"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



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

European Court of Human Rights strengthens the rights of biological fathers

In a highly anticipated decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on December 21, 2010 that biological fathers have a right to see their children even if they had not established a relationship with them but had “shown a serious interest in the children” and expressed the wish to build a familial relationship with them.

The ECHR, based in Strasbourg, France, was ruling on a case in which successive German courts had denied the man the right to see his twin daughters, who were born after he had a relationship with a married German woman. The ruling further establishes a precedent that unmarried fathers in Germany have a right to see their children even after a relationship ends.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland are generally considered to be conservative when it comes to granting unmarried fathers custody or access to their children after separation. However, the German government is presently reviewing the laws on this issue, and the Secretary of Justice, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, announced today, that she wishes to move swiftly in the wake of this decision that comes just four month after the Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that a law denying unwed fathers custody rights to their children without the mother’s permission is unconstitutional.

The judgment is available through the database at the ECHR.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Google ebookstore now offers Government Printing Office Publications

The Washington Post is reporting that the Government Printing Office publications now can be purchased from Google ebookstore. According to the article, eventually 1,800 government publications will be available. Those who choose to purchase these items will immediately discover the difference in cost from the print version. According to the article, the President's 2011 budget proposal (which cost $77.00) is available as an e-book for $9.99. This is the latest move into the digital age by the Government Printing Office, which in the past two years has migrated many of its documents to the new Federal Digital System (FDsys). See the Washington Post article for more details.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights Day 2010

Today is Human Rights Day! Celebrated on the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Day was first celebrated 60 years ago after the General Assembly passed Resolution 423(V) inviting "all States and interested organizations" to celebrate this accomplishment "as part of a common effort to bring the Declaration to the attention of the peoples of the world."

Human Rights Day 2010 is dedicated to the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination. Let's celebrate the hard work and dedication of human rights defenders around the world, not just today, but every day!

For more information, visit the Human Rights Day 2010 website or the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (The OHCHR also maintains an excellent page with links to the texts of human rights instruments.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Latest Developments in the War on Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing Websites

According to several reports, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement used civil forfeiture to seize approximately 80 websites accused of violating copyright and trademark law over the long Thanksgiving Day weekend. The seizure was perpetrated in an attempt to shut down the websites, many of which dealt with allegedly counterfeit merchandise, although some were peer-to-peer file-sharing, or "torrent", websites. However, as Digital Trends reports, most of the websites simply shifted to a different URL, some switching to top-level domain names that are beyond the government's jurisdiction.

Currently in the US Senate, a bill is being considered that would make such seizures even easier. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, S. 3804, was recently reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although it seems to have bi-partisan support, it appears there is just not enough time left in the current session to get it through both houses. Perhaps that will give opponents of the bill the time they need to launch an effective lobbying campaign against it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

FTC Staff Privacy Report

FTC issued a preliminary staff report on Wednesday (12/1/2010) proposing a framework to balance the privacy interests of consumers with online companies mining consumer information. Titled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers", this report practically declares that the online companies have failed to protect the privacy of Internet users and makes recommendations including:

1. “Companies should adopt a ‘privacy by design’ approach by building privacy protections into their everyday business practices”;
2. Consumers should be presented with choice about collection and sharing of their data at the time and in the context in which they are making decisions, not after having to read long, complicated disclosures that they often cannot find. One possible model is a “do not track” mechanism, following the idea of the National Do Not Call Registry; and
3. Other measures to improve the transparency of information practices, including consideration of standardized notices that allow the public to compare information practices of competing companies.

A New York Times news article on this report can be found here.

These measures, if adopted, could have a direct impact on the multi-billion dollar business conducted by the online advertising companies and technology giants such Google and Facebook. One has to wonder what kind of legislative/regulative/legal actions will follow.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dodd-Frank Act Regulatory Reform Rules

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis announced a website this week that will assist researchers in tracking the large number of rules implementing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. According to the site, 250 rules from 11 different agencies will be promulgated under the Act.

The Dodd-Frank Act Regulatory Reform Rules website provides links to proposed rules, including those still open for comment, and final rules. It also supplies links to the 11 agencies involved in the rulemaking process and provides an RSS feed for updates on the latest rulemaking activities.

For more information on the Dodd-Frank Act, also see the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. guide or the American Bankers Association Dodd-Frank Tracker.