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Sharing some legaltech food for thought

Sharing some legaltech food for thought

I have been bitten by a peculiar bug: legal technology. And as much as I am already tiring of such terms as ‘practice-ready’ and ‘disruption of the legal sector’, I am rather fascinated about legal tech, and trying to anticipate changes to the legal ecosystem (firms & solo practices, law schools, courts, bar associations, other professional associations, vendors, etc.).

A long time ago, I was a fairly profilic blogger, and that experience led me down some pretty interesting pathways to understanding digital librarianship, intellectual property and open access, to some degree. Of course, blogging has changed quite a bit, and so have I. But my plan is to use Madlibrarian (i.e. this blog) as a way publically try to separate the wheat from the chaff, or the substance from the hype. I confess, there will probably be too many references to robot attorney overlords; as a Futurama fan, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of ‘robot lawyers’. I also have a couple of irons in the fire that will be divulged both sooner and later (I hope).

This post does have a LOT of ‘I’s. That’s not standard going forward, but it’s hard to do a re-introduction of myself without using ‘I’. I’ll be better in the future, promise.

Now, for a bit of meat – some interesting long- and medium-reads about Legal Tech that I’ve recently come across:

Guest Post: The Third Wave of Legal AI at Artificial Lawyer — This post, by Kripa Rajshekhar of Metonymy Labs, discusses “good AI” and “bad AI” when laying out the future of legal artificial intelligence. But by Rajshekhar’s reasoning, whether an AI is good or bad has nothing to do with the morality or consequences of its decision-making; it’s the transparency of the AI processes and whether it enhances (good) or takes away from (bad) human agency & decision-making. Given what we are already learning about biases and errors showing up in AI and big data efforts, this is a good check & balance on a lot of hype around AI, within and outside of the legal realm.

Artificial Lawyer also has an interview with Joshua Browder, creator of the legal chatbot DoNotPay. Browder discusses current and future expansion plans for DoNotPay, which started with helping Londoners challenge parking tickets and is now generating legal forms and guidance for refugees and tenants.

Litigation finance, big data and the limits of AI is an article by Christopher Bogart, CEO of a litigation finance firm. His message is pretty simple: “We suspect the litigation finance business will for the foreseeable future remain a business that is still more dependent on specialized expertise and human judgment than it is on big data and AI.” If the use and growth of data analytics to predict litigation outcomes interest you, read it anyway.

Robert Ambrogi has had a lot of good, interesting things to say about legal tech for a long time. And he has a lot to say about a recent ABA Formal Opinion on client confidentiality in email & other electronic communications. There is a long breakdown of the opinion (also embedded there) at his LawSites blog, but he’s also done a shorter ‘takeaway’ explanation at Above the Law. Obviously, attorneys should care enough to read both the opinion and Ambrogi’s longer take, but anyone who works in (or plans to work in) a law practice should at least read the takeaways: understanding when encryption or other heightened cybersecurity measures are needed definitely affects everyone who may be in direct contact with a client, and is likely to also affect those who don’t have direct contact but whose work product may be affected (librarians, document production & records people, etc.)

And You Get An ArXiv, And You Get An ArXiv, And You Get An ArXiv

And You Get An ArXiv, And You Get An ArXiv, And You Get An ArXiv

Oprah wants everyone to have a car, whether you want one or not

(Yes, this is old news, but it gives me a chance to use this GIF)

Given the concerns over Elsevier’s purchase of SSRN, people have been lauding the arrival of alternative online archives for social science scholarship. Now, legal scholars can rejoice: the Center for Open Science has launched a preprints service for legal research and scholarship called LawArXiv. The open access, open source repository has 3 non-profits and an academic library collaborating on the effort: Legal Information Preservation Alliance, Mid-American Law Library Consortium, NELLCO Law Library Consortium and Cornell Law Library (which is also home of the excellent and longstanding LII).

As someone outside of academia, the process of uploading papers/preprints looks a bit more complicated than SSRN or bepress. But this is cool, nonetheless. Long may it, and other open access repositories, flourish.

Okay, so Library and Information Science does not get its own ArXiv. Wait, we do! Just without the funky Xiv in the name. The LIS Scholarship Archive (LISSA) is a “free, open scholarly platform for library and information science,” also involving the Center for Open Science and a range of LIS professionals from various institutions.

The LISSA steering committee includes:

Vicky Steeves, co-director, Librarian for Research Data Management and Reproducibility, New York University
April Hathcock, co-director, Librarian for Scholarly Communications, New York University
Chealsye Bowley, Community Manager, Ubiquity Press
Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Charlotte Roh, Scholarly Communications Librarian, University of San Francisco
Kevin Smith, Dean of Libraries, University of Kansas
Micah Vandegrift, Director of Digital Scholarship, Florida State University
Megan Wacha, Scholarly Communications Librarian, City University of NY
Cecily Walker, Assistant Manager, Community Digital Initiatives, Vancouver Public Library

Looking at the Twitter feed for the Archive, there’s a lot of excitement about this.

A change of scenery

A change of scenery

I haven’t been very vocal, but I think I have a decent excuse – I moved back to California from Washington around the holidays, and I’ve been getting back up to speed. But coming up this summer, I’m also changing things up professionally by attending the AALL Annual Conference. How different it will be from SLA Annual, I’m not sure, but I’m also looking forward to seeing Austin in all of its heat and glory.

U.S. gov’t sues academic publisher over deceiving researchers, readers

U.S. gov’t sues academic publisher over deceiving researchers, readers

The Federal Trade Commission’s job is to step in against deceptive practices against consumers, but suing a publisher, especially an academic one, seems rare. But the agency has decided to act on some egregious behavior by OMICS Group:

“The FTC’s complaint alleges that OMICS Group, Inc., along with two affiliated companies and their president and director, Srinubabu Gedela, claim that their journals follow rigorous peer-review practices and have editorial boards made up of prominent academics. In reality, many articles are published with little to no peer review and numerous individuals represented to be editors have not agreed to be affiliated with the journals.

According to the FTC’s complaint, OMICS does not tell researchers that they must pay significant publishing fees until after it has accepted an article for publication, and often will not allow researchers to withdraw their articles from submission, thereby making the research ineligible for publication in another journal. Academic ethics standards generally forbid researchers from submitting the same research to more than one journal.”

According to the FTC, the company’s other deceptive practices include:

  • Calculating its own ‘impact factor’ for its journals, then claiming to have high scores
  • Telling researchers the company’s journals are indexed in PubMed and MEDLINE, which they are not
  • Including the names of prominent researchers as attendees and speakers at company-sponsored conferences, when said researchers had not agreed to participate

Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “It is vital that we stop scammers who seek to take advantage of the changing landscape of academic publishing.”

The complaint can be found here. The suit was filed in federal district court in Nevada.

(H/T to Retraction Watch)

An unfortunate coincidence

An unfortunate coincidence

Long ago, I did a post called “Machine Readable“. It was about algorithms for search and ads and finding related content that fell into the gap of context and nuance. At the time, I picked on Google because … honestly, it was fun and relevant at the time.

Well, after all that time – it’s still kinda relevant, and not just an issue with Google. A friend of mine recommended a particular book, and I looked at the Amazon record for it. The screenshot was taken at 9:26 p.m. PST, January 2, 2016. The only alteration is the red oval pointing out the irony. At least, I dearly hope it is irony.*

At least it wasn't Strom Thurmond's autobiography?
* For those of you wondering why including work by former Sen. Trent Lott on an entry for a book about a tragic attack against the Civil Rights Movement, check out this link.


One for the Public Domain

One for the Public Domain

Perhaps this wouldn’t be quite as big a deal if:

  1. The public domain in the U.S. wasn’t currently in a state of suspended animation due to the Copyright Term Extension Act (do people still call it the Sonny Bono/Mickey Mouse Copyright Act?); and
  2. There weren’t those stories (not apocryphal, but perhaps not as common as one hears) about ASCAP going after scout troops for royalties.

But it IS a big deal. U.S. District Judge George H. King has ruled that “Happy Birthday” is in the public domain. And thus, the public domain has expanded by just a little bit. Not a huge victory, but I think we’ll take it.

The opinion is here. As noted in the article, the case isn’t over yet, and there is the possibility of an appeal – but still … PROGRESS!

Open Access & Open Ed: from SLA Annual 2015

Open Access & Open Ed: from SLA Annual 2015

I had the good fortune to catch a talk by Scholarly Communications Librarian Marilyn Billings (UMass Amherst), who talked about initiatives and best practices for open access models beyond journals publishing. Learned a lot from that talk, despite my scattered note-taking.

Encouraging Openness at your Institution: Trends in Open Ed and Open Access

Marilyn Billings
Scholarly Communications Librarian
University of MA Amherst

Textbook Trends
The high cost of commercial print textbooks is a major concern for parents, students, and even the federal government

2015 Horizon Report – mentions the proliferation of open ed resources
Babson Report:
Faculty not aware of OERs
Faculty appreciate OER concepts
Perceived quality of OERs
Lack of time to find and evaluate OERs
Faculty are key decision makers for OER adoption

What are OERs
O – Open
E – Educational
R – Resources (content)

5 Rs:
Reuse, redistribute, revise, remix, retain

OER includes:
Curriculum materials (syllabi, content modules)
Course materials (texts, assignments, simulations, learning objects, labs)
Collections (journal articles, e-books, art galleries, video libraries)
Tools (software, calculators, analytics)
… and more

Goals of Open Ed Initiative
To provide small incentive grants to faculty to adopt alternatives to high-cost textbooks – funded by Provost and University Libraries & other partners
To provide support infrastructure for creation and/or use of open educational resources and library content
To engage T&L partners and faculty in open ed
Academic Computing
Center of Teaching & Faculty Development
University Libraries

Workshop & Consultation Process

Two 1-hour workshops reviewing available OpenEd Resources and library resources
Individual consulting sessions for faculty with Scholarly Communications librarians and parters as needed

Topics: OER availability, copyright and licensing issues, etc.


Copyright and Author Rights
How do I protect my copyright on the works I create?
How do I make sure I’m not infringing on the copyright of others?

Licensing and Sharing Your Work: Creative Commons

Open Access and Fair Use
* Check the CC license to see how the creator would like something to be used.
* Exercise your fair use rights as academic researchers and educators


Lessons Learned: What Worked

Value of mini-grants and peer review
Meet faculty where they are – create cohorts
Capitalize on library strengths and value of existing services
Leverage complementary strengths of the partners.

Lack of knowledge by faculty
Time consuming to find or develop OE content
Lack of search tool or comprehensive catalog
May lack prepared quizzes and other content
Students may prefer print
Time commitment from partners
Getting beyond the pilot phase


Babson Survey Research Group Report
Horizon Report 2015
Open Textbooks: The Billion Dollar Solution
UMass Amherst’s OER LibGuide



The temptation to include a gif of the Futurama robot, Bender, saying “I’m back, Baby!” is strong, but I shall resist.

But yes … I’m reviving this blog to explore issues around access to information. Copyright, of course, privacy and confidentiality, scholarly communication and open access, e-scholarship, speech and censorship. And more, I’m sure.

Forgive me as I dust away the cobwebs and scrub away the mold. It may take quite a while to get the lay of the landscape again, but I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into it again.

Reaction Round-Up: Golan v. Holder

Reaction Round-Up: Golan v. Holder

In the midst of the SOPA/PIPA protests of yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court released a 69-page opinion, deciding Golan v. Holder [PDF] in favor of the government.  These are only some of the stories, analyses and reactions out there in the press and blogosphere. Some content excerpted following links.

Press and Tech Press

Ars Technica – Supreme Court rules Congress can re-copyright public domain works

New York Times – Public Domain Works Can Be Copyrighted Anew, Supreme Court Rules

TechDirt – Supreme Court Chooses SOPA/PIPA Protest Day To Give A Giant Middle Finger To The Public Domain

Thomson Reuters – Amid SOPA debate, SCOTUS gives Congress broad copyright power

Wired’s Threat Level – Supreme Court Says Congress May Re-Copyright Public Domain Works

Library & Educational Press/Blogs

Chronicle of Higher Ed – Supreme Court Upholds Law That Pulled Foreign Works Back Under Copyright

But the ruling could open the door for Congress to craft further changes in copyright law that scholars might consider even more restrictive, said Kenneth D. Crews, director of the copyright-advisory office at the Columbia University Libraries.
“It is a grant of sweeping authority to Congress to shape copyright law in almost any way that it chooses,” he said of the decision. “This should raise a red flag to be watchful about other developments in congress like SOPA,” he added, referring to the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261).

Kevin Smith at Duke University – Losing our focus

Last night my colleague Will Cross and I were teaching a class session on copyright for library students.  Will discussed (among other things) two aspects or principles of copyright decision making that seem relevant to today’s decision.  First was the idea that the federal courts tend to show great deference to Congress in the area of copyright.  That deference is very evident in today’s majority opinion: “This Court has no warrant to reject Congress’ rational judgment that exemplary adherence to Berne would serve the objectives of the Copyright Clause.”
The other principle Will discussed was the incentive purpose that is given as the reason, in the Constitution, for allowing Congress to enact intellectual property laws.  This purpose is pretty clearly rejected by the majority, when Justice Ginsberg writes that “Nothing in the text or history of the Copyright Clause, moreover, confines the ‘Progress of Science’ exclusively to ‘incentives for creation.’” …

Library Journal – Supreme Court Upholds Law Restoring Copyright to Some Public-Domain Works

Law Blogs

SCOTUSblog had the opinion and probably the first analysis of it – Opinion Recap: The Public Domain Shrinks

Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy – Supreme Court Considers Case on “Unprecedented” Assertion of Congressional Power

Timothy Sandefur at Freespace – The smug analogy falls flat (in reaction to Kerr’s post)

Wendy Seltzer – Copyright in Congress, Court, and Public

Golan reminds us too that we can’t count on the courts to help us where Congress gets copyright wrong. The majority leaves a great deal to Congressional discretion, as it did in Eldred (striking down a challenge to copyright term extension): “the Copyright Clause does not demand that each copyright provision, examined discretely, operate to induce new works.” In a chilling phrase, the Golan majority quotes the district court’s finding of a “settled rule that private censorship via copyright enforcement does not implicate First Amendment concerns.”