Law and Legal

How librarians, pirates, and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls

Vox – The war to free science: “The 27,500 scientists who work for the University of California generate 10 percent of all the academic research papers published in the United States. Their university recently put them in a strange position: Starting July 10, these scientists will not be able to directly access much of the world’s published research they’re not involved in. That’s because in February, the UC system — one of the country’s largest academic institutions, encompassing Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, and several other campuses — dropped its nearly $11 million annual subscription to Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of academic journals. On the face of it, this seemed like an odd move. Why cut off students and researchers from academic research? In fact, it was a principled stance that may herald a revolution in the way science is shared around the world. The University of California decided it doesn’t want scientific knowledge locked behind paywalls, and thinks the cost of academic publishing has gotten out of control.

Elsevier owns around 3,000 academic journals, and its articles account for some 18 percent of all the world’s research output. “They’re a monopolist, and they act like a monopolist,” says Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, head of the campus libraries at UC Berkeley and co-chair of the team that negotiated with the publisher. Elsevier makes huge profits on its journals, generating billions of dollars a year for its parent company RELX. This is a story about more than subscription fees. It’s about how a private industry has come to dominate the institutions of science, and how librarians, academics, and even pirates are trying to regain control. The University of California is not the only institution fighting back. “There are thousands of Davids in this story,” says the head of campus libraries at the University of California Davis MacKenzie Smith, who, like other librarians around the world, has been pushing for more open access to science. “But only a few big Goliaths.” …”

Categories: Law and Legal

So, Gutenberg Didn’t Actually Invent the Printing Press

LitHub – On the Unsung Chinese and Korean History of Movable Type: “If you heard one book called “universally acknowledged as the most important of all printed books,” which do you expect it would be? If you were Margaret Leslie Davis, the answer would be obvious. Davis’s The Lost Gutenberg: The Astounding Story of One Book’s Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey, released this March, begins with just that descriptor. It recounts the saga of a single copy of the Gutenberg Bible—one of the several surviving copies of the 450-year-old Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg, the putative inventor of the printing press, in one of his earliest projects—through a 20th-century journey from auction house to collector to laboratory to archive. Davis quotes Mark Twain, who wrote, in 1900, a letter celebrating the opening of the Gutenberg Museum. For Davis, Twain’s words were “particularly apt.” “What the world is to-day,” Twain wrote, “good and bad, it owes to Gutenberg. Everything can be traced to this source. . . .” Indeed, Gutenberg’s innovation has long been regarded an inflection point in human history—an innovation that opened the door to the Protestant Reformation, Renaissance, the scientific revolution, the advent of widespread education, and a thousand more changes that touch nearly everything we now know.

The only problem? The universal acclaim is, in fact, not so universal—and Gutenberg himself is a, but not the, source of printing. Rather, key innovations in what would become revolutionary printing technology began in east Asia, with work done by Chinese nobles, Korean Buddhists, and the descendants of Genghis Khan—and, in a truth Davis acknowledges briefly, their work began several centuries before Johannes Gutenberg was even born…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Google’s 4,000-Word Privacy Policy Is a Secret History of the Internet

The New York Times – “The late 1990s was a simpler time for Google. The nascent company was merely a search engine, and Gmail, Android and YouTube were but glimmers in the startup’s eye. Google’s first privacy policy reflected that simplicity. It was short and earnest, a quaint artifact of a different time in Silicon Valley, when Google offered 600 words to explain how it was collecting and using personal information. That version of the internet (and Google) is gone. Over the past 20 years, that same privacy policy has been rewritten into a sprawling 4,000-word explanation of the company’s data practices. This evolution, across two decades and 30 versions, is the story of the internet’s transformation through the eyes of one of its most crucial entities. The web is now terribly complex, and Google has a privacy policy to match…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Instagram To Flag Hateful Comments Before You Send Them

NPR – “Instagram is rolling out a feature that will urge users to think twice before posting hateful comments, in an effort to minimize cyberbullying on the massive social media platform. The new feature uses artificial intelligence to screen content and notify users if their post may be harmful or offensive. Users will see a message: “Are you sure you want to post this?” They will then have the option to remove or change the comment before anyone else is able to see it. Early tests of this feature found that some users are less likely to post harmful comments once they’ve had a chance to reflect on their post, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri wrote in a blog post. Gmail has a similar feature that gives users 30 seconds to cancel an email after pressing send…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Amazon Alexa will now be giving out health advice to UK citizens

MIT Technology Review – “The UK’s National Health Service hopes that its partnership with Amazon could help to reduce demand on its services.

  • The news: From this week, when UK users ask their Amazon smart speaker health-related questions, it will automatically search the official NHS website, which is full of medically-backed health tips and advice.
  • The aim: The government believes it will ease the burden on over-stretched doctors and hospitals, but also help elderly, disabled or blind patients who may struggle to access this information otherwise.
  • The worries: There are concerns that the voice service might discourage genuinely ill people from seeking proper medical help. It being Amazon, there are also concerns over data privacy, especially over an area as sensitive as health. The firm says all data can be deleted by customers…”
Categories: Law and Legal

GPO Digitizes Public Papers of the Presidents

“The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) have digitized volumes of The Public Papers of the Presidents for Presidents Herbert Hoover (1929) through George H.W. Bush (1990), with the exception of the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency. The papers of President Franklin Roosevelt were published privately before the commencement of the official Public Papers series.  Each volume of The Public Papers of the Presidents is comprised of a forward by the President, public writings, addresses, remarks, and photographs. This digitization effort joined the already digital version of Public Papers for Presidents George H. W. Bush (1991−1992), William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack H. Obama. The Public Papers of the Presidents are currently published twice a year and covers a six-month period. They may be accessed for free on GPO’s govinfo, the one-stop site to authentic, published Government information.

Categories: Law and Legal

Seeds of life: The plants suited to climate change

BBC – “Experts at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, selected 11 seeds from plants and trees that may be better suited to climate change than other species. Using a scanning electron microscope, artist Rob Kesseler created striking colourised images of the seeds in extraordinary detail. The five experts at Kew in London chose the species based on characteristics such as resilience to drought and diseases, and suitability to increased global temperatures. Eleanor Wilding, a technical officer in the Crop Wild Relatives Project at Kew, chose the Daucus carota, the wild relative of the carrot. Kesseler produced an image of the seed magnified 30 times to reveal a spiky star-like shape, and coloured it with an orange hue…”

Categories: Law and Legal

OCLC Research Mini-symposium on the Discovery and Use of Open Collections

Description – As the volume of digitized heritage collections continues to grow, memory institutions are challenged to making this open content discoverable and usable across repositories. At this mini-symposium in Leiden, guests… learn[ed] about research & development work done in the area of digital image interoperability (IIIF), corpus-building and deep interactions with open collections by OCLC, and latest developments at Europeana and the Global Digitised Dataset Network

Programme: Introducing the Theme (0:00-24:28 – slides)
  • Short overview of findings from the OCLC Open Content Survey—Titia van der Werf, OCLC Research

Promoting the Discovery of Open Collections

  • IIIF and OCLC product development—Shane Huddlestone, OCLC Digital Collections Services (24:34-50:11 – slides)
  • The state of IIIF at Europeana—Antoine Isaac, Europeana (50:30-1:13:30 – slides)
  • The Global Digitised Dataset Network—Paul Gooding, University of Glasgow (1:13:54-1:45:33 – slides)

Deep-interactions with Open Collections (2:09:25-2:52:53 – slides)

  • Building corpora of open content in Philosophy: findings from the CatViS project—Rob Koopman (Architect, OCLC Global Engineering)
  • Interacting with open collections: Ariadne, BolVis and KantVis—Shenghui Wang (Research Scientist, OCLC Research), Thom Castermans (PhD student at Department of Mathematics and Computer Science of TU Eindhoven), Annapaola Ginammi (Researcher at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam)…”
Categories: Law and Legal

Trusted data and the future of information sharing

MIT Technology Review – How policy innovation is promoting data sharing and AI. “Data in some form underpins almost every action or process in today’s modern world. Consider that even farming, the world’s oldest industry, is on the verge of a digital revolution, with AI, drones, sensors, and blockchain technology promising to boost efficiencies. The market value of an apple will increasingly reflect not only traditional farming inputs but also some value of modern data, such as weather patterns, soil acidity levels and agri-supply-chain information. By 2022 more than 60% of global GDP will be digitized, according to IDC. Governments seeking to foster growth in their digital economies need to be more active in encouraging safe data sharing between organizations. Tolerating the sharing of data and stepping in only where security breaches occur is no longer enough. Sharing data across different organizations enables the whole ecosystem to grow and can be a unique source of competitive advantage. But businesses need guidelines and support in how to do this effectively.    This is how Singapore’s data-sharing worldview has evolved, according to Janil Puthucheary, senior minister of state for communications and information and transport, upon launching the city-state’s new Trusted Data Sharing Framework in June 2019…”

Categories: Law and Legal

NOAA designates new national marine sanctuary in Maryland

NOAA – Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., will be the first national marine sanctuary designated since 2000.  “The designation of Mallows Bay as a national marine sanctuary is an exciting milestone for NOAA and an opportunity for the public to celebrate and help protect this piece of our nation’s rich maritime history,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “We look forward to working with the state of Maryland, Charles County and other local partners to foster education and research partnerships as well as support and enhance local recreation and tourism along this historic stretch of the Potomac River.”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Internet is Drowning

National Geographic – Rising seas imperil the delicate web of cables and power stations that control the internet. “When the internet goes down, life as the modern American knows it grinds to a halt. Gone are the cute kitten photos and the Facebook status updates—but also gone are the signals telling stoplights to change from green to red, and doctors’ access to online patient records. A vast web of physical infrastructure undergirds the internet connections that touch nearly every aspect of modern life. Delicate fiber optic cables, massive data transfer stations, and power stations create a patchwork of literal nuts and bolts that facilitates the flow of zeros and ones. Now, research shows that a whole lot of that infrastructure sits squarely in the path of rising seas. (See what the planet would look like if all the ice melted.)

Scientists mapped out the threads and knots of internet infrastructure and layered that on top of maps showing future sea level rise. What they found was ominous: Within 15 years, thousands of miles of fiber optic cable—and hundreds of pieces of other key infrastructure—are likely to be swamped by the encroaching ocean. And while some of that infrastructure may be water resistant, little of it was designed to live fully underwater…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The State of LinkedIn – A Twitter Parody

The State of LinkedIn – @StateOfLinkedIn – “LinkedIn is a breeding ground for lies & brown-nosing. Exposing the worst. We are in no way associated with LinkedIn, so class us as a parody.”

Barry Barnes owns the Twitter account The State of LinkedIn with 104,000 followers. Via (paywall) [he tweets a] curated selection of the most egotistical, self-unaware, jargon-ridden posts from LinkedIn members…”Recent gems range from the boastful “You call it luck, I call it 80 hours a week”, to the baffling “How easy is it to hire me? I interviewed myself”, as well as the awful-wonderful morning routine which begins “I wake up. Instantly. From the fogginess of dreams, to the readiness of full consciousness…” Humble brags, including Mr Barnes’s favourite, in which a man is pictured playing pool while a supercar just happens to be parked in the background, also feature regularly. Mr Barnes, who has worked in social media but runs the account as a hobby, says the idea is to poke fun at the ridiculous world of workplace self-promotion, rather than individuals. “All the content is sent to me,” he says. “I don’t trawl LinkedIn looking for it.” Mr Barnes is not the only one enjoying the lighter side of LinkedIn. There is also the @CrapOnLinkedIn Twitter feed and parody LinkedIn accounts, such as the “demotivational speaker” Mike Winnet. Unlike other social networks, however, humour is not the norm for LinkedIn, which has always been a more grown-up, professional place. For better or for worse, that may be changing…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Firefox 68 arrives with darker reader view, recommended extensions, IT customizations

VentureBeat: “Mozilla today launched Firefox 68 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Firefox 68 includes a darker reader view, recommended extensions, IT Pro customizations, and more. Firefox 68 for desktop is available for download now on, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play, while the iOS release is available on Apple’s App Store. According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 250 million active users, making it a major platform for web developers to consider. As part of this release, Mozilla has curated a list of recommended extensions “that have been thoroughly reviewed for security, usability, and usefulness.” You can find the list on the Get Add-ons page in the Firefox Add-ons Manager…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Americans Shouldn’t Have to Drive, but the Law Insists on It

The Atlantic – Gregory H. Shill – The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives. “…In America, the freedom of movement comes with an asterisk: the obligation to drive. This truism has been echoed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has pronounced car ownership a “virtual necessity.” The Court’s pronouncement is telling. Yes, in a sense, America is car-dependent by choice—but it is also car-dependent by law. As I detail in a forthcoming journal article, over the course of several generations lawmakers rewrote the rules of American life to conform to the interests of Big Oil, the auto barons, and the car-loving 1 percenters of the Roaring Twenties. They gave legal force to a mind-set—let’s call it automobile supremacy—that kills 40,000 Americans a year and seriously injures more than 4 million more. Include all those harmed by emissions and climate change, and the damage is even greater. As a teenager growing up in the shadow of Detroit, I had no reason to feel this was unjust, much less encouraged by law. It is both…”

Categories: Law and Legal

New Projection: Debt Limit “X Date” Could Arrive in September

“The Bipartisan Policy Center now forecasts a risk that the debt limit “X Date” — the date when the federal government can no longer pay all of its bills in full and on time — could occur in the first half of September. “This “X Date” risk falls earlier than BPC’s previous projection range, based on new data and analysis. As the summer progresses, the Treasury Department will continue to expend its cash on hand and extraordinary measures — legally permissible accounting maneuvers that enable limited additional borrowing authority when the debt limit is reached, as it was in March. “The latest data reveal a serious risk that the ‘X Date’ could fall in early September, particularly if federal revenues underperform,” said Shai Akabas, BPC’s director of economic policy. “The alignment of certain payments in the first two weeks of the month, prior to when Treasury will receive a cash influx of quarterly tax payments, could exhaust Treasury’s borrowing room.”

“Even though our projection continues to show that the most likely timing of the ‘X Date’ remains early October, uncertainty is high, and it would be reckless for policymakers to run the risk of default by failing to deal with the debt limit in advance of the August recess.”

Categories: Law and Legal

CRS – Policy and Legislative Research for Congressional Staff – Finding Documents, Analysis, News and Training

Policy and Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: Finding Documents, Analysis, News, and Training. March 25, 2014 – June 28, 2019. R43434.  Sarah W. Caldwell, Senior Research Librarian; Ada S. Cornell, Senior Research Librarian; Michele L. Malloy. Research Librarian.

“This report is intended to serve as a finding aid for congressional documents, executive branch documents and information, news articles, policy analysis, contacts, and training, for use in policy and legislative research. It is not intended to be a definitive list of all resources, but rather a guide to pertinent subscriptions available in the House and Senate in addition to selected resources freely available to the public. This report is intended for use by congressional staff and will be updated as needed.”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Ten Laws of Legal Project Management: Barriers to Progress and Client Issues

Slaw – Steven B. Levy – “This is the third column of a series on the Ten Laws of (Legal) Project Management. I’ll recap the ten laws at the end of this column, but for this month, let’s focus on some barriers to progress (Laws 3 and 4) and a pair of client-related suggestions (Laws 5 and 6). By the way, the title of this article represents two different ideas. If you think of your clients as a barrier to progress, we may have a bigger problem here…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Most Republicans don’t trust fact-checkers, and most Americans don’t trust the media

Poynter: “Almost half of Americans believe that fact-checkers are biased, and the majority of these skeptics are Republican. But fact-checkers are still much more highly trusted than traditional media, a new study from Pew Research Center shows.  A new report by Mason Walker and Jeffrey Gottfried reveals that American’s’ opinions of fact-checkers are highly polarized along partisan lines. The study, which looks at how adults in the United States feel about news and information in the digital age, found that 70% of Republicans believe fact-checkers tend to favor one side, while only 29% of Democrats say the same.  Overall, exactly half of American adults believe that fact-checkers are unbiased. This is much higher than the 26% of Americans who believe the same about traditional news organizations…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Census Case Could Provoke a Constitutional Crisis

The AtlanticGarrett Epps – Professor of constitutional law at the University of Baltimore – “President Trump has seldom been rebuked by the Supreme Court. The question now is how he’ll respond…”Trump seems to think he can avoid preclusion by issuing an executive order imposing the question. As of July 7, 2019, however, the federal courts still have the power to set aside unconstitutional executive orders. Ask the late President Harry Truman, who, as commander in chief, seized American steel mills in order to end a strike that was interfering with the Korean War effort. The Supreme Court told Truman he had no such power, and Truman meekly gave back the mills. Maybe the label “executive order” will magically intimidate Roberts. But I wouldn’t bet on it….”

See also The New York Times: Hacking, Glitches, Disinformation: Why Experts Are Worried About the 2020 Census. “…Most concerns about the census have been focused on the Trump administration’s effort to include a question about citizenship status. On Wednesday, the Justice Department, under pressure from President Trump, vowed to continue fighting to add the question, despite legal and logistical barriers, a day after saying time had run out. But far less attention has been paid to other issues that could threaten the census’s accuracy…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Most 20th Century Books Unavailable to Internet Users – We Can Fix That

Internet Archives Blog: “The books of the 20th century are largely not online. They are mostly not available from even the biggest booksellers. And, libraries who have collected hard copies of these books have not been able to deliver them in a cost-efficient, simple, digital form to their patrons. The way libraries could fill that gap is to adopt and deliver a controlled digital lending service. The Internet Archive is trying to do its part but needs others to join in. The Internet Archive has worked with 500 libraries over the last 15 years to digitize 3.5 million books. But based on copyright concerns the selection has often been restricted to pre-1923 books. We need complete libraries and comprehensive access to nurture a well-informed citizenry. The following graph shows the number of books digitized by the Internet Archive, binned by decade…”

Categories: Law and Legal


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