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Saturday, October 04, 2003

Significantly Statistical

Dave Sifry: "Technorati is currently tracking about 7,000 new weblogs per day, which means that a new weblog is being created approximately every 12 seconds. And I know we're not catching them all." [Via Doc Searls]

Lisa Williams: "How many posts did the 215 attendees on the blogroll make in the ten days prior to the conference in the aggregate? A whopping 2,757." [Via Localfeeds, the uber-aggregator for BloggerCon]

Who Will M Your DRM?

David Opderbeck:

The MPEG Licensing Association, a consortium of companies that licenses patent right relating to MPEG 4 audio and video technology, is seeking to serve as an industry standards-setting forum for DRM systems. In one way, this seems like a good development — let a private DRM market develop and regulate itself. In another way, however, it has some frightening potential — let a consortium of media companies effectively determine the scope of copyright and fair use through DRM standards that cannot be circumvented under the DMCA.

Completely unrelatedly, David also reports that James Earl Jones confirmed in a talk at Seton Hall this week that "he has several minutes of dialogue in Star Wars 3 after Anakin Skywalker falls into a volcano and is outfitted with the Darth Vader garb."

Today's New Blawgs

Noting some updates in the Judicial category:

Another Reason You Wish You Were In Boston This Week

[Update: CBS News Sunday Morning will cover the Ig Nobels on Sunday, October 12.]

From Ig Nobel central: "The 2003 Ig Nobel Prize winners were announced on Thursday evening, October 2, at the 13th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre. Click here for details."

Slashdot sums up the winners:

  • Engineering: the inventors of the Murphy's law.
  • Physics: authors of 'An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces' report.
  • Medicine: the scientists who discovered that London taxi drivers are smarter than average London residents.
  • Psychology: authors of the 'Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities' report.
  • Chemistry: a Japanese scientist who studied a bronze statue strangely ignored by pigeon population.
  • Literature: the author of more than 80 scientific reports on amusing statistical information.
  • Economics: the man who viewed the entire country of Liechtenstein as a large convention center.
  • Interdisciplinary: authors of 'Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans' study.
  • Biology: first documented case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck species.

Friday, October 03, 2003

California's Legal Swiss Army Knife Sprouts A New Blade, Takes A Swipe At Microsoft

I keep having these wonderful "small world" moments courtesy of J. Craig Williams. This time, he has news of what sounds like a fascinating lawsuit filed by a local lawyer I know from way back, Dana Taschner. Dana is suing Microsoft under—hey! there's that statute again—California Business and Professions Code Section 17200. The suit is a representative action, brought by an individual on behalf of the general public, seeking damages and forced security improvements as the result of an identity theft alleged to have been caused by Microsoft OS issues. Declan McCullagh recently reported on the difficulties in pursuing products liability claims related to software problems. ("A legal fix for software flaws?") Dana's lawsuit tries a different approach, and thus could break new ground in this area.

Craig posits a defense that would liken software to firearms, which is both insightful and, in my twisted little brain, funny. (I can just see the t-shirt: Windows Doesn't Kill People, 2600 K1Ll5 p30PlE.)

Aaron Swartz Meets Justice Kennedy

All in all, he seemed like a relatively normal guy (with a vast knowledge of the law) who was just trying to do what seemed right and fair. He talked about how he never wanted to lose touch with the actual people behind all of his cases, and how he really wants to be a trial judge so he can be listening to people's actual problems (he says he never had the political power to get the job). I think this is why he's often the "swing vote" — he doesn't care so much about political battles or overarching doctrines, but just doing what's right by the law and what's fair for the people.

A full report on his talk and the event follows.

Aaron does an excellent job reporting on Justice Kennedy's talk at Northwestern this week, definitely check it out.

Flawking To Boston

If bloggers flock, then blawgers of course must flawk! (Sorry David...well, not really. ;)) Anyway, looks like the blawg world will be well represented at BloggerCon:

The following folks or the blogs with which they're affiliated also grace the blawgroll here, and will be on hand for the fun:

Who'm I forgetting?

Today's New Blawg

Evan Williams spotted Public Defender Dude:

I'm a public defender in an urban area in California (sounds like the start of a Penthouse forum....."I never thought this would happen to me...."), where I represent people charged with all types of felonies, from minor cases like possession of drugs, to special circumstance murders where the defendants are eligible for the death penalty.

Hopefully this blog will dispel many misimpressions you probably have about PDs, and you'll come to the conclusion that I have, that Public Defenders rock, they're the best lawyers around, and our society is lucky to have a group like us. [...]

Sorry, though, I can't give any of you legal advice (and as I always tell my friends when they call me up with a legal question: "If I can answer your question, you're in bad shape, because there's only one area of law that I really know anything about, and it's bad news if it applies to you").

That's from the initial post on August 6, and some very thoughtful material follows. Thanks Ev, thanks PD Dude.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Proto-Blawger, Bob Berring

The Boalt Hall Alumni Association lunch was delightful. I bumped into some law school friends I haven't seen for years, and, if anything, Interim Dean Bob Berring has become an even better speaker than I remember. He first discussed news of the law school and its dean search, then moved on to the changing world of legal research. Since his articles on the latter subject have inspired some prior posts here, as well as the Blawg Ring's motto as coined by Rory Perry, as things were wrapping up I had a nice chat with Interim Dean Berring about weblogs and their rapid uptake by legal professionals.

Emerson? Pepys? Meet Uncle Zeb

It hit me today we had a weblog at Boalt when I was there, but it wasn't on the Web. It was a binder kept at the library reference desk that first appeared in 1982 (well before my time, mind you!). Then, it was Bob Berring's idea for soliciting ideas to improve the library. The format was both simple and strikingly familar. Entries appeared in reverse chronological order (if you started at the end). They were archived. The "template" consisted of blank paper with a line down the middle. On the left, students could instantly publish questions or make suggestions. On the right, The Institution would try to respond to each entry within 24 hours. Interim Dean Berring (who was then Dean of the School of Library and Information Studies) noticed that, very quickly, people started asking not about the library but the broader conundrums of their lives. Thus was born Uncle Zeb, "an ectoplasmic entity, the part of the brain that every law student sheds as they pass through the halls" of the law school. I was happy to learn while drafting this post that at least part of Uncle Zeb's wit and wisdom has made it to the Web (Uncle Zeb Online; The Best of Zeb '98).

Interim Dean Berring recalled two pearls from Uncle Zeb during his talk today. The first involved Zeb's advice to a male student who feared law school would destroy his marriage because reading cases robbed him of all libidinous tendencies: "Have sex before you study." The second was Zeb's answer to a student who couldn't understand why Zeb didn't get himself appointed dean of the law school: "Because my mother did not raise up any fools."

Boalt News

  • The law school had its highest number of applicants ever last fall, some 7,500. Its "yield" (ratio of acceptances to class slots offered) also was so high the incoming class had about 20 more students than originally anticipated.
  • The dean search is in full swing. The goal is to announce the new dean by year end, with the transition to take place at the end of the '03-'04 academic year.

Legal Research Meets Blade Runner

Interim Dean Berring discussed the transitional time in which we now find ourselves. Once, law was "real" if it appeared in the West National Reporter System. Today, it's "real" if it is included in the limited-access Westlaw and Lexis databases. (Berring mentioned describing West's Federal Appendix to his son as a collision of matter and anti-matter. It's a published set of unpublished cases.) The fear is that access to law will continue to be commodified. The nightmare is the day your voice-recognition activated personal research agent (say, a facsimile of Cameron Diaz) delivers the information sought at your request while completely concealing the selection and evaluation processes. Unless we're careful, we're headed toward a legal information delivery system designed by marketers, where the "product"—the law—is treated no differently than a package of Skittles.

To avoid this, Berring recommends paying close attention to the sources of your information, and relying on your allies the law librarians—"they're the people fighting for quality, and quality information"—and the younger people in your organization.

Further Reading

Interim Dean Berring's talk thus gave me a nice opening to bring up the topic of legal weblogs. When I described what has been going on in the last couple of years, his eyes lit up. We talked a little about TrackBack, and the Web's unique ability (with the help of intelligent technologists) to improve our systems for cross-referencing and validating legal information. These topics were explored a bit here and at LawMeme about this time last year. I'm hoping Interim Dean Berring will drop by and, one way or another, add his booming baritone to these discussions.


The Jonathan Club
Interim Dean Berring

On The Menu

Boalt Hall Alumni Association lunch today with Interim Dean Bob Berring, where he will discuss "The Revolution in Legal Research."

Link Buffet

OJR has an excerpt from Digital Dilemmas: Ethical Issues for Online Media Professionals, examining the legality and ethics of linking [via Genie Tyburski]:

The courts, it appears, have made the legal issues that much more complicated. On the one hand there is the European trend toward recognizing deep links as a type of infringement, while the U.S. courts (at least as of late 2002) have offered little guidance other than to suggest that all forms of linking are legal.

In connection with its new show InventThis, TechTV offers an online Patent Guide.

Finally, the National Lampoon's Deteriorata [via Hanan Levin] has this important reminder:

Whether you can hear it or not, the Universe is laughing behind your back.


CitiBank's c2it is no more:

c2it service will be discontinued as of November 9, 2003. Effective November 9, 2003, you will not be able to conduct financial transactions on the website.

It's been awhile since I've tried but as I recall I was scarcely able to conduct financial transactions on the site in the past, so this may just be a confirmation of status quo.

Today's New Blawg

The Democratic National Committee writes Kicking Ass [via Dave Winer]:

We put out press releases, email newsletters, fundraising appeals, form letters, and advertisements. You write letters, volunteer, and donate.

But where's the frank, one-on-one communication? Blogs make that possible. On Kicking Ass, you're going to meet real people at the DNC and hear our real thoughts. And we're going to listen to you.

Eric Folley of Kicking Ass will join others on BloggerCon's Presidential Politics panel this Saturday, 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Take (Over) Our Marketing, Please!

Or more accurately, join the team. My firm's Los Angeles office is in the market for a Marketing Coordinator. If you're reading this and other blogs and blawgs (look right; give yourself a few days), you might just understand several things about lawyers, marketing, and the Web that would serve you (and us) well in this position. My unsolicited (and un-HR vetted; mind you don't check your judgment at the door) pre-interview reading list of course would include as many of these selections as you can manage. Given that the job description among other things calls on you to PowerPoint us in the right direction, it also would be a plus if Aaron Swartz's PowerPoint Remix leaves you smiling and nodding rather than irretrievably perplexed. (Wouldn't hurt if Aaron's "as seen on slashdot" tagline does the same.)

Don't Mess With The Boss

That's my assistant Adriane over in the TextAmerica box this morning (a.k.a. The Boss), and she just handed me this: "A man who was expected to plead guilty yesterday to having sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral will have to answer to a higher authority."

$2.2 Trillion

Those are the damages sought in Steve Kirsch's class action lawsuit against More from Wired News.

Today's New Blawg

Bubba, an in-house Memphis attorney who deals in import/export regulatory issues, writes Schadenfreude. For you X-Files aficionados, he—I can safely assume a "Bubba" is a "he," can't I?—has some first hand experience with lost time. For us construction aficionados, he has some first hand experience with power tools. (And you've got to love the commenter's observation that the manufacturer is well known for its sewing machines...) [Via Ernie Svenson]

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Walls, Doors, Floors, Ceilings: Your Days Are Numbered

I must have warmed to David Giacalone's BloggerCon essay ("Jargon Builds Walls Not Bridges") because of the chaotic, construction-ravaged state of my home at the moment. We're all about ripping through walls, windows, floors, ceilings, peace, quiet... (Don't ever think you can undertake a "small" construction project. There is no such beast. Recently, I was game enough to suggest to some nice friends who want to throw me a shower in November, "Hey, we could do it at the house." Now I'm wondering: (1) whether the sounds of hammers, saws, and a vast array of power tools might actually be soothing to an infant, like a clothes dryer or car engine, and (2) whether any of our local hotels might cut me a special "maternity leave" rate come December.)

But as usual, I digress. Do you think terms like "blog" and "blawg" are cliquish and off-putting? I don't. If you have an opinion, go add it to the thread. (If you have carpentry skills, I'll see you at 8:00 a.m. sharp.)

Up, And Upcoming

Will Baude and friends at Crescat Sententia have moved to new digs, and are featuring an interview with "the blogosphere's foremost expert in election law," Rick Hasen.

Eugene Volokh—"186,000 miles per second. It's more than just a good idea; it's the law."—will run one of the free BloggerCon sessions on Sunday, October 5, called Weblogs and Law.

Today's New Blawg

Senator and presidential hopeful John Edwards is blogging (but not BloggerConning). The site features posts from the Senator himself, in addition to staff and other supporters. Anybody can post comments. [Via Professor Lessig]

Monday, September 29, 2003

Never Too Early

It's only September, but you may want to file these a cappella gems away as holiday gifts for your favorite legal loved one:

Distance Learning

So, I finally will have to download the RealPlayer it seems. A small price to pay. I'm sad to have to miss BloggerCon, but it's good consolation to know there will be no shortage of reports!

And this just in: "The Clark campaign just opened their new weblog. More announcements from Clark at BloggerCon on Saturday." "[T]he mastermind behind the Clark '04 campaign's blog strategy and web site"—Generally Speaking—is none other than Cameron Barrett of CamWorld and WatchBlog. Smart move.

Her Honor

The National Association of Women Judges has much to celebrate as Governor Davis keeps filling vacant California appellate court seats in anticipation of next week's election.

Today's New Blawg

Professor Michael Froomkin, of the University of Miami School of Law and, writes His Spot The Weird Detail post today deserves to be read in full and not quoted, so please "Scoot!" Ah, the injustice—none of my law professors were particularly reminiscent of Dave Barry or Carl Hiaasen, and I'm betting few can say theirs were. (Let's hope Matt Stein gets himself into Professor Froomkin's Internet course next year so we can live vicariously.)

It's worth setting aside a good block of time to explore Professor Froomkin's home page as well, where you can catch up on his prolific writings, not to mention his adorable kids.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Easy Listenin'

I've become totally addicted to Chris Lydon's sundry interviews during my commute. For more free and noteworthy audio, you might also surf over to the media page at, where you can find audio and video from OSCOM, and Dave Winer's and David Weinberger's keynote talks from the Weblog Business Strategies conference.

Today's New Blawg

Rainer Langenhan emails:

In 2002, the Saarland University Law School achieved a remarkable 7th rank in a competition of all international law schools worldwide (!). Now it's launched its own blawg named LAWgical. Most, but not all topics posted in LAWgical are related to the law of new media.

LAWgical has been online since September 19, 2003. A team of five editors is going to publish articles on a regular basis. The team members' names can be found at the bottom of the left navigation bar.

Margaret Marks noted LAWgical's debut too. (See her comments to that post for thoughts on how the English terms "law," and certainly "blawg," understandably require some further explanation in Germany.)

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