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?

 

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.

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.

Law.gov video presentation now online!

In a January 2, 2010 op-ed in the New York Times entitled “A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers,” California Chief Justice Ronald George and New Hampshire Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. asked “how can we help those who are left to represent themselves in court?”

One thing we can do is make the law of the nation freely available.  Today much of the law remains behind a pay wall, often a very expensive pay wall.

There have been efforts to liberate the law — five guys at Cornell (Cornell’s Legal Information Institute), three guys at Google (Google Scholar legal opinions), and others.  The federal government has made strides too, eCFR remains a model of free, updated legal content, but as the first paragraph explains on the eCFR website disclaims, “It is not an official legal edition of the CFR.”  State government efforts are as varied as the 50 states and District of Columbia.

So what to do?

Law.gov is a campaign to identify what a national law registry should include, and to make recommendations to the policy makers on how to structure a repository of all primary legal materials (and maybe more) at all levels of government.

The Stanford Law Library hosted a Law.gov kickoff event on January 12, 2010 and the day’s events included a terrific panel discussion with Carl Malamud, Anurag Acharya (Google Scholar lead engineer) and law professor Jonathan Zittrain, moderated by Stanford Law School lecturer Roberta Morris.  We now have a streaming video link from this discussion and it’s definitely worth viewing:

http://www.law.stanford.edu/calendar/details/3717/#related_media

A big day for Free Law

See Google post below.  And stay tuned for another announcement tomorrow, which will be yet another big day for Free Law.   And we here at Stanford have something cooking too.  Stay tuned.

Take a look at this posting and its comments too, from the Supreme Court of Texas Blog.

 

 

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/finding-laws-that-govern-us.html

 

Finding the laws that govern us
 
11/17/2009 09:05:00 AM

As many of us recall from our civics lessons in school, the United States is a common law country. That means when judges issue opinions in legal cases, they often establish precedents that will guide the rulings of other judges in similar cases and jurisdictions. Over time, these legal opinions build, refine and clarify the laws that govern our land. For average citizens, however, it can be difficult to find or even read these landmark opinions. We think that’s a problem: Laws that you don’t know about, you can’t follow � or make effective arguments to change.

Starting today, we’re enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in. For example, go to Google Scholar, click on the “Legal opinions and journals” radio button, and try the query separate but equal. Your search results will include links to cases familiar to many of us in the U.S. such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, which explore the acceptablity of “separate but equal” facilities for citizens at two different points in the history of the U.S. But your results will also include opinions from cases that you might be less familiar with, but which have played an important role.

We think this addition to Google Scholar will empower the average citizen by helping everyone learn more about the laws that govern us all. To understand how an opinion has influenced other decisions, you can explore citing and related cases using the Cited by and Related articles links on search result pages. As you read an opinion, you can follow citations to the opinions to which it refers. You can also see how individual cases have been quoted or discussed in other opinions and in articles from law journals. Browse these by clicking on the “How Cited” link next to the case title. See, for example, the frequent citations for Roe v. Wade, for Miranda v. Arizona (the source of the famous Miranda warning) or for Terry v. Ohio (a case which helped to establish acceptable grounds for an investigative stop by a police officer).

As we worked to build this feature, we were struck by how readable and accessible these opinions are. Court opinions don’t just describe a decision but also present the reasons that support the decision. In doing so, they explain the intricacies of law in the context of real-life situations. And they often do it in language that is surprisingly straightforward, even for those of us outside the legal profession. In many cases, judges have gone quite a bit out of their way to make complex legal issues easy to follow. For example, in Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court justices present a fascinating and easy-to-follow debate on the legality of internment of natural born citizens based on their ancestry. And in United States v. Ramirez-Lopez, Justice Kozinski, in his dissent, illustrates the key issue of the case using an imagined good-news/bad-news dialogue between the defendant and his attorney.

We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate herself about the laws of the land: Tom Bruce (Cornell LII), Jerry Dupont (LLMC), Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray (AustLII), Carl Malamud (Public.Resource.Org), Daniel Poulin (LexUM), Tim Stanley (Justia), Joe Ury (BAILII), Tim Wu (AltLaw) and many others. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps. We would also like to acknowledge the judges who have built this cathedral of justice brick by brick and have tried to make it accessible to the rest of us. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of these giants.

Posted by Anurag Acharya, Distinguished Engineer

GPO VIP Visit at SLS today

Our special guest today in the law library was the Honorable Robert (Bob) Tapella, Public Printer of the U.S and CEO of the GPO.  

We chatted about all things GPO, from cheering the recent launch of an XML Federal Register to learning about the eventual phasing out of GPO Access  (it’s being succeeded by the very impressive FDSys) to why Bob likes to pronouce it F-D Sys and not Fed Sys to discussing the Federal Depository Library Program and, of course, PACER.    

We learned that the GPO does not want to be in the web portal business; instead, they want to make government documents widely available to the public and keep them archived in perpetuity.   The Federal Register XML project is a fine example of this mission and their new initiatives.

Joining us for lunch were a number of Stanford Law  folks and Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org. 

After lunch, Bob Tapella stopped by our Advanced Legal Research class.  On Monday, one of our students had an excellent question regarding overlapping government websites.  And, lucky for our student, Bob Tapella was able to join us for an expert answer.   I’m not sure we can bring in the head of every agency that our students raise questions about, but we can try!

GPO Visit to Stanford

Left to right:  CEO of GPO Bob Tapella; Stanford Law Library Director Paul Lomio; Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.org; Roland Vogl, Executive Director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science & Technology; Library Deputy Director Erika Wayne; E-Resources and Serials Librarian Brian Provenzale

Geeks seek to make the law Googleable; RECAP in WSJ

Buried on page W13 of today’s Wall Street Journal  is a must-read piece by Katherine Mangu-Ward, “Transparency Chic.”

As the author makes clear:

. . . no aspect of government remains more locked down than the secretive, hierarchical judicial branch. Digital records of court filings, briefs and transcripts sit behind paywalls like Lexis and Westlaw. Legal codes and judicial documents aren’t copyrighted, but governments often cut exclusive distribution deals, rendering other access methods a bit legally questionable. . . .

Which leads her to discuss RECAP:

. . . [Stephen Schultz, Tim Lee and Harlan Wu] whipped up a sleek little add-on to the popular Firefox Internet browser called RECAP (PACER spelled backward). Legit users of the federal court system download it. Then each time they drop eight pennies, it deposits a copy of the page in the free Internet archive. This data joins other poached information, all of which is formatted, relabeled and made searchable—the kind of customer service government tends to skimp on. . . .

This might be the first mainstream press mention of RECAP, which is something we are all abuzz about here.

The author of the Wall Street Journal piece, Katherine Mangu-Ward, a senior editor at Reason magazine, is apparently a bit of a geek herself, giving a Twitter shoutout to those who helped her write the piece:

@kmanguward Thanks @binarybits @carlmalamud @cshirky @evwayne for info, perspective, and snappy quotes in “Transparency Chic” http://tinyurl.com/navyvj

@evwayne is, of course, our very own Erika Wayne who was interviewed for the piece.

Vive la Revolution & America’s Operating System

Earlier today, (imho) there was a trending-topic-in-the-making on Twitter — all of these tweets had two things in common: the phrase “Open Source the Law” and thanks to Public.Resource.Org and BoingBoing.  

Why?

Well, BoingBoing recently posted about the latest effort by Carl Malamud and Public.Resource.org to liberate “America’s operating system.” 

As Cory Doctorow summarizes, these “actions taken together are trying to establish a basic principle: the laws of our society need to be readily available for all to read, not locked behind a cash register.” 

What did Carl Malamud do? 

Malamud mailed off three letters (on Bastille Day) to the government asking for change.  The first letter was a request to the Executive Office of the President to make the Federal Register and Patent databases available for free in bulk;  the second letter was a FOIA request to the National Archives asking them to make the many pricey ANSI and UL standards that are ‘incorporated by reference’ (in the CFR) available for free; and the third letter (perhaps my favorite) is a request for a refund for the $17K spent on a defective bulk feed of the CFR. [To see the list of all these letters, plus earlier letters, visit public.resource.org’s GPO page.]

[P.S.  If these letters have got your heart beating a bit faster, perhaps you might be interested in signing the petition to improve PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records).]

Techne Interviews Public Printer Candidate Carl Malamud

Techne Interviews Public Printer Candidate Carl Malamud

“Long a proponent of open access to what he calls the ‘operating system’ of the US government — the laws, codes and court cases that regulate our lives in society — Carl Malamud has spent more than a decade working to make government documentation freely available online through his organization public.resource.org. He has recently turned his attention to the GPO and is “running” for the appointment of Public Printer, the head of the GPO and thus of the federal agency that produces a great deal of the same documentation he has previously fought for public access to. Malamud was kind enough to recently take the time to discuss with Techne his proposals for the GPO–such as an RSS feed of the Official Journals of Government–and how the internet and technology are changing, or could change, the relations between a citizenry, its government and the information that passes between the two.”
http://www.technemag.com/?p=400

Source: The Intersect Alert is a newsletter of the Government Relations Committee, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, Special Libraries Association

http://units.sla.org/chapter/csfo/csfo.html

Read the Bill & More

Lots of fresh air today: 

-Noon-time twitter ‘rally’ for the Yes We Scan campaign (#yeswescan) for Carl Malamud

-Just in from the Sunlight Foundation:

In our Read the Billcampaign we are advocating that all bills be placed online for 72 hours prior to consideration. Specifically, the Read the Billcampaign asks that bills be accessible, in text format, online and posted to a commonly visited web site, GPO or THOMAS.

And, midnight tonight (ET):

“Wired is officially launching “Data.gov Is Coming — Let’s Help Build It,”a wiki designed to find and identify important and valuable data sets held by the federal government, and to make them available and usable. ” [snippet from the  Sunlight Foundation]