Category Archives: Data & Databases

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!

Scholarly Content from ProQuest Now Discoverable in Google Scholar

According to a press release from ProQuest, “the full text of its scholarly content – including journals and working papers – is now indexed in Google Scholar, enabling Google Scholar users to seamlessly discover and access their library’s ProQuest collections.”

Here’s more:

The collaboration between Google and ProQuest enables authenticated ProQuest users to be recognized at the ProQuest platform after they search using Google Scholar and connects them to full-text scholarly content in their libraries’ collections. Users who are not recognized are sent to a landing page with the abstract or an image of the first page, protecting all rights holders. To read full text, the users authenticate themselves using their library credentials. There is nothing for libraries to set up – the linking is seamless and automatic.

I’m a big Google Scholar user, especially when doing multidisciplinary research.  It’s a tremendous free resource for scholarly content.  I’ve long appreciated that Hein Online Law Journal Library content is discoverable via Google Scholar and am pleased that ProQuest will be now also.

Hat tip to Virtual Library Cat’s Eye View

Study Identifies Gaps in the Research Sources Being Taught in Law School

Rebecca S. Trammell, Law Library Director of Stetson University College of Law has recently completed a dissertation on Technology & Legal Research: What Is Taught & What Is Used in the Practice of Law.

Using data from three sources (the 2013 ALWD Survey; a review of syllabi; and the 2014 law school legal research survey), the study asks whether law schools are instructing students in the legal research resources used by attorneys in the practice of law.

According to Trammell, the answer is no.  Here’s an excerpt from page 79:

The results of the law school legal research survey indicate significant gaps in law school instruction in state administrative law for both the attorney’s home state and other states and for state case law research for states other than the attorney’s home state. In addition, law school instruction is not focused on several tools used in law practice, specifically legal forms, legal news sources, experts, information about judges, jury verdict information, and finding and using public records. Based on the use of these resources by practicing attorneys, instruction in these areas would result in law students’ gaining more practice-ready skills.

Search for Fair Use Cases using the US Copyright office’s new index

Copyright and it’s component Fair Use, are two of the stickiest and (at least for me!) most headache-inducing areas of law. There are so many shades of gray and changes that it can be difficult to follow whether the use of an image or video is allowed or not and under what circumstances something can be used.

Hopefully the US Copyright’s office new Fair Use Index will help make the issue a little bit clearer. Users can search cases that deal exclusively with Fair Use and quickly see how the decision has been rendered (if Fair Use was found or not). You can narrow your search by jurisdiction and, importantly, by format (text, audio, computer, etc).

You can check out the Fair Use Indexes searching capabilities here on their website and read the US Copyright Office’s press release here.

Remember that the use of the index does not constitute legal advice, but does give users a better idea of the recent developments in Fair Use. Thanks to the UW Law Library’s Government Documents librarian, Margaret Booth for alerting us to this new resource!