Category Archives: Data & Databases

WI Historical Society Preserves Text from Scrubbed DNR & other Government Websites

Last month the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “the state Department of Natural Resources recently scrubbed language from an agency web page on the Great Lakes that said humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change. The DNR now says the subject is a matter of scientific debate.”

The web page in question is http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/greatlakes/climatechange.html.  The article gives links to both the current and old text as archived by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a digital archive of web contact back to 1996.

What the Journal Sentinel article didn’t mention is that the archived site is also available through an archive of websites curated by Wisconsin Historical SocietyThe archive contains sites from “state agencies and local governments, political campaigns for gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races and related social media, topical issues such as mining and organic agriculture and selected online publications.”

According to the Historical Society,

This effort aims to provide permanent access to websites and other digital materials for researchers and the general public. By harvesting the content of these websites through the “Archive-It” subscription service, the Wisconsin Historical Society collects, preserves, and makes accessible these electronic publications and records for public use.

What’s the difference between the Wayback Machine and sites collected by the Historical Society you might ask?  Thoughtful curation and searchability.  From the Historical Society FAQ:

The primary difference between the general Wayback Machine web portal and Archive-It websites collected by institutions such as the WHS (which are also viewed through the Wayback portal) is that Archive-It collections are full-text searchable. WHS staff selects websites to preserve in various collections and can capture websites at strategic times, while the general Wayback Machine may or may not have an archived version of the website for which a user is searching.

So – if you’re looking for an archived version for a particular URL, stick with the Wayback machine which will include any sites archived by the Historical Society.  However, if you want to determine if particular text ever appeared on those sites, then give the Historical Society web archives a try.

Lexis.com retiring from Law Schools on December 31

It’s the end of an era as Lexis.com, the long-running and highly regarded database says its final goodbyes to the Law School community.

With 100% of Lexis content now migrated to Lexis Advance, the small amount of loyal Lexis.com users will have to prepare for the switch to Lexis Advance, which has slowly been becoming the primary Lexis database over the past several years.

Both Lexis and Westlaw have transitioned to their new platforms and retired their flagship databases in recent years.

New Site Aims to Make Every CRS Report Publicly Available Online

If you’ve ever tried looking for a CRS Report, you know that they can be very difficult to track down.  A new site called everyCRSreport.com is hoping to make them more publicly accessible online.

Currently the site includes 8,260 CRS reports, although that number will change regularly.  It’s unclear what date range is covered by the site, although it does say that “if you’re looking for older reports, our good friends at CRSReports.com may have them.”

[update 10/27: Per @danielschuman at Demand Progress “the @EveryCRSReport website has all the reports currently available to congress. They can go back to the 90s, but not usually.”]

If you’re not familiar with CRS Reports, they are reports issued by the Congressional Research Service which is a legislative branch agency housed inside the Library of Congress.  These reports contain analytical, non-partisan information on topics of interest to members of Congress. 

Although the reports are works of the United States Government and not subject to copyright protection, the federal government has, thus far, not made them publicly available.  Numerous non profits and commercial vendors have been working to fill the gap.

According to the website, EveryCRSReport.com is a project of Demand Progress in collaboration with the Congressional Data Coalition — a bipartisan coalition founded by Demand Progress and the R Street Institute to promote open legislative information.

Latest on the Pacer Litigation

There is a good piece on the latest in the Pacer litigation on Quartz.  Several non-profits claim that fees charged by Pacer, an online database of papers filed by litigants in the US federal courts, exceed the cost of providing the records.

While the 10 cents a page that most people are charged to view documents doesn’t sound like much, critics say that the very existence of the paywall has stifled the development of tools to meaningfully search and analyze the data.

“You should be able to say, for example, ‘Give me everything that has the word motion in its description and that talks about copyright,’” says Mike Lissner, executive director of the nonprofit Free Law Project. “That’s not possible.”

Lissner, whose group provides free online access to primary legal materials, says the system’s shortcomings are a direct result of the fees attached to Pacer documents. “If the data were free,” he says, “you’d see an ecosystem cropping up with competitive services improving it.”

The case is currently before the US District Court for the District of Columbia.  Judge Ellen Huvelle is expected to decide in the coming days whether a lawsuit accusing the government of setting Pacer fees at unlawfully high rates can proceed.

End of Term 2016 U.S. Government Web Archive

A collaborative group of librarians from the Library of Congress, U.S. Government Publishing Office, Internet Archive, and several other archives and universities have teamed up on a project to preserve public United States Government websites at the end of the current presidential administration ending January 20, 2017.

In this collaboration, the partners will structure and execute a comprehensive harvest of the Federal Government .gov domain.  But they need your help.  The project team is calling upon government information specialists, including librarians, political and social science researchers, and academics – to assist in the selection and prioritization of the selected web sites to be included in the collection.

Simply submit urls of your favorite or any interesting, live .gov website other federal government websites, or governmental social media account with the End of Term Nomination Tool.

For more information, see this post from the Library of Congress.

Harvard’s Caselaw Access Project to Digitize and Make Available Millions of Pages of Case Law

If you haven’t yet heard about Harvard’s Caselaw Access Project to digitize millions of pages of case law and make it freely available online, check out this story in Bostonomix.

“We want the law, as expressed in court decisions, to be as widely distributed and as available as possible online to promote access to justice by means of access to legal information,” [Managing Director of Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab Adam] Ziegler said. “But also to spur innovation, to drive new insights from the law that we’ve never been able to do when the law was relegated to paper.” . . .

Harvard has granted Ravel Law an eight-year exclusive contract to use the case law information. The law school has an equity interest in the California-based company, which plans to use the data in new and innovative ways.

Daniel Lewis, CEO of Ravel, says it has applications that can detect trends and patterns in the law, even tracking bias among judges, presenting data in a visual way that discloses relationships never seen before in the law.

Hat tip to UW Law Library Director, Steve Barkan.

 

Article: High Court Won’t Hear Copyright Challenge to Google Books

According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the Supreme Court has denied cert to Authors Guild, et al. v. Google, Inc., in which the Authors Guild and individual writers argued that Google engaged in copyright infringement “on an epic scale” by digitizing, indexing, and displaying snippets of print books in internet search results.

From the article:

The last major development came in October when a federal appeals court in New York ruled for Google….

The dispute involves the boundaries of “fair use,” the legal doctrine that permits unauthorized copying in certain, limited circumstances. The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in October that Google’s scanning millions of copyrighted books wasn’t infringement because what the company makes viewable online is so limited.

Dive into Criminal Justice Data and Statistics with “Hall of Justice”

Stats and data about any aspect of the legal world have often been notoriously difficult to track down. I know that when I am asked a question about stats at the reference desk, I always prepare myself for what could be a difficult search.

That sigh of relief you are hearing is from law librarians and legal researchers across the US as Sunlight Foundation announced their new repository of Criminal Justice statistics called “Hall of Justice”. Not only does Hall of Justice collect many datasets into one convenient place, but it also, as HOJ’s homepage puts it, brings “criminal justice data transparency” to the forefront.

This data is out there and publicly available, but it can be nearly impossible for a casual searcher (or lawyer, or law faculty, or law librarian) to locate easily. With Hall of Justice, nearly 10,000 datasets are collected in one place and tagged with relevant keywords, allowing users to quickly locate data on a wide array of criminal justice topics ranging from sexual offenders to identify theft. While the repository is not comprehensive, it is still a great step forward in making this important information much more available.

The interface is very intuitive, and a searcher can use it to search by keyword, category or location. Once you have made your initial search, you can then filter the results by Groups (who owns/created the dataset), Sectors (governmental data or non-profit), or by Access Type. This makes the searching process simple and effective.

Try it out yourself and see what useful and eye-opening data you can find.  Hall of Justice can also be found on the Law Library’s database list. If you have any questions, be sure to ask a law librarian!

Hein Online adds an email delivery option

 

Good news for all you Hein-heads out there (I am certainly one of them). Hein Online recently added a great new feature to their interface where you can email a link to a Hein PDF…and anybody can access it, whether they are authenticated by Hein or not.

Granted the link will expire after 7 days (if the user isn’t authenticated…if they are it will never expire), but that is still more than enough time to share research or a great article with a colleague or student that may not know how to access Hein or not have access at all.

For full directions on how to email these PDFs straight from your Hein search, check out Hein’s blog post. Happy Hein-ing!