Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lex Olympica

Friday, July 27 marks the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The massive international competition will last until August 12 and feature more than 10,000 athletes competing in 26 different sports. (See this page for descriptions of each summer sport, as well as information about the criteria for adding a new sport to the Olympic program.)

Planning for each Olympic Games is a complex process, from site selection to judging each event. The primary organization which oversees the Games is the International Olympic Committee, in cooperation with International Sports Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs). This "Olympic Movement" adheres to a lengthy Charter which outlines the various rules and by-laws which make the Games possible. The IOC website includes the text of the Olympic Charter, a directory for the members of the international as well as national committees, and more information about financing and governance.

Several works in the Goodson Law Library discuss the evolution of the Olympic Games' regulation since their origins in ancient Greece. The recent treatises Sports Law: Lex Sportiva & Lex Olympica: Theory and Praxis (2011) and The Law of the Olympic Games (2009) explore a variety of legal issues from the earliest Olympics to the present day.

For more resources on the legal issues surrounding the Olympic Games, or on issues in sports law more generally, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "Sports -- Law and legislation" or Ask A Librarian.

Monday, July 16, 2012

...And CRS Reports for All

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a House resolution intended to provide wider public access to reports prepared by the Congressional Research Service. CRS staff members research and draft reports on current legislative and policy concerns, which are made accessible to all members of Congress. The reports give important background information to lawmakers on such diverse topics as the impact of recent Supreme Court decisions, the political outlook in other countries, and even the procedure for naming U.S. Navy ships.

Their access to the public is far more unpredictable, though – citizens may request free copies of particular reports from their elected representatives, assuming that they are able to identify a desired report title. A commercial publisher, Penny Hill Press, provides RSS feeds of newly-released reports, and sells them as PDF downloads for around $30 each. As described in the library's research guide to Federal Legislative History, the full text of CRS reports dating back to 1916 are also available to current Duke University students, faculty and staff through the ProQuest Congressional subscription database. Other sites attempt to collect and provide free access to these uncopyrightable government publications, such as the University of North Texas, the OpenCRS Network, and the Federation of American Scientists. Currently, though, there is no free source which provides comprehensive access to all CRS reports.

As noted in an informative blog post from The Sunlight Foundation, there have been several previous attempts to provide wider public access to CRS reports, which were originally restricted in the 1950s due more to concerns about the cost of printing than out of a need to keep the reports confidential. The current resolution, "Congressional Research Service Electronic Accessibility Resolution of 2012" (H. Res. 727) can be read at THOMAS, which also provides up-to-date information on the bill's progress.

For more information on researching CRS reports or tracking the progress of the House resolution, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Live and Let Liver

Over the weekend, California residents bid au revoir to foie gras, as a statewide ban signed in 2004 finally took effect on Sunday. The expensive delicacy is made from the livers of geese or ducks which have been fattened, often through a controversial force-feeding system called gavage. The Force Fed Birds Act of 2004 (text via CA legislature or HeinOnline’s Session Laws Library) prohibits both the practice of gavage as well as the sale of products which result from such force feeding, meaning that California farmers and restaurateurs alike are affected by the ban.

Most new laws don’t take effect immediately, in order to allow sufficient time to adjust to changes. In fact, California usually delays the effective date of new laws until the following January 1 (see Gov. Code § 9600 at But if a 7+ year delay seems excessive, look no further than the statute itself for the explanation: the lengthy gap was intended to give those "engaged in agricultural practices that include raising and selling force fed birds" a fair chance "to modify their business practices" in the meantime. (It also gave California diners a chance to do some gorging of their own, and the L.A. Times reports that diners took full advantage.)

California wasn’t the first, or only, place to ban the production or sale of foie gras. Several European countries have ceased production of foie gras since the late 1990s, although most do not also prohibit its import or sale. Closer to home, chapter 2 of the recent ABA publication The Little Book of Foodie Law details the City of Chicago's 2006 attempt to ban the sale of foie gras in its stores and restaurants. (The unpopular and poorly-enforced prohibition was repealed in 2008.) Other chapters describe interesting cases concerning other food-related laws, including trademark infringement suits, squabbles over the C.F.R. definitions of "olive oil" and "cream cheese," and tort claims against a wedding caterer for serving non-kosher food at a Jewish couple's wedding. As an added bonus, each chapter contains a recipe related to the topic. (California residents won't have much luck with the foie gras chapter, as it calls for the now-banned product: perhaps they can substitute the New York Times’ instructions for "faux gras" made with chicken livers.)

To learn more about laws and regulations which impact the food you eat, try a subject search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for "Food Law and Legislation" or Ask a Librarian.