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Showing posts from February, 2012

Copyrightability of Briefs Filed in Court: Fair Use?

Recently, as many other blogs have reported, two attorneys have filed suit in the Southern District of New York against West and LexisNexis arguing that their [Wexis's] distribution of briefs filed in court [and acquired by Wexis with the courts' complicity] constitutes copyright infringement.

I believe the stronger argument against a finding of infringement is that, once filed, such documents do not just become "publicly available", as Eugene Volokh argues, but they become a part of the public record, and, as such, lose any copyright that may have attached when the document was first created. However, I am not a copyright expert, so let's examine the argument that seems to be getting the majority of play: that (somehow) such use of the otherwise-copyrighted briefs constitutes "fair use".

Fair Use

"Fair use" is an affirmative defense against the charge of copyright infringement, and is covered by 17 U.S.C. § 107 (2006). As the text of that statut…

United Nations News Reader

The United Nations recently launched a free app that allows you to access international news stories from the UN News Centre on your mobile device. Currently the app is available for iOS devices and can be downloaded through iTunes. You can browse the most recent UN news stories and view articles on particular subjects or from various regions of the world. The app also allows you to save your favorite articles as well as read the materials offline.

However, this is not the only app available from the UN. The organization has also created apps for the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as others. For more information about these apps and more, see the UN Mobile Applications website.

Super PAC Resources

It seems that Super PACs are everywhere these days. In recent weeks, they have been the focus of numerous news reports and blogs as well as fodder for late-night comedians. Super PACs, which emerged after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, have created controversy because they may accept unlimited contributions and make unlimited expenditures (under certain conditions) in order to advocate for or against particular political candidates.

If you want to learn more about Super PACs beyond what you have been seeing in the news, the Congressional Research Service recently issued a helpful report explaining what they are, how they are regulated, the types of information they must disclose, and Super PAC activity in the 2010 election. California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting have also put together a searchable database with information about who is donating to Super PACs. Finally, OpenSecrets.org has provided a table listing how Super PAC money is bei…

Effectively Representing Your Client Before the IRS

The American Bar Association Section of Taxation has recently published Effectively Representing Your Client Before the IRS, 5th ed., a two volume set with practical information designed for attorneys who represent their clients before the IRS. Each of the chapters, written by different authors who specialize in the field, contains analysis of the law and examples along with sample correspondence and forms. This set begins with a discussion of the structure of the IRS, the rights of taxpayers, and the Taxpayer Advocate Service and expands on issues pertaining to the internal procedural matters within the IRS such as filing claims, assessments, the auditing process, adverse determinations, collections, and tax liens and levies. Litigation matters are also explored such as bringing suit within the U.S. Tax Court, civil penalties, criminal cases, and including tax debts in bankruptcy. Identity theft, recovering fees, and recovering refunds for overpayments are among other topics covered.…

New Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Disclosure Requirements Drawing Controversy

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that newly proposed rules by The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would require those who drill on federal public lands to disclose hydraulic fracturing chemicals that they use is drawing heavy criticism by the oil and gas industry. Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is a method of extracting natural gas or oil from deep shale formations by the injection of a liquid substance (which usually includes chemicals) at high pressure. The new rules would allow a trade-secret exemption if companies can demonstrate that information is protected by state or federal regulations.

The ONEAR Mystery

One of the things I still don't understand about the search syntax on Lexis Advance is: Why include the ONEAR/n Connector? Wait . . . You don't know about the ONEAR Connector?! Well, I'm not surprised, because no else seems to know about it either (including most employees of LexisNexis)!

First, of all, every person I've mentioned this Connector to has reacted the same way: "ONEAR? What's that mean? That's a dumb name!"

Second, it's actually a redundant Connector. According to the list on the Connectors tab of the Search Tips form page in Lexis Advance, the ONEAR connector (which is the last Connector listed) should be used when you want to "Include words where the first word precedes the second by not more than 'n' words". Hmm . . . Why does that sound familiar? . . . Oh, yeah. Because the fifth Connector listed is the PRE/n Connector, and its stated function is to "Include words where the first word precedes the second by no…