Fred Raogers RIP

Mr. Rogers died today. On top of everything he meant to many former children, he was also not afraid to speak out against other powerful interests in his industry. Bernard Hibbits pays him good tribute by quoting from the Sony v. University City Studios, 464 U.S. 417 (1984) opinion:

Fred Rogers [is] president of the corporation that produces and owns the copyright on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The program is carried by more public television stations than any other program. Its audience numbers over 3,000,000 families a day. He testified [at trial] that he had absolutely no objection to home taping for noncommercial use and expressed the opinion that it is a real service to families to be able to record children's programs and to show them at appropriate times. If there are millions of owners of VTR's [video tape recorders] who make copies of televised sports events, religious broadcasts, and educational programs such as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and if the proprietors of those programs welcome the practice, the business of supplying the equipment that makes such copying feasible should not be stifled simply because the equipment is used by some individuals to make unauthorized reproductions of respondents' works.

May he rest in peace

Klineman on Felten

“An awful lot of invention happens because of people messing around with stuff,” [Felten] says. “If you read a textbook about science or engineering, it presents a view that everything advanced in a fairly logical way from the beginning. It leaves out the tremendous amount of exploration, blind alleys, and messing around that actually got you there.”

Jeff Klineman (freelancer and prince among men) has an article about Ed Felten for the Princeton Alumni Weekly. You should read it.

Aggregator at

Dave Winer describes the new news aggregator. "So I spent some time yesterday creating a prototype for something that I'd like to add to Manila, as a gift, no need to pay me -- an aggregator at the community level. " Welcome to the Berkman Center Dave, this is what we do (and one of the reasons why you are a good fit).

In many ways, I think this project is as important as encouraging Harvard to blog. One of the incredible things about school is that there is a huge sense of cultural cohesiveness (meaning that we all have a shared context from which to draw) AND a sense of wonder at each other's differences. Aggregators really help there because the create an easier way of gathering a community's context. Also, because aggregators help present more tidbits per minute, they allow users to keep up on many different sites which might include many different points of view (though Andrew Shapiro may disagree). I aggregate many sites with which I do not agree and find the experience wonderful. As a story or meme breaks, commentary naturally occurs from many different points of view in my aggregator. Usually the commentary helps me to understand the story or meme. Often it presents me with a new way of seeing the story or meme.

Goldstein and Howe

My Shingle on Goldstein & Howe's unconventional path to success (quoting a Legal Times article). 1) take pro bono work, it is great experience and can lead to paying clients 2) focus, focus, focus. I think the same advice is useful and true for associates in a big firm practice. 1) Take pro bono assignments (in fact, seek them out) 2) take assignments that have no immediate payoff 3) focus.

Alan Mendelson gave the same advice last year at an HLSNet Event (transcript).

My Shingle is a good site even though they failed to mention Goldstein & Howe's wonderful web log (another contributing factor to its success?) or even link to the Goldstein & Howe web page. The web is for linking people. Get with it!

Later: Carolynn Elefant (the author of the story I linked to) wrote a great comment on my story that doesn't deserve to be hidden in my comments pop-up. She writes:

... I disagree about the value of multiple links. I don't like going to a blawg and seeing snippet of information and having to subsequently link to one hundred other sites. And I have news for you too - many solos and small firm lawyers (for whom my site is targeted) who spend their day in court or meeting with clients don't have the time to cruise around from link to link between drafting memos as is the case for many law clerks or associates. In fact, that's one reason that I may potentially have difficulty in drumming up a solid readership base amongst the audience for whom the site was intended - although it provides good information for many others in the legal profession as well in addition to a new perspective.

Amen to that. When I first started bricoleur I obsessively linked, now I link less and post more. I'm all for Carolynn linking less if it means her posting more! (on her other point, I hope that she is wrong as many small practitioners could use a source of information and a water cooler like what is taken for granted at BIGLAW).

Jurist Paper Chase

Yeah! I just noticed the Jurist, Bernard Hibbitts' Web Log (uPitt Law School), has an rss feed. That rocks. Plus, I am very happy to be on their list of best lawyer blawgs!

Freeing Law

There have been a number of interesting tidbits lately on the state of electronic access to legal information (including Melissa Barr's Democracy in the Dark and's article on standards). Let me go one step further and ask why aren't all published cases online for free?

I've been thinking about this for a long time and want to start gathering information on the problem and potential solutions. Here are my opening thoughts and questions. Please comment on this post or e-mail me if you have answers (or more questions).

1. How big is the problem?

We've all heard that the current pricing models of LexisNexis and West effectively foreclose use of these services for small practitioners, legal aid institutions and pro se litigants. Is it true? To what extent to competing pay services (such as LoisLaw and VersusLaw) and the free but spotty services (such as Findlaw) help fill the gap?

One of the major problems must be getting burned in court with cases that you couldn't find in researching. Has that happened to you?

Another major issue is lack of major innovation in legal information provision (from searching to encoding to automated summarization etc.) that comes from lack of competition. Do you think that a free and open opinion index would fix that?

Yet another problem that may be related is that courts have been slow to provide current opinions to the public electronically. I think part of the reason for this may be because current court opinions are not as useful as a full historical database (the usefulness of a case database grows with its size and there is an extra premium on a complete database). Do you think that keeping a full public database current would provide more incentives?

2. How big is the solution?

Taking California as an example, how big are all the California state and federal cases? How many pages are all the reporters? What are the relative sizes of the problem for other states?

I think I have a handle on scanning / OCR / proofreading / meta data generation issues from document collection / processing. On the high end, I think you could do all of that for under twenty cents a page using a commercial service's basic rates. Obviously this might be done cheaper in-house or using volunteers. Anyone have more realistic estimates?

What is the state of the art opinion reporting schemas? How developed is it?

Not a question

We live in a time that could, as Brewster Kahle often says, "provide universal access to all human knowledge." The issue of free and open access to judicial opinions seems like an important component of human knowledge that we ought to be providing for free.

cMusings Continues the Conversation

Derek Slater at cMusings (now at its spiffy new location) takes issue with my suggestion of basing what artists earn on what their audience actually does with what they create. He writes:

... Alex argues that we should "base pay on what we do with music: listen, mix, and derive new music" rather than copying.

Basing pay on precisely how something is consumed has some drawbacks, though. Monitoring use could be seen as an invasion of privacy. Someone might not want their MP3 player sending statistics back to a server telling it exactly how many times s/he listened to a particular song, for example.

While this is true, I am not sure it is the end of the story for a few reasons. First, the privacy problem is here anyway. As the Verizon case makes clear, your privacy in sharing music is by no means currently guaranteed (actually, since most of the current file sharing products allow users to see what other users are sharing, the only reason I need a subpoena is to find out who you are -- and I may be able to figure that out without a subpoena depending on how much I know about you and how good of a sleuth I am.) Second, the sampling of copying proposals are no less privacy intrusive, they just shift the information that becomes "known": copying v. use. Third, there is no reason to have the data be personally identifiable, or even to need to sample everyone: just as the Neilsen's do television, so too could we have a sample set of music consumers who did not mind the privacy problem. As I and others have suggested elsewhere, this voluntary monitoring may work.

Still, Derek has a point in that monitoring use is a step in controlling use. The more fine grained a monitoring system, the more fine grained the potential for use management. Lack of privacy and control are intimately linked. (This is the personal autonomy type of privacy that runs throughout the constitutional jurisprudence of privacy -- including abortion-rights).

He also makes the good point that I had read too much of my own views into Fisher's proposal. Derek reports that Fisher's proposes sampling downloading, not sampling use.

Later: Derek responded. Good points, raises the problem of being paid for derivative works.


DBD::Google is excellent! (why open standards based API's kick so much butt) [from Raelity Bytes].


MusicBrainz is a great start. The idea is to uniquely mark (I would use the term "fingerprint" but ...) individual recordings. Let that sink in and think about what you could do if you could unambiguously say that you had just listened to x, or that you liked x. First off, it makes a project like MoodMusic easier and better (especially the collaborative filtering part), but also it makes Fisher's plan easier to implement. And, a lot more. [via Archipelago].

Lincoff's Music Plan

As Copyfighter also writes, Bennett Lincoff's music licensing plan is stuck in the past. Copyfighter points out that Lincoff still believes in the old distribution model (from trusted -- read "big" -- sources) and I would add that Lincoff is also still trying to remunerate musicians for copying, rather than listening and using. Lincoff writes: "Royalty distribution would be based on a full census of licensed transmissions." Why transmissions? I get no value from "copying" music or music "transmissions," so why should artists be remunerated on that basis. , Why not base pay on what we do with music: listen, mix, and derive new music.

If we are reforming copyright and looking for a fair way to recompense artists, then there is no reason to dogmatically stick to the old rules.

Pillgrim v. Burton on DMCA

An interesting conversation going on between Mark Pilgrim and Kevin Burton and many others. As LaughingMeme describes it:

Mark just
viciously attacked Kevin. Its the sort of think you
expect from certain bloggers, but coming from Mark Pilgrim rocks you back on
your heels. ... Is there some rule, or natural force that hits a blogger after a while? Does everybody become as wizened and angry as Winer or Jorn? Celebrity without the protective barriers society normally erects around celebrities?

I am not sure I took Mark's post as personally as Kellan. Discourse is good. Sometimes you get called an idiot. I certainly have been.