Category Archives: Web

Making case law accessible to all

There have been some very exciting advances in the fight to make court documents more freely accessible to everyone. As many legal researchers and law librarians are aware, many legal materials can be relatively rare or sheltered behind a paywall. Movements are afoot to change this, at least in part, and there has been progress over the past several months.

Harvard’s Case Law Access Project, which involves scanning scanning in Harvard’s entire collection of case law books, recently scanned it’s last volume. That may sound blase, but that means that nearly 44,000 volumes with roughly 40 million pages of case law have been digitized. This case law will be made freely available to anyone who needs to review it.

In addition to finishing their scanning, Harvard also recommended providing bulk digital data of future case law to make it easier to add to the currently scanned collection.  The director of Cornell’s LII and a Professor of Law from Indiana University also testified on behalf of the continued digitally accessible case law.

Lastly, and potentially most exciting, was the announcement by the Internet Archive of their desire to store PACER records from Federal Courts and make them freely available.  While it remains to be seen if this proposal will come to fruition, it is another indication of legal material becoming more easily available to anybody. For now, many PACER documents can be found via RECAP, a free website that is co-run by the Internet Archive and Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

As you search for case law and other legal materials, imagine how that process may become easier as it all migrates to the open web!

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.

The University of Wisconsin Law School announces the Bhopal Digital Repository

Last week, the UW Law School hosted a symposium on the Bhopal Disaster, which killed thousands of people in the Bhopal region of India, left a long legal trail, and is still controversial to this day.

As a part of that symposium, the UW Law Library, in conjunction with faculty members Mitra Sharafi, Sumudu Atapattu and Marc Galanter, launched “Bhopal: Law Accidents and Disasters in India: A Digital Archive initiated by Marc Galanter“.  This digital archive, housing nearly 3,500 scanned items related to Bhopal, is freely available for anyone to use.  The resources range from court documents and newspaper clippings to embedded video and other secondary resources. The court documents can be downloaded as full-text PDFs from anywhere in the world, while the newspaper clippings can be downloaded at the Law School.

Professor Marc Galanter, who was involved in the Bhopal legal case in the United States, provides pertinent background history and context for new researchers, and his collection is what both inspired and formed the foundation for the digital archive.

Researchers can quickly do a full-text search across the entire collection or narrow down to search only newspaper clippings or court documents. A bibliography of related Bhopal resources is also included.

Potentially the most exciting part of the Bhopal archive is that it will continue to grow. As other Bhopal scholars volunteer their unique material, it will be reviewed and added to the collection, thereby strengthening the usefulness of the collection itself.

The Bhopal collection is the first special collection of the UW Law School Digital Repository.  If there are any questions about the Bhopal collection or the repository itself, please feel free to contact Kris Turner, or more information can be found at the UW Law School Library website.

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!

Lenz v. Universal ruling: Fair Use must be considered…even with a dancing baby.

 

Today the Ninth Circuit Court ruled in favor of Stephanie Lenz in a Fair Use case that may have long-reaching consequences.

In 2007, Lenz posted a 29 second video to Youtube of her baby dancing and bouncing to the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy”. Universal, at the time the owner of the copyright on that song, sent Youtube a request to have it removed since they claimed it violated copyright.

Now, after an extended legal tussle, the 9th circuit has come down with a pro-fair use decision,  with Circuit Judge Richard Tallman writing (for the 3-0 panel) that:

“Copyright holders cannot shirk their duty to consider in good faith and prior to sending a takedown notification – whether allegedly infringing material constitutes fair use,”

Copyright holders, following this ruling, may be held much more accountable (and perhaps legally liable) if they do not take fair use into account when issuing take-down orders. It seems that there may be a smaller amount of these orders sent out in the future if this decision holds up.

For more on the ruling and it’s potential implications, read Thomson Reuters review of the case and decision.

Click here to read or download the decision itself.

 

A Zotero Update and work-around for the UW Catalog

2015 has been a whirlwind year of change for UW Libraries, even though most of it is not obvious to users. The campus (and entire UW system!) recently switched our library catalog platform and modified several of our web discovery tools.

Zotero, a free and very helpful citation manager used by many Law School faculty and staff, was also recently updated and changed in Firefox. Instead of seeing a book icon (or folder, journal article, etc.) in your address bar, the Zotero translator tool is now located to the far right in your Firefox browser, as indicated in the screenshot below:

zotero

To save your item (book, article, website, etc.), click on the drop-down menu and select how you want the resource to be saved. It’s an easy-to-use upgrade, but one that was rolled out somewhat quietly.

All these changes, however, have caused one part of Zotero to go on the fritz. If you try to save a book, etc. from the UW library catalog, Zotero currently cannot detect all of the information about the item and so doesn’t know that it is saving information for a book or journal. It will simply try to save them item as a webpage…which leaves a lot of useful information behind.

The UW team is aware of the problem, but it may take some time to fix it as there are so many other changes to work through at this time. In the meantime, a helpful workaround is to go to Worldcat.org, a catalog of library materials worldwide, and locate your book, etc. there. You will be able to save your item with all of the important data and information quickly and easily.

If you have any problems or questions, feel free to contact either Kris or Bonnie and we’ll figure out a solution.

The ABA launches the collateral consequences of criminal conviction database

A great new addition the world of legal research is the recently launched Collateral Consequences database from the ABA. With it, legal researchers can search across all 50 states and federal jurisdictions to discover and analyze how collateral consequences impact individuals with criminal convictions. These consequences can be hard to nail down and were certainly not available all in one place, so this database is welcome to fill that gap.

map

Check out the free database at: http://www.abacollateralconsequences.org/map/ and read more about the development of the database here.

Legislative Reference Bureau Oral History Project still going strong

Several years ago, the Legislative Reference Bureau launched a very worthwhile project documenting the oral histories of Wisconsin citizens who worked in the Capitol and have helped facilitate the legislative process throughout the years, largely as representatives, senators or governors. While Bonnie wrote a post about the Project when it was first launched, it is certainly worth revisiting.
The LRB has now created 18 YouTube videos that capture these unique recollections, with all the interviews conducted by John Powell, formerly of Wisconsin Public Radio. The interviews run anywhere from one to two hours. You can view them either on the Oral History Homepage or on LRB’s YouTube channel.

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.

WisBar Launches New Website

By Kris Turner, Reference and Technology Services Librarian
The Wisconsin State Bar launched a completely redesigned website on February 4th. Located at http://www.wisbar.org, the new site is the first upgrade since 2005. Combining resources that can be used by both the public and by members, the new site also features an intuitive navigation bar, improved lawyer searching and a distinctive home page for members to view all of their purchased content. While the transition has led to some issues, the website does improve it’s navigability and usability.
The biggest change that visitors will notice is the enhancement of the home page and the addition of the navigation bar. The site is divided into five categories: About us, for Members, Marketplace, News and Publication, and for Public. Hovering your mouse over each of these options gives you a drop-down menu that allows you to select an even more specific area of the content to explore. With the advent and continuing popularity of Google-type searches, some users may find the search box to be more helpful. Located at the top right-hand side of the site, simply type into the box what you are looking for, and the entire site will be quickly searched.
Gaining access to member content is obviously one of the most important elements to the Wisconsin Bar website. When you sign into your account by clicking on “myStatebar” at the top right, you will be taken to a personalized home page that lists all the resources you have access to, which may include Books Unbound and Fastcase Legal Research. This page is customizable, and users can follow legal news that may be of interest to them. Users can also interact with other legal professionals by posting comments to news stories and adding more information to their profile.
Giving staff at a busy law office or library access to the resources is critical. After clicking the “myStatebar” link on the top right, State Bar members can then click on “myStaff”, which is the farthest selection on the right. Here bar members may add staff, thereby sharing access to resources, such as Books Unbound, that are available to the member. Currently, the “myStaff” is still being designed and built, but once the final touches have been made behind the scenes, it will be possible for members to allow their entire staff access to the resources using only one log-in.
The transition hasn’t been entirely smooth. Access to Books Unbound for both the UW Law Library and the State Bar Library has been affected. We are working with the State Bar to resolve this issue. Some areas of the site are still under construction, such as the above-mentioned staff access. As with many new sites, it takes time to get used to where the new locations for links are located. Nevertheless, the new website is an improvement over the previous one, and once these issues are worked out, should be helpful to visitors.
Improving and maintaining website navigation and content is a great challenge for any organization. The Wisconsin State Bar has redesigned their website to be more intuitive and to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ experience for legal professionals and the public. While the site is still a work in progress, check it out for yourself at http://www.wisbar.org. The staff at the State Bar wants your feedback on what you think of the new website. Email any thoughts you may have to WisBarFeedback@wisbar.org.