Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Rights with Copyright

Today’s issue of the Federal Register contains a new final rule from the Copyright Office, “Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies”(background and supplemental documents). The new rule outlines six situations which are now exempted from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition against “circumvention” of copyright law.

The news was welcomed by a wide audience, including smartphone users (it’s now considered “fair use” to “jailbreak” your iPhone; see analysis at Ars Technica), computer programmers (“good faith testing” of computer and video game security is no longer punishable), and e-book fans who require accessibility software (it’s OK to “crack” your e-book reader for the purpose of enabling read-aloud software, if the reader software or e-book title does not already offer this feature) (sorry e-book fans; this recommendation from the Librarian of Congress actually didn't make it into the final rule; perhaps the next triennial round of exemptions will include it).

But the most exciting news around Goodson Blogson HQ was the expansion of fair use rights as they relate to DVDs. Previous exemptions had allowed college/university professors to incorporate copyright-protected DVD clips in the classroom, but look who now can incorporate “short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment [. . . with] reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use”:
  • Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students;
  • Documentary filmmaking;
  • Noncommercial videos.
Will we see an upswing in documentary-making activity in the library’s Student Media Workshop? Will our Legal DVD collection be raided regularly? Will you bookmark every legal online movie source from our February 2010 roundup (and also MovieClips, a great search engine which we sadly forgot at the time)? We sure hope so.

These exemptions are set and re-evaluated by the Librarian of Congress every three years, so enjoy them while they last. (Records of the previous anticircumvention rulemaking are available at the Copyright Office website.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Windows into War

On Sunday, the government transparency site Wikileaks released 75,000 U.S. military reports concerning the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The Kabul War Diary archive includes reports from 2004-2010 and can be found at http://wardiary.wikileaks.org/ as raw data files. Prior to release on the web, the reports were also shared with the New York Times, Germany’s Der Spiegel, and the UK’s Guardian. These news outlets are in the process of analyzing and organizing the reports in order to make them more accessible. For example, the Guardian has prepared a spreadsheet timeline of “key incidents”, and has asked its readers to share mash-ups of the raw data on its website.

Wikileaks has not revealed the source for these reports (although a U.S. army private currently stands accused of the security breach). But as the New York Times observed in its Note to Readers, the U.S. government does not dispute any of the reports’ authenticity. Most of the reports were classified as “secret”, which the Times calls “a relatively low level of classification.” It’s actually the middle of three levels, between “confidential” and “top secret,” as defined in section 1.2 of Executive Order 13526 -- the distinction is the level of damage that the information “could be reasonably expected to cause” to national security (damage, serious damage, and exceptionally grave damage).

The White House (through National Security Adviser General James Jones) has condemned the release of these reports, saying that the disclosure “could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.” Wikileaks is currently withholding from publication another 15,000 reports which contain sensitive information about named individuals; redacted versions of these reports will be posted over the next few weeks.

The Wikileaks controversy comes almost four decades after the famous “Pentagon Papers” case, in which the New York Times (and later the Washington Post) published a previously top-secret Defense Department history of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration ordered injunctions to cease the report’s publication, which the U.S. Supreme Court later found to be unconstitutional prior restraint on the press. To read more about this pre-Internet example of a classified leak, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject keywords Pentagon Papers. To read more about national security law in general, try a subject search for national security law and legislation.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Tale of the Snail

Here at Goodson Blogson HQ, we love to learn more about the lives behind the law. We’ve previously written about Foundation Press’s popular “Law Stories” series, which explores notable U.S. cases in a historical and biographical context. There are a number of other books which sketch the “biography” of a particular case, like Wiegand and Wiegand’s Books on Trial: Red Scare in the Heartland or Garrett Epps’s To an Unknown God: Religious Freedom on Trial. Duke Law professor Tom Metzloff takes a more visual approach to the genre, with his Voices of American Law documentary project (formerly known as Distinctive Aspects of American Law), which features interviews with the major players of important Supreme Court cases.

It seems our friends across the pond have gotten into the law story spirit, judging by one of our latest acquisitions, The Snail and the Ginger Beer: The Singular Case of Donoghue v. Stevenson (KDC188 D66 C48 2010). Barrister Matthew Chapman recreates the history behind this seminal 1932 torts case, in which an unlucky shop assistant named May Donoghue was shocked to find the remains of a snail sealed inside her bottled drink. She brought suit against the manufacturer, and the subsequent House of Lords decision created an important expansion of the concept of duty. The case is well-known to UK lawyers and law students, and has even inspired a viral YouTube “Law Revue” style video, Snail in a Bottle (to the tune of the Police hit “Message in a Bottle”). Chapman’s account is comparatively low on singing, but is a welcome international addition to the “law story” genre.

Locating “law stories” in the Duke Libraries catalog can be tricky. The best approach is to search for the name of a particular case as a subject keyword; if you’re still stuck, remember to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Little More Bar Exam Help

The Goodson Blogson does not wish to scare you, but there are just a few weeks left until the July bar exam. If you are one of the thousands who will sit for the exam at the end of this month, you may be interested in some additional study resources at the Goodson Law Library.

In our online catalog, try a subject keyword search for “Bar examinations—United States—Study guides”. This will retrieve some helpful resources for any bar exam, including an updated 2010 edition of Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (on Reserve) and other titles like The Essential Rules for Bar Exam Success (KF303 .F75 2008).

If you’re interested in seeing past exams from North Carolina, start at the NC Board of Law Examiners site. This site offers past exams from 2005-2007 free for download, for those who would like a peek at the structure of state-specific essay questions. (Even older essay questions are available in the library at the call number KFN7476 .N671, but the latest exam available in print is 2003.) The North Carolina Bar Association has also prepared a brief guide to Drafting a Bar Exam Essay Answer (KFN7476.Z9 D73 2004), with tips and tricks for NC test takers. An updated (2009) version of this pamphlet is available in PDF at http://younglawyers.ncbar.org/media/300925/09draftingexamanswer.pdf.

For bar examinations in other states, there is a collection of past exams in the Microforms Collection on Level 1 of the library (cabinet # 35, top drawer). Available dates vary by state, although many of the most popular bar exam destinations for Duke Law (such as California and New York) have received past exams up to July 2009. To see what years are available for a particular state, search the Duke Libraries catalog for the subject keywords bar examinations and [state]; e.g. bar examinations and Maryland. Note that many states also make past exams available for free on their bar exam websites, such as New York’s page of Past Exam Questions, which may be more up-to-date than our microfiche collection. Visit http://www.ncbex.org/bar-admissions/offices/ to locate the Board of Law Examiners site for your state.

Good luck to all of our July 2010 exam-takers!