"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
The American Bar Association has recently published Images with Impact: Design and use of Winning Trial Visuals by Kerri L. Ruttenberg. This title is now available in the law library(KF8915.R88 2017) on the new titles shelf across from the reference desk. This book, ideal for both the trial lawyer and law student, focuses on turning themes into visuals to communicate effectively with the jury. The author begins with a discussion of the importance of visual communication and then covers tools such as charts, maps, diagrams, graphs, tables, outlines, photos, and timelines. Those who are not familiar with the basics of graphic design will also find the chapters in Part III to be very helpful. Tips on spotting misleading visuals, practical tips for creating and using visuals at trial, and an overview of the law on demonstrative evidence are among the other topics addressed.
The legal research company Casetext has announced that it has acquired $12 million in venture capital to expand on its CARA ("Case Analysis Research Assistant") AI software, a virtual research assistant currently capable of scanning a legal brief and retrieving cases relevant to but not cited in the brief.
CARA is not alone in the world of legal AIs. When it was created last year, it joined the ranks of AIs including ROSS, an IBM Watson-based legal research AI, DoNotPay, a website founded in 2015 to automate the preparation of parking ticket appeals, and an amateur AI judge capable of predicting European Court of Human Rights decisions with 79% accuracy.
The Center for Responsive Politics recently launched a new research
tool called Foreign Lobby Watch.
It provides a searchable database of organizations and individuals registered
under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), a federal law enacted in 1938
in response to German propaganda efforts in the United States. You may have
read about this law in the news recently: President Trump’s former national
security advisor, Michael Flynn, was required to register as a foreign agent
for his consulting firm’s work on behalf of a company with ties to the Turkish
The database is made up of FARA forms filed with the
Department of Justice. The registration forms include information on the
organization serving as a foreign agent, details of the business arrangement,
and political donations made by the organization. The database also contains
short forms (filed by individuals), and supplemental forms, filed every six
months, that provide detailed information on work performed for the client. You
can search the full text of the documents, or search by registrant name, name
of foreign principal, or location. You can also restrict your search to a given
For more information on what’s in the database,
see the site’s methodology
Perma.cc solves the
problem of link rot for law schools, courts, and universities. Link rot occurs when the hyperlinks cited in
scholarly papers and court opinions no longer lead to the webpages they’re
meant to reference. Perma.cc creates a permanent, archived version of a website
and assigns a permanent URL to that version. The archived version of the cited
content will then be permanently available—even if the website modifies, moves,
or deletes the page’s originally cited content.
Perma.cc was developed
by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, and its founding supporters included
more than sixty law-school libraries, along with the Harvard Berkman Center for
Internet and Society, the Internet Archive, the Legal Information Preservation
Alliance, and the Digital Public Library of America.Here at the University of Houston Law
Center, our law review and journals have been creating Perma links since the
summer of 2016, and all are very satisfied with the user experience and
results. Collectively, the Law Center’s Perma.cc users have preserved more than
1300 webpages in the less than year for readers to reference, even as URLs
change and content disappears.
month the excellent Editor in Chief of the Houston Law Review’s 54th
board, Jennifer Robichaux, came to me with a question about archived pages that
were now marked as “private” and not available for view. In particular, this
affected links from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Curious, I
began to check the footnotes of other law review and journal articles that had
Perma links to articles from these sites. The result was the same: many Perma
links to New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, all marked as private.
Here’s what the result image looks like:
It still contains a link to the originally captured
page, allowing for verification of the record, but not complete access unless
you are a subscriber.
How does this happen? The magic is in the page’s source file. According to Perma’s User Guide:
“Some Perma Records become private automatically upon creation, and their status cannot be changed. This applies to pages with a “noarchive” metatag or a Perma-specific exclusion in the site's robots.txt file. Each of these Perma Records is preserved in a dark archive and is accessible only to the individual account, organization and registrar responsible for the Perma Record.”
Learning this I went to the New York Times and checked the source code for an article published today. Sure enough a quick search found this: <meta name="robots" content="noarchive" />. Mystery solved.
Archival services like Perma.cc weren’t created to subvert copyright, but to preserve the record. Since the actual creating organization may still view the archived page, it remains useful for the organization’s source files. But adding the Perma link to footnotes in these situations is of little help to the reader.
Journals, law reviews, and others who publish Perma links to give readers access to online materials should be aware of this practice, and check what their Perma links display before publication and adjust citations accordingly. Librarians managing Perma accounts for their institution can assist by noting this in their communications with incoming editorial boards this spring and summer.