"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.

N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Thursday, May 27, 2010

Recent Privacy Changes on Facebook

Facebook in recent months has endured a substantial amount of criticism over privacy concerns, particularly due to confusing default settings that automatically expose information on a person's wall along with photos to the public, difficulty in controlling information that is share with third party applications, and the onerous process involved for those who wish to delete their accounts. Such concerns prompted Senator Chuck Schumer-D, NY, to call on the Federal Trade Commission to set guidelines for social networking sites with repect to how personal information is used.

In response to the growing scrutiny, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a press conference on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, that Facebook will be implementing privacy changes to give the user more control in sharing information (see the press release on Mark Zuckerberg's blog). The following is a summary of those changes:

1. One simple control that will allow the user to limit the visibility of wall postings to "friends only", "friends of friends", and "everyone".

2. Lower the amount of information available to the public (pages and friends are no longer required to be listed on the profile).

3. Improve the ease of managing personal information that is available to third party applications and websites.

Whether these changes will satisfy privacy groups and keep more people from defecting from Facebook remains to be seen. While the response appears to be positive, PC Magazine posted an article on its website that evaluated most of the changes negatively based on criteria stipulated in a previous article. Chief among the concerns included the need for a"simplified privacy" link from the homepage, a "friends only" default setting that will limit the ability to view photos to those on a user's friends list, and making account deletion easier for those who wish to leave Facebook for good.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The (New) Bluebook Is Coming! The (New) Bluebook Is Coming!

It's that time again. Every five years (give or take), a new edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is published. On June 1st, the 19th edition of The Bluebook will officially be released (although the 19th edition can be accessed electronically right now at www.legalbluebook.com). There is one change, however, that is generating quite a bit of buzz, and it's a doozy!! The new edition explicitly addresses, in Rule 18.7.3, that most-important question that has been on everyone's lips for the last several years: How to cite to a podcast!

Really? Out of all the deficiencies with The Bluebook, all the ambiguities that should've been addressed editions ago, the most pressing matter worthy of the editors' attentions is citing to podcasts?!

I don't know which is worse: That the editors took the time to create a specific rule for podcasts, or that that is the only change that people seem interested in!

Granted, most of the other changes are just remodeling: There has been some slight reorganization and consequent renumbering. For example, many of the primary law rules now have sub-rules dealing with how to cite to them in electronic media, whereas almost all of the electronic citation rules were limited to Rule 18 (and its sub-rules) in the 18th edition. Now, if you need to determine how to cite to a legislative document available electronically, instead of checking two Rules (Rules 13 and 18 in the 18th edition), you may only need to check one Rule (Rule 13 in the 19th edition).

However, it appears that there has been some "reorganization" that I fear will create confusion: Several types of documents that had been blessed with their own sub-rules in previous editions, such as federal taxation materials, securities-related documents, presidential documents, and patents, have been relegated to the ever-more cumbersome tables in the back of The Bluebook. There was a reason why special attention was paid to these types of documents in the past, but evidently, podcasts are more important and harder to cite than Treasury Regulations, presidential documents, or anything associated with patent law! For now, all the commentators have been excited about learning how to cite to podcasts, but come the beginning of the new law school year this fall, I won't be surprised to hear these same people complaining about The Bluebook's tables.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Supreme Court Nominations

Yesterday President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Article II of the United States Constitution requires the President to submit nominations to the Senate for advice and consent. Since 1789, presidents have submitted 159 nominations for the Court, 123 of which were confirmed.

More information about Supreme Court nominations can be found on the Senate Judiciary Committee website and the Library of Congress website. The transcripts of Supreme Court nomination hearings from 1971 – present are available at the GPO Access website. University of Michigan Law Library also has set up a timely website on Kagan. For more information and updates of the development, try the special pages posted by New York Times and Washington Post.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Sampling of Reasons to Return Your Library Books on Time

Have you ever wondered what might happen to you if you don't return your books when you get that overdue notice? Some of the answers to that question might surprise you. For example:

In Colorado, it's considered a class 3 misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of up to 6 months in jail. (C.R.S.A. section 24-90-117)

Georgia classifies it as a misdemeanor, and may send you to jail for up to 30 days. (Ga. Code Ann. section 20-5-53)

Idaho considers it to be a petit theft, with jail time of up to 1 year. (I.C. section 33-2620)

Missouri considers it to be a misdemeanor or sometimes a felony, depending on the value of the materials. (V.A.M.S. 570-210)

Nevada fines you up to 500 dollars, and holds parents liable for any materials their children don't return. (N.R.S. 379-160)

New York can send you to jail for up to 6 months. (Education Law section 265)

Pennsylvania issues a fine, but will put you in jail for up to 10 days if you default in paying that fine. (24 P.S. section 4426)

South Carolina may jail you for up to 30 days. (Code 1976 section 16-13-340)

In West Virginia, you face a fine of up to 200 dollars, and parents are liable for the failure of their children to return books also. (W. Va. Code section 10-1-11)

So be sure to return those books when they're due!