A plea to scholars

Dear scholars,

Please pay attention to where you place your scholarship.   Are you aware of the cost of some journal subscriptions?  One example, of many, is the Journal of Law & Society.  The Stanford Law Library used to get this print subscription with discounted rate and paid $161 for the current 2013 print subscription. We just received word from Hein (who handles the subscription for us) that the publisher will begin to charge us the full price with an additional payment of $851.00.

What made me think of this was the receipt yesterday of a new publication from my hero Carl Malamud.  Carl has become quite the pamphleteer and his most recent is On Crime and Access to Knowledge.    I urge you all to read it.

In the pamphlet, Carl tells the story of the late Aaron Swartz and discusses JSTOR, PACER, and broader information access issues such as Carl’s heroic efforts to make public safety documents, such as building codes, available to the public.

But on the issue of what Aaron did with JSTOR, Carl makes this important point:

. . . One must remember that JSTOR is a messenger, an intermediary, and if there is fault here, that fault is ultimately the fault of the scholars who wrote those articles and allowed them to be locked up.  It was a corruption of scholarship when the academy handed over copyright to knowledge so that it could be rationed in order to extract rents.

Please think twice before you place a piece of your scholarship with a particular journal.  Find out what it costs to subscribe to the journal; find out what databases include its text (your librarian can help with this); ask the journal if you can retain ownership and publication rights.  And ask yourself:  Do you really want your scholarship tightly locked up behind expensive pay walls?

 

Boing Boing Posting “Liberating America’s Secret, For-Pay Laws”

Boing Boing, a group blog that started out as a zine, has recently posted an interesting and provocative piece by Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org:

Liberating America’s Secret, For-Pay Laws

Cross-posted on Law Library Blog.

New Legal Bug Tracker Tool: Call for Debugging Help

Our friend — and technologist, author, public domain advocate, currently known for his foundation public.resource.org and as a leader in the Law.gov effort to bring online all primary legal source materials (cases, constitutions, ordinances, regulations, rules, statutes) for open public access — Carl Malamud is calling for help to debug the new Law.gov open source NILM (National Inventory of Legal Materials) Legal Bug Tracker tool:

Help us debug the Legal Bug Tracker

Law.Gov Report Contest

From our great friend Carl Malamud:

Public.Resource.Org is pleased to announce the Law.Gov Report contest. A series of 15 workshops were conducted that resulted in a strong consensus on 10 core principles. Those workshops also produced a huge amount of material to work with including presentations by many of the leading lights in the field.

We’ve put a great deal of thought into how to do the report on this process that has been requested by members of Congress, the Courts, and the Administration and have concluded that we should take a page from the playbook of the founding fathers, which is to get a consensus on some high-level concepts (in their case the Constitution, in our case the Law.Gov principles) and then allow many people to all explain what those concepts mean (in their case, The Federalist Papers, in our case this contest being announced today).

The Law.Gov Report is a contest. We will accept submissions as a written essay or as a video essay.  The topic is really quite simple: What Does Law.Gov mean? You can write about one of the principles, or all of the principles, or any other take on the topic.

For the video essays, there is a tremendous amount of high-resolution footage available you can draw with talks by luminaries such as Vint Cerf, Larry Lessig, John Podesta, and many others. We have released final mixes of the first 27 talks and the remaining high-res footage will be available by mid-November.

If you submit an essay, please keep a couple of points in mind. First, you must attach a liberal license to your work or we will not accept it. That means at a minimum a Creative Commons license that allows derivative works with attribution, and we’d prefer if you simply used CC-Zero or Public Domain. You must also submit your work in a form that we can use for republication. In the case of a written essay, you can submit in PDF, but we’d also like revisable form text such as HTML or a word processing format. For your video, this needs to be high-resolution (you should shoot for at least NTSC size and at least several megabits per second on the encoding) and a relatively open codec (H.264/MP4, MP2, WebM).

The winning written essay will receive a prize of $5,000. The winning video essay will also receive a prize of $5,000. Submissions are due before Memorial Day (May 31). Winners will be announced the day after Labor Day at a prize ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The Memorial Day deadline was set so that students can consider making this a class project. We hope that professors in law schools, i-schools, journalism schools, and any other discipline will let their students know about this contest and offer them credit in their classes for preparing a submission.

Public.Resource.Org has put $10,000 into the Law.Gov Report Prize Fund. If others wish to contribute prizes such as books, conference tickets, lunch with a justice, or other items of educational value, please contact us.

If you have questions about the contest, please ask them on this list or contact Carl Malamud at Public.Resource.Org. (You can find his email address on the about page.)

Here are a few resources for you to work with:

1. The Law.Gov videos on YouTube

2. The Law.Gov videos on the Internet Archive

3. Directory of final footage

4. Miscellaneous additional law.gov materials

Two Million Dollar Gift for Law.Gov

Today, Google announced the winners of their Project 10^100 , giving 10 million dollars in total to ideas that will help change the world.  (Short video of the winning ideas here.)

Law.Gov is one of the winners.  As the Google posting states:

Public.Resource.Org is a non-profit organization focused on enabling online access to public government documents in the United States. We are providing $2 million to Public.Resource.Org to support the Law.Gov initiative, which aims to make all primary legal materials in the United States available to all.

What great news!

Carl Malamud writes on the O”Reilly Radar today: “This grant is going to help Public.Resource.Org continue our work on Law.Gov and Video.Gov. For Law.Gov, this is going to mean a shift into real production, building on the very solid consensus that was reached earlier this year on the Core Law.Gov Principles.

Carl Malamud also shared a status update for Law.gov efforts in that post.  Beyond the amazing gift from Google, the big updates include:

  1. Before the Law.Gov Report can be finished, video from the 15 Law.Gov workshops needs cleaning up and cataloging. ” Point.B Studio and Foolish Tree Films have been hard at work creating a 15-DVD set of workshop proceedings with approximately 70 pieces of video. The video will all get released as a final mix on the net as well as on DVDs printed at Lulu, and this core will form the basis for the next steps of the report.”
  2. To help further the National Inventory of Legal Materials,  there will soon be a “bug tracker where people can enter their survey results, in particular creating trouble tickets for jurisdictions that violate the Law.Gov Core Principles.”
  3. Carl Malamud is close to “a final agreement with UC Hastings and the Internet Archive to scan 3 million pages of 9th Circuit briefs.”  And, Malamud has sent California’s Title 24 out to be “double-keyed, turning it from PDF scans into valid marked up hypertext.”   Carl Malamud is also working on an effort to make fully available online the local codes of his surrounding North Bay Area communities.

More developments are coming up.

The supremely expensive Supreme Court Reporter Advance Sheets Service

 

Our friend Carl Malamud just sent out a tweet:

If law librarians remain content to be purchasing agents, law libraries will die. *do* something! talk is easy, action requires effort.

Carl’s tweet arrived while I was reviewing our latest West monthly invoice.  I see that the Supreme Court Reporter advance sheet subscription has jumped up 34% from $ 547 last year to $ 730.69, and that’s with a $ 120.83 “Product Dependency Discount” (whatever that is).  Apparently the full sticker price for this subscription is $ 851.52.

I remember well when professors would sit in the faculty library,  smoke their pipes and read the advance sheets.  But those days are long, long gone.  Arguably SCOTUSblog.com and its wiki have more up-to-date information than the West advance sheets.  And SCOTUS itself does an admirable job of posting opinions.

Isn’t this service really quite obsolete?  If you think otherwise, I would welcome comments posted as we mull over whether or not we will cancel.

Codifying Commonsense – the Law.gov Principles

I am very pleased and proud to add my signature to the LAW.GOV PRINCIPLES AND DECLARATION just posted at public.resource.org.  These principles coalesced during the fifteen Law.gov workshops and have received the unanimous consent of the co-covenors of these Law.gov workshops.  The principles include items that we librarians have discussed for years, even decades, like vendor-neutral citation.  And these principles are consistent with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform States Laws (NCCUSL) draft of a new “Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.”

Here are the principles:

The primary legal materials of the United States are the raw materials of our democracy. They should be made more broadly available to enable an informed citizenry.

Primary legal materials include documents of primary authority issued by governmental bodies, such as court opinions, statutes, and regulations. They also include the supporting documents and other media issued and maintained by those bodies, such as dockets, hearings, forms, oral arguments, and legislative histories. These materials can be found in every branch, at every level, national, tribal, state and local, and should be available to anyone with the will and the heart to obtain them.

The following principles should govern the dissemination of primary legal materials in the United States:

1. Direct fees for dissemination of primary legal materials should be avoided.

2. Limitations on access through terms of use or the assertion of copyright on primary legal materials is contrary to long-standing public policy and core democratic principles and is misleading to citizens.

3. Primary legal materials should be made available using bulk access mechanisms so they may be downloaded by anyone.

4. The primary legal materials, and the methods used to access them, should be authenticated so people can trust in the integrity of these materials.

5. Historical archives should be made available online and in a static location to the extent possible.

6. Vendor- and media-neutral citation mechanisms should be employed.

7. Technical standards for document structure, identifiers, and metadata should be developed and applied as extensively as possible.

8. Data should be distributed in a computer-processable, non-proprietary form in a manner that meets best current practices for the distribution of open government data. That data should represent the definitive documents, not just aggregate, preliminary, or modified forms.

9. An active program of research and development should be sponsored by governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials to develop new standards and solutions to challenges presented by the electronic distribution of definitive primary legal materials. Examples include the automated detection and redaction of private personal information in documents.

10. An active program of education, training, and documentation should be undertaken to help governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials learn and use best current practices.

Adherence to these principles by governmental bodies is not just good for democracy and justice, it will spur innovation and will encourage:

1. Broader use of legal materials in all parts of our education system, including our law schools.

2. Researchers in law schools, universities, and other research institutions to have broader access to bulk data, spurring important research on the functioning of our government.

3. Innovation in the legal information market by reducing barriers to entry.

4. Savings in the government’s own cost of providing these materials through adherence to best current practices.

5. Small businesses to understand rules and regulations they must deal with, reducing their costs and increasing their effectiveness.

6. Increased foreign trade by making it easier for our foreign partners to understand our laws.

7. Better access to justice by making legal information more broadly available to citizens.

How we distribute the raw materials of our democracy is a foundational issue in our system of government. Access to the raw materials of our democracy is a prerequisite for the rule of law and access to justice and makes real the principles of equal protection and due process.

and here are the signatories:

Jack M. Balkin
Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment
 Yale Law School 

Robert C. Berring, Jr.
Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law
Berkeley Law, University of California 

James Boyle
William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law
 Duke Law School 

Nicholas Bramble
Postdoctoral Associate in Law
 Yale Law School 

Tom R. Bruce
Director, Legal Information Institute
 Cornell Law School 

Richard A. Danner
Archibald C. & Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law
 Duke Law School 

Laura E. DeNardis
Executive Director, Information Society Project
 Yale Law School 

Edward W. Felten
Professor of Computer Science & Public Affairs
 Princeton University 

Jerry Goldman
Professor & Director, Oyez Project
 Northwestern University 

Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate
UC Berkeley and Princeton University

  Jennifer Jenkins
Director, Center for the Study of the Public Domain
 Duke Law School 

Mitchell Kapor
Trustee
 Mitchell Kapor Foundation 

S. Blair Kauffman
Law Librarian and Professor of Law
 Yale Law School 

Mark A. Lemley
William H. Neukom Professor of Law
 Stanford Law School 

Lawrence Lessig
Professor of Law
 Harvard Law School 

Paul Lomio
Director, Robert Crown Law Library
 Stanford Law School 

Carl Malamud
President
 Public.Resource.Org 

Harry S. Martin III
Librarian & Professor of Law Emeritus
 Harvard Law School 

Peter W. Martin
Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law
 Cornell Law School 

John Mayer
Executive Director
Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction

  Judy Meadows
State Law Librarian
 State Law Library of Montana 

Paul Ohm
Associate Professor of Law and Telecommunications
University of Colorado Law School

  Tim O’Reilly
Chief Executive Officer
 O’Reilly Media 

John G. Palfrey
Henry N. Ess III Librarian & Professor of Law
 Harvard Law School 

Pamela Samuelson
Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law
Berkeley Law, University of California

  Stuart Sierra
Assistant Director, Program on Law and Technology
 Columbia Law School 

Stephen Schultze
Associate Director, Center for Information Technology Policy
 Princeton University 

Tim Stanley
Chief Executive Officer
 Justia 

Erika V. Wayne
Deputy Director, Robert Crown Law Library
 Stanford Law School 

Christopher Wong
Postgraduate Fellow
 New York Law School 

Tim Wu
Professor of Law
 Columbia Law School 

Harlan Yu
Doctoral Student in Computer Science
 Princeton University 

Jonathan Zittrain
Professor of Law & Computer Science
 Harvard Law School

Public Means Online

Today’s Washington Post features an editorial supporting the new Public Online Information Act, H.R. 4858.

[Rep. Steve Israel, D-NY] “has introduced the Public Online Information Act (POIA), a sensible and modest bill that could nevertheless be a catalyst for important changes in how the federal government thinks about and handles public information. It could also lead to greater transparency in the workings of the government.”

As the folks at the Sunlight Foundation have noted: “public means online.”

However, the realities of getting the bill passed means that it does have its limits.  Most notably, “public information generated by Congress, including real-time lobbying registrations, is exempt from the mandatory provision, as are public filings within the judicial branch.”

But with Law.gov and other transparency efforts ongoing, we can be hopeful for even bigger changes down the road.

Yesterday, Carl Malamud gave a rousing talk to the NOCALL Spring Institute about Law.gov.

[By the way, NOCALL throws down an amazing Spring Institute every year -- this year was no exception!  Besides the terrific parties, they always pull in a great range of speakers and topics, from Ryan Calo (on Privacy Tools) to Mark Sirkin (on New Roles in the Law Firm of the Future).  Many attendees spoke highly of the forum on the Google Book Settlement, featuring Mary Minow, Gary Reback and Andrew Bridges.  On Saturday, I enjoyed demonstrating the awesome RECAP plug-in -- hopefully, more folks will be downloading PACER court documents to the archive. ]

Malamud’s inspirational Law.gov talk got the crowd buzzing.  NOCALL members are already involved in the prototype of a national law inventory for the Law.gov effort.  And, invigorating talks like this one should help spread the word and add more volunteers to the project.    As Malamud mentioned, the inventory will help provide key metrics for the Law.gov report (for example: how many municipalities assert copyright over their regulations).

While the California legal inventory is now underway, more work is needed [READ: please contact me if you would like to volunteer to help!].  And, other AALL chapters/working groups should be starting their legal inventory projects very shortly.

For those who are still curious about Law.gov and for those who are contemplating volunteering for their own state legal inventory project(s), I encourage you to view at least one of Malamud’s Law.gov talks online and/or read his “By the People” pamphlet.

Stay tuned…As “public means online’, Law.gov equals change.

John B. West and other non lawyers who have revolutionized legal research

The latest issue of The American Journal of Legal History just landed on my desk.  It includes an article by Robert M. Jarvis, “John B. West:  Founder of the West Publishing Company.”   There are all sorts of fascinating facts about Mr. West in the article, including (and maybe everyone knows this but me) how he called for uniform citation way back in 1908.  From a footnote:

. . . [West] calls attention to the necessary multiplication of citations caused by the different unofficial publication of reports . . . [and] contends that reports of decisions are simply official documents which should be filed in numerical order and cited with reference to their numbers.  Under this system no matter how many decisions or systems of reporting be adopted each case can be readily found and cited by reference to this official number, entirely regardless of the volume and page of the particular publication.

The article details West’s (the man) falling out with West (the company).  “John called for the elimination of unofficial case reporters . . . [and] likewise derided the West digest system . . . “

In his conclusion to the article, Professor Jarvis remarks:

In thinking about John, two matters particularly stand out.  One is the pure randomness of his life.  If he had not moved to St. Paul and gotten a sales job with D.D. Merrill, he would not have met the lawyers he did and ended up inventing the case reporter and the digest.  It is possible, of course, that someone else might have done these things, but if not, the legal system would have developed along very different lines.

Second, there is the question of how a man who did not go to college, and was untrained in law, was able to devise methods that revolutionized legal research and, by extension, legal practice.  Why was no judge or lawyer able to see what he saw?  Perhaps the answer is that they were not looking, or perhaps it took an outsider to see what the cognoscenti could not.

This question of how a non lawyer can be such a leader in legal research struck me last quarter while we were teaching advanced legal research.  Two of our guest speakers are true revolutionaries in legal research — Carl Malamud from public.resource.org and Tom Bruce from the Cornell Legal Information Institute.   Both men are leading the free law revolution (and if Law.gov takes off, legal research will never be the same), and neither are lawyers.  Or law librarians, for that matter.

Here’s the cite to the article:

Robert M. Jarvis, “John B. West: Founder of the West Publishing Company,” The American Journal of Legal History, Volume L, Number 1, pages 1-22, January 2008-2010 (2010)

Increasing Public Access to Government Data and Laws

Our friend and hero Carl Malamud is quoted in a “special report on managing information” from the February 25, 2010 issue of The Economist.

We’ll be making the article, “The open society: Governments are letting in the light,” required reading for our advanced legal research class.

The article discusses efforts and impediments, at both the local and national level, to making government information freely available.

Locally the article quotes San Francisco CIO Chris Vein on how “providing more information can make government more efficient.”  An example is a site called San Francisco Crimespotting “that layers historical crime figures on top of map information.”  The article notes that “[o]ther cities, including New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, are racing ahead as well.”

The article goes on to say that “[o]ther parts of the world are also beginning to move to greater openness.  A European Commission directive in 2005 called for making public-sector information more accessible.”

The article also discusses some of the impediments, such as Crown copyright where “in Britain and the Commonwealth countries most government data is state property” and there are use constraints, and PACER’s paywall.

The direction is for more openness and for “new forms of collaboration between the public and private sectors.”  And as the article concludes:

John Stuart Mill in 1861 called for “the widest participation in the details of judicial and administrative business . . . above all by the utmost possible publicity.” These days, that includes the greatest possible disclosure of data by electronic means.