All posts by WisBlawg

An Update: new CCAP legislation introduced in the Assembly

Earlier this week, a new chapter in the ongoing debate about how to update or change CCAP was written. A bill was introduced that would limit access to civil case information after money judgments have been satisfied and eight years have passed to the Assembly. Two Republican representatives introduced the bill, and it has bipartisan support in the Senate. It would seem seem that the bill may have a better chance of passing than many CCAP legislation predecessors.
CCAP legislation is often introduced, but changes to the database are rare. Democratic Senator Lena Taylor and Representative Evan Goyke introduced a bill in late July of this year that would allow persons to wipe away their records if they were wrongfully convicted. A second CCAP database was proposed for attorneys and others that would have kept all the information intact, but was not viewable by the public. That bill was strongly opposed by a variety of people, ranging from journalists to landlord unions.
The newest bill may finally change CCAP after a year of attempts. For further information, read the full text of the bill from November 22.

Google wins digitalization case

Today, Judge Denny Chin ruled in favor of Google in what may be a landmark case that would enhance Fair Use for digital items. Google argued that scanning in books and publishing ‘snippets’ of the books online (over 20 million and counting) was within the realm of Fair Use, an argument accepted by the Court. Judge Chin explicitly mentioned that the benefit of having the books digitized, stating that “Indeed, all society benefits”.
The case, which began in New York in 2004 (found here) has been a veritable rollercoaster. The ruling, which the Author’s Guild said it would appeal, is a victory for not only Google, but for libraries and researchers that would use these scanned books as research aids. Google only puts certain portions of each scanned book online, and has so far scanned in over 20 million books. With that number of books already scanned, Google estimated it could owe the Author’s Guild over three billion dollars, at roughly $750 dollars per book, if they had lost.
Judge Chin drew on a previous case that that also saw the Author’s Guild claims dismissed. In October 2012, Judge Harold Baer dismissed a case against HathiTrust, a partnership between five research-heavy universities (of which University of Wisconsin is a member), on very similar Fair Use grounds.
The Author’s Guild will appeal the decision in both the HathiTrust and Google cases, arguing that both institutions have violated copyright and far exceeded the bounds of a Fair Use defense by instituting mass scanning. Judge Chin’s ruling found that the scanning not only was beneficial to the public as a whole, but also a transformative work, meaning that copyright was not violated, but rather would likely boost sales instead of impede them.
To read more about this decision, check out the write-ups from Reuters, BBC News or the New York Times.

The University of Wisconsin Digital Collections preserves slices of history

Want to jump in a time machine? The UW Digital Collections (UWDC) is the place to do it. Over the past twelve years, the UWDC has digitized thousands of images and other media from Wisconsin and around the world. One element of librarianship is preservation and it is always exciting to see such wonderful and unique images find a home in an increasingly digital world.
Check out the UW Law School Cane Toss from 1955, or perhaps view German propaganda about Nazi ambitions with a 1938 poster about the Anschluss. These are only a few of the images that I found by browsing various collections. Warning, it is highly addictive finding out what images are on the next page!
The UWDC is not unlike walking through a gigantic museum or archive. History buffs, either casual or serious, will enjoy spending time in these digital ‘halls’. It is a fascinating (and free) way to discover the past. Are there any eras of history or specific events that you feel haven’t been preserved as well as they should be?

New ways to search and browse the US Code

A recent blog entry from the Law Librarians of Congress has detailed some news ways that the US Code can be searched, viewed and downloaded from the Office of Law Revision Council website.
Users can now download section of the code or the entire code in four different formats: XML, XHTML, PCC or PDF. You can also do a bulk download using zip files. For searching and browsing, users can choose to search the entire code or one specific chapter or heading. You can also narrow your search to just one specific kind of entry, such as amendment notes. Possibly best of all for legislative history researchers, you can search either the current code or previous editions of the code.
OLRC’s website can be found here. For more information from the Law Librarians of Congress Blog, read more here.

An Update: Changes for CCAP?

Late last week, a Wisconsin Law Journal article (Subscription required) discussed how the focus of recent bills proposing changes to Wisconsin’s Court Access Website (CCAP) may be changing. The senators who sponsored the bill have received feedback and are re-evaluating what the best step may be to improve CCAP.
The original bill proposed splitting CCAP into two databases: one for the public (which could allow some records to be removed) and one for law enforcement, loan officers and other interested parties that would maintain a complete record of all court cases. After receiving negative feedback on the bill from a wide variety of groups ranging from landlords to broadcasters, the bill is now facing a make-over from original authors Rep. Evan Goyke and Sen. Lena Taylor.
With a shift away from the two database proposal (which would have cost $500,000 to set up and $125,000 a year to maintain according to John Voelker, the Wisconsin State Courts Director), the bill may now focus on expunction.
Expunction has been debated before, most notably in 2007 and 2010. If the change is made, certain records may be removed by judges from CCAP. While the debate is far from over, Voelker has introduced a bill that would allow judges to expunge records of cases that did not lead to conviction. That bill is still looking for a sponsor.
For now, CCAP remains unchanged, but it remains to be seen how long it will stay that way.

A troubling legal research problem: Link Rot

On September 21st, a new study was released on SSRN that details a problem that face researchers, librarians and attorneys with the new online world of legal research. The problem is ‘link rot’, meaning that active URLs, over time, no longer lead to helpful research material. In some cases the information is moved to a new web page. Other times, the host no longer supports the site, or the information was taken down and the link was not updated.
In the study from Harvard University, the most shocking statistics are that 70% of links in the Harvard Law Review (from 1999-2012) and 49% of links in Supreme Court Opinions are no longer working. That is a lot of important information that is being lost or made more difficult to locate.
What can be done to slow down or stop link rot? Many libraries review their records to update and maintain links, but it is a time-consuming venture, and law reviews and other research entities may not have the time or money to undertake the task. One step has already been taken by the author of the study. “Perma”, a project that stores links in a way that they can be continually accessed was created to keep link rot at bay. The project essentially archives links, allowing for them to stay active even if the ‘live’ page is no longer working. Over 30 law libraries are currently partnered with Harvard in the project.
For further information on Link Rot, readYale’s study that presents other ideas about how to combat the problem and what causes link rot. Thanks to Eric Taylor for bringing this important study to the attention of WisBlawg.

Badgerlink gets a facelift

Badgerlink, a unique Wisconsin resource that provides residents with access to music, scholarly works, newspapers, magazines and much more has recently been redesigned. The sight is much more user-friendly, with resource icons, friendlier colors and an intuitive set-up that makes it easy to find what you are looking for.
Badgerlink is available for free to all Wisconsin residents, and the redesign retains all the great content. All that content has been repackaged in a website that is easy on the eyes, and doesn’t confuse the user. Potentially best of all, the Help materials are easy to find, allowing users to get the assistance they need much more quickly.
Check it out for yourself, and let the Badgerlink team“>know what you think works, and maybe what doesn’t. Overall, a great improvement.

Hein Online embraces QR Codes, mobile technology

Hein Online has announced a new way for patrons to use their mobile devices to view and share pdfs. Documents on Hein now include a QR code that link straight to that document, and shows up in your tablet’s internet browser.
I tested this out by searching for a Wisconsin Law Review article from 2013 on my desktop. Once I found it, I clicked on the download/print button that I normally would use to either save it to my computer or print. On the download/print page, there is now a QR code that can be scanned by any reader, and the document will open on your device. Very simple, very helpful!
There are a few caveats with the QR Codes. Not all the documents have a QR code associated with them, but that may change in the future. In addition, there isn’t a really easy way to save the documents to your device. You are essentially getting the ability to view the document ‘on-the-fly’, but there isn’t yet an easy way to put the document into offline mode. However, it is great that there isn’t a need to enter a password once the QR code is scanned!
Below are step-by-step directions on how to use the QR codes in Hein Online:
1. Find your article as usual in Hein.
2. Click on the “Print/Download” button (the button with a printer on it)
3. Once on the print/download screen, you will see a QR Code.
4. Scan this QR code with your device (most devices have a QR scanner already installed, but you can find many for free in App Stores).
5. That’s it! You now have the PDF displayed on your device’s screen. You can share, save or read as you like.
QR codes are a great way to get information across in either digital or physical space. It’s great that Hein is making their material that much more easier to access in the digital age.

Changes for CCAP? New Legislation is Introduced

CCAP, Wisconsin’s online access to Circuit Court Records, may be altered if pending legislation passes. Introduced by Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) in the Senate and Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) in the Assembly, the bill is designed to give persons who were wrongfully arrested a chance to clear their records. Currently, the records that can be accessed by the public include wrongful arrests and any charges, even if they are dropped. The legislation that was introduced wants to give the wrongfully arrested a chance to have that information removed from the CCAP website.
According to Rep. Goyke, “Too many people stop at the initial screen that says [a person is] charged with a crime, and that’s it. And that’s not an accurate picture.” Similar legislation has been debated in the past, and failed. Notably, committees studied the possibility of removing wrongful arrests from CCAP most recently in 2010, but no recommendations were made.
The information would still be available, but not on CCAP. The legislation proposes a separate database that would be accessible for certain groups, such as landlords, court employees, journalists, attorneys, real-estate workers and others that may need to see the information. The County Clerk’s office would also retain records of all arrests and charges that would be available to the public.
Some are concerned that the elimination of information from CCAP may fly in the face of first amendment ‘freedom of information’ rights, while others are leery that private companies could begin charging the public for the information that was once found for free on CCAP.
In addition to the proposed changes to CCAP, the legislation would also require landlords and employers to disclose that they used CCAP information when deciding to deny employment or housing or face a $1,000 fine.
It remains to be seen if this most recent iteration of the CCAP revamp will pass the Senate and Assembly. If so, it will alter how arrest information is made available to the public.
For more information, read the full text of the legislation that was introduced into the Senate.