers links to:

* an open letter to the Judiciary Committee from 87 (and a growing number of other) prominent concerned computer engineers in opposition to the bill;

* a letter of concern to the Judiciary Committee from a coalition of library organizations, including AALL.

EFF includes a nice analysis of the unintended consequences that these groups foresee from this law, which seems to be put forward with the interests of the RIAA in mind. The bill is aimed at shutting down piracy sites. But the analysts foresee both overreaching and the sort of tone-deaf dealing with global concerns that has been too often a problem with U.S. international relations. This is just concerning the Internet, because of the fact that the Domain Name Registry is legally within the jurisdiction of the U.S., like most of the Internet. Here are a few comments snipped from a longer blog post by Richard Esguerra:

This flawed bill would allow the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to break the Internet one domain at a time — by requiring domain registrars/registries, ISPs, DNS providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites. The bill would also create two Internet blacklists. The first is a list of all the websites hit with a censorship court order from the Attorney General. The second, more worrying, blacklist is a list of domain names that the Department of Justice determines — without judicial review — are "dedicated to infringing activities." The bill only requires blocking for domains in the first list, but strongly suggests that domains on the second list should be blocked as well by providing legal immunity for Internet intermediaries and DNS operators who decide to block domains on the second blacklist as well. (It's easy to predict that there will be tremendous pressure for Internet intermediaries of all stripes to block these "deemed infringing" sites on the second blacklist.) (snip)

The misuse of the existing DMCA provisions have had a tremendously damaging impact on fair use and free expression. By comparison, COICA streamlines and vastly expands this; it would allow the AG to shoot down a whole domain including all the blog posts, images, backups, and files underneath it. In other words, it's not just possible but probable that a great deal of legitimate, protected speech will be taken down in the name of copyright enforcement.

It is designed to undermine basic Internet infrastructure. When a user enters "" into their web browser, what responds is a domain name system server that tells the users' browser where EFF's website is located on the Internet. This bill would have the Attorney General prevent the players in that domain name system (possibly including your ISP) from telling you the truth about a website's location. (snip)

COICA sends the world the message that the United States approves of unilateral Internet censorship. Which governments deny their citizens access to parts of the Internet? For now, it is mostly totalitarian, profoundly anti-democratic regimes that keep their citizens from seeing the whole Internet. With this bill, the United States risks telling countries throughout the world, "Unilateral censorship of websites that the government doesn't like is okay — and this is how you do it."

The bill's imbalances threaten to complicate existing laws and policies. The bill includes poorly drafted definitions that threaten fair use online, endanger innovative backup services, and raises questions about how these new obligations on Internet intermediaries are intended to fit with existing US secondary liability rules and the DMCA copyright safe harbor regime. Moreover, it seems easy to get on the blacklist — the bill sets up a seemingly streamlined procedure for adding domains (including a McCarthy-like procedure of public snitching) — but in contrast, it seems difficult to get off the list, with a cumbersome process to have a blacklisted domain removed. (snip)
Esguerra goes on to note, as the engineers did in their letter, that it will be easy to create work-arounds that will create underground domains that will be easy to get to, but harder to control. That is, the COICA, far from stamping out music or video piracy, will drive it underground where it will continue to thrive, but be far harder to control. In the process, it will destroy the architecture of the Internet, breaking apart the global marketplace that has been so useful and lucrative in the U.S. and around the world. What a short-sighted and poorly thought out bill! I urge you to contact your Senators to tell them if you think the bill should stop now.

Tip of the OOTJ hat to my colleague Roy Balleste, who alerted many law librarians to this issue with an e-mail.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Sound of Babylonian

Anyone who has ever studied a "dead" language such as Ancient Greek or Latin has wondered what it really sounded like when it was the vernacular. The problem is compounded when the language is Babylonian, which hasn't been spoken in several millennia. An article describes a website that offers short audio files of Babylonian texts recorded by a number of different scholars. The extracts come from such well-known works as the Code of Hammurabi, one of the world's oldest set of laws, and The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is interesting to listen to the snippets and hear the native accents of the speakers come through. Babylonian sounds a lot like Hebrew to me, which makes sense because both are Semitic languages, as is Arabic. However, Professor Martin Worthington, the leader of the project and a well-known Assyriologist who teaches at Cambridge University, says he thinks Babylonian sounds "'a bit like a mixture of Arabic and Italian.'" I don't hear any echoes of Italian, but I defer to Professor Worthington's superior knowledge in this area. The image is of the Code of Hammurabi on a stele held by the Louvre Museum in Paris.