Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Authors Guild Takes Google To SCOTUS

The Ginger Law Librarian has been following the Google Books case since 2013 - here, here, here, and here.

It's culminated the point where is has finally landed in front of the highest court in the land. The Washington Post reported that the Authors Guild has officially asked the Supreme Court to hear its case against Google for its Google Books service. The group filed a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court on December 31, 2015.

If you are not familiar with the suit, here's the gist:
Google's free service allows users to search for particular lines or quotes in books through the company's main search engine, and also displays parts of scanned pages of books. The Authors Guild and Google have fought for 10 years over whether that qualifies as "fair use." The Authors Guild first complained in 2005 that this violates copyright and undermines the value of authors' work by providing their books online and for free.  The group has argued that Google Books, essentially, gives people access to their work without having to pay for it.  It also objected to Google's partnerships with libraries to provide this online material.

Google and the Authors Guild had worked out a settlement, but it was rejected in 2011 by a district court judge who deemed it unfair to authors, dropping the case back into court.

Then in October 2015, New York's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Google and ruled the firm had acted legally when it scanned works — including those still under copyright — for its Books service

In the writ, the Authors Guild rejects that ruling and argues that it conflicts with other copyright rulings made around the country on how the laws apply in the digital age, and has far-reaching consequences for the future of U.S. copyright law stating:
This case represents an unprecedented judicial expansion of the fair-use doctrine that threatens copyright protection in the digital age. The decision below authorizing mass copying, distribution, and display of unaltered content conflicts with this Court’s decisions and the Copyright Act itself. This case also presents important issues on which the circuits are split, highlighting the need for this Court to act. 

According to InsideHigherEd, it is unlikely that SCOTUS will take up the case. The Authors Guild faces an “uphill battle” to convince the court that any of those questions need to be reconsidered -- especially since Leval, an influential legal scholar who has helped shape the fair use debate, wrote the appeals court’s opinion.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Office Dynamics In The Jungle

This week, I ran across two articles that are good fodder for The Office or Office Space (or most of our lives).

The first one dealt with imposter syndrome. The article states that [i]t’s estimated that 70% of people have imposter syndrome—the feeling that they don’t deserve to be where they are in life. 

The author linked to an imposter syndrome test for everyone to test their own inner imposters. A score of 80 or higher shows an intense feeling of imposter syndrome, 61 to 80 shows frequent experience, and 41 to 60 shows moderate experience. 

The silver lining is that [t]here is evidence to suggest that imposter syndrome correlates with success—and that those who don’t suffer imposter symptom are more likely to be the real frauds. People with imposter syndrome tend to be perfectionists, which means they’re likely to spend hours working overtime to make sure they excel in every single field. So if you do suffer from imposter syndrome, chances are you’re doing a pretty good job. Although imposter syndrome has some benefits, such as driving people to work harder, it can also lead to burnout and should not be considered a desirable condition.

Couple this with being a go-getter (likely encompasses many "imposters"), and you've got a fairly negative melting pot.

A paper by a team of researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado look[ed]... how extremely competent people are treated by their co-workers and peers. To begin, the researchers began by establishing that people do, in fact, assign more tasks to those they perceived as more competent. A separate experiment found that participants not only assigned more tasks to the go-getters—but underestimated how much work it would take to get the job done. 

The researchers then tried to understand how these expectations play out in real life. In a survey of more than 400 employees, they found that high performers were not only aware that they were giving more at work—they rightly assumed that their managers and co-workers didn’t understand how hard it was for them, and thus felt unhappy about being given more tasks.

The researchers concluded that [i]n the workplace, managers should be careful to give the highest quality work and best opportunities to the most capable employees, and give the lower quality but time consuming work to less capable employees,” says Koval. “If someone is doing more than his fair share, compensate him for it. If not, he may ultimately leave and seek recognition elsewhere. Similarly, in our personal relationships, we should recognize that just because our high-ability partners can do something for us, doesn’t mean that we should let them. And if they do help us, we should recognize it and thank them for it. Otherwise, they too may end up feeling burdened by us, and less satisfied—and that should be the last thing we want to do to a good employee or a good partner.

It may be true that a little self doubt will help propel you forward. But too much can be crippling. Additionally, being seen as competent can be a good thing so long as those around you are not taking advantage of it. These types of articles help me to understand the office dynamic in a way that I may have otherwise overlooked. It's a jungle out there!

Oh, and happy Groundhog Day! (Bill Murray style).

Monday, February 1, 2016

Utah To Allow Licensed Legal Practitioners

In June, it was reported that Washington became the first state to allow limited licensing for legal technicians.

Now, the Utah Supreme Court has adopted a recommendation from its Task Force to Examine Limited Legal Licensing to move forward with a program that would authorize "licensed paralegal practitioners" to perform limited services in specified practice areas.

The 58-page report urged the court to authorize LPPs to perform “a subset of discrete legal services” in three practice areas: family law, eviction and debt collection.

It looks like this is becoming a trend that might actually take hold.

Friday, January 29, 2016

"Lesser" In Law Schools: Post-Promotion Clarity

The Chronicle's Vitae blog has an interesting post on post-promotion clarity. The author describes the process of being a part of the law school pecking order.

From her article:
I thought about the 80-hour weeks I’d spent at a job I did not love — or even like. But I also remembered how much I used to like it. I used to be the very best at it. But gradually my days had become filled with managing the nonsense of thoughtless, even mean, tenured faculty who saw me, my position, and my “lesser” status as a way to get their bidding done. Some viewed me a handy target for their anger, someone to stomp on just to make themselves feel better.

I thought about how the work I did was, at best, 50 percent thankless. I thought about how even though I was ostensibly being “promoted” to “associate professor,” there was the important word “clinical” in front of that title — representing not only my lack of tenure but also my untenurable status. My 50 bosses were never going to let me in their club. I was tainted by my work as a writing teacher. 

I thought about a discussion on the law professor blog The Faculty Lounge on the “very important pecking order in the law school environment.” One commenter accurately noted: "Status seems to be a major preoccupation of law profs, with an obsessive and seemingly endless focus on ranking themselves and others.” The commenter nailed it with a satire of the titles bestowed in law schools, titles similar to mine: “Ever more precise labels are devised to distinguish the ‘lessers’ from the tenured faculty — e.g., 'Visiting Acting Asst. Clinical Adjunct Instructor from Practice Who Is Definitely Not One of Us Despite the Same Credentials But Expected to Do Everything We Do and Just As Well With Fewer Resources, Less Compensation and Zero Respect From Us.’” The discussion on the blog was about, in particular, legal writing professors, the very kind of professor that I was.

I understand what Rockquemore is talking about in her article — especially the part about how, after promotion, you might feel "a shift in how others see you, how you see yourself.” I realized that, after my “promotion,” my 50 bosses saw me in exactly the same way. But I saw myself differently. It took getting promoted, after 11 years in academia, to show me that the goals I’d thought were important weren’t so important — to me — after all. I had a reckoning to face, one I’d been able to ignore by focusing on earning that promotion. With the promotion out of the way, all that was left was the reckoning.

And the reckoning brought clarity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Glassmeyer's Census of State Legal Information

Our profession's resident awesome law librarian Sarah Glassmeyer is currently a fellow at Harvard's Library Innovation Lab, and she just released an important census of state legal information

Why perform this census, you might ask? For a variety of reasons, as Glassmeyer points out:
First of all, the United States is facing an access to justice crisis in its legal system.  A 2005 study by the Legal Services Corporation showed that 80% of the civil legal needs – legal needs in which there is no constitutionally guaranteed right to an attorney –  in the United States are going unmet.  The United States ranks 66th out of 98 countries in a ranking of access and affordability of civil legal services.  Individuals are relying on self-help resources, either provided by a library or the web.

Secondly, due to the relative ease of web-based publishing, states are increasingly making the Internet the primary place of publication for their legal information materials.  In response to this, the Uniform Law Commission drafted the Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act (UELMA).  This act requires states to ensure that their official legal publications on the web are authentic and preserved.  In the past two years, 12 states have adopted UELMA, albeit somewhat unevenly.  Of the 12, only 5 states include court appellate decisions in the requirements for their version of UELMA.   As more states are considering UELMA, it was thought that it would be useful to take a “state of states” snapshot to see where things stand in a pre-UELMA world.

The overall findings show that no state has barrier-free access to information. In fact, the findings indicate that there exists at least 14 barriers to accessing legal information.  These barriers exist for both the individual user of a resource for personal research as well as a institutional user that would seek to republish or transform the information.  

Additionally, analysis of the legal information provided by states shows that it is impossible to do any but the most basic of legal research for free using state provided legal information sources. And the universal lack of a citator for case law renders these collections, as a practical matter, useless and would be considered malpractice for a legal practitioner to rely upon.

Ultimately, Glassmeyer ranked states for openness of legal information. Check out how your state ranks

And like any professional researcher, Glassmeyer offers recommendations for improvement and also provides access to her raw data for further reflection. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Syllabus Explorer: A Searchable Syllabus Database

The NYTimes highlighted a nifty new tool for searching over a million college syllabuses called Syllabus Explorer.

Over the past two years, the Open Syllabus Project (based at the American Assembly at Columbia) have collected more than a million syllabuses from university websites. [They] have also begun to extract some of their key components — their metadata — starting with their dates, their schools, their fields of study and the texts that they assign.

Open Syllabus Projects hopes that their tool will enable people to learn new things about teaching, publishing and intellectual history.

At present, the Syllabus Explorer is mostly a tool for counting how often texts are assigned over the past decade. There is something for everyone here. The traditional Western canon dominates the top 100, with Plato’s “Republic” at No. 2, “The Communist Manifesto” at No. 3, and “Frankenstein” at No. 5, followed by Aristotle’s “Ethics,” Hobbes’s “Leviathan,” Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” “Oedipus” and “Hamlet.”

You might find yourself asking why this information is important. According to Open Syllabus Projects, [s]uch data has many uses. For academics, for example, it offers a window onto something they generally know very little about: how widely their work is read.

It also allows us to introduce a new publication metric based on the frequency with which works are taught, which we call the “teaching score.” The score is derived from the ranking order of the text, not the raw number of citations, such that a book or article that is used in four or five classes gets a score of 1, while “The Republic,” which is assigned 3,500 times, gets a score of 100.

There is a caveat:
The Syllabus Explorer results reflect the collection of syllabuses that [Open Syllabus Project] have gathered so far, which is large enough to give interesting results but far from complete. It is a work in progress on many levels, and one that depends on a culture of open bibliographic data-sharing in the academy.

Because of a complex mix of privacy and copyright issues concerning syllabuses, the Open Syllabus Project publishes only metadata, not the underlying documents or any personally identifying material (even though these documents can be viewed on university websites). But we think that it is important for schools to move toward a more open approach to curriculums. As universities face growing pressure to justify their teaching and research missions, we doubt that curricular obscurity is helpful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Studies Show We Should Practice Deep Reading On Paper

As we start to learn more about how we digest bring and digital material, we are finding that our brains process digital reading very differently.

PRI reported that neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards "non-linear" reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page. 

They call it a "bi-literate" brain. The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.

To keep the deep reading part of the brain alive and kicking, researchers recommend setting aside some time each day to deep read on paper.

Educators need to keep this in mind as we choose the required texts for our courses. We know that our students are getting enough screen time outside of the classroom, so we should help create the habit of deep reading in our students to last them a lifetime.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Libraries Purge Patron Records For Privacy

The Guardian recently reported on a new best practice in libraries to purge user data in the name of privacy.

As use of the law to acquire patron records since the Patriot Act has increased, librarians have become some of the US’s foremost experimenters in data security. Now they’re doing something even the most security-conscious private firm would never dream of (but have often been encouraged to do by security experts): purging sensitive information in order to protect their users.

For example, the Graduate Center at the City University of New York did something very few private companies would ever do to protect its users’ privacy: it quietly began to purge its interlibrary loan records. “This policy change is motivated by the idea that libraries should not keep more information about their users’ requests than necessary,” wrote Beth Posner, head of library resource sharing at the school.

As mentioned in the article, the information may sound harmless. But Polly Thistlethwaite, chief librarian at the Graduate Center, said that guilt by association with controversial books has a long history and that librarians have a duty to protect readers of “heretical texts."

And with the Patriot Act, it’s become more common to try to force librarians to turn over user information and compel their silence simultaneously. Multiple librarians have pushed back against “national security letters” that would do just that in the name of public safety – a dangerous order to resist, since those letters include a gag order. But in 2005, when the FBI served a national security letter to Connecticut’s Library Connection demanding reading records and hard drives, the librarians resisted with such force that the government capitulated.

And, when it comes to federal authority, few librarians have qualms about “having an adversarial relationship." “They’ve antagonized us so much. Ashcroft called us ‘hysterical,’ and it’s a profession mostly of women, so, you know. That didn’t go over very well.”

After the anonymous records are used for things like collection development, it seems like a step forward in best practices to purge these types of records. "They" can't ask for what we don't have.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Student Evals Measure Gender Bias Better Than Teaching

Generally, faculty like to use scores on student evaluations of teaching (SET) as a strong factor in hiring decisions because it is an "objective" measure while so much of tenure and promotion rests in the gray area. Did she publish enough? Maybe. Did she do enough service? Maybe. Were her teaching evals good? Yes or no.

More recently, SET has come under fire. InsideHigherEd highlights a new paper that argues that SET are not only unreliable in evaluating teaching effectiveness but SET actually gauge students' gender bias and grade expectations better than they measure teaching. 

There’s mounting evidence suggesting that student evaluations of teaching are unreliable. But are these evaluations, commonly referred to as SET, so bad that they’re actually better at gauging students’ gender bias and grade expectations than they are at measuring teaching effectiveness? A new paper argues that’s the case, and that evaluations are biased against female instructors in particular in so many ways that adjusting them for that bias is impossible.

Moreover, the paper says, gender biases about instructors -- which vary by discipline, student gender and other factors -- affect how students rate even supposedly objective practices, such as how quickly assignments are graded. And these biases can be large enough to cause more effective instructors to get lower teaching ratings than instructors who prove less effective by other measures, according to the study based on analyses of data sets from one French and one U.S. institution.

Institutions would do well to heed the warning posed by these studies of gender bias and SET, especially in hiring decisions. 
Stark (a co-author of the study) said he expected class action lawsuits against universities that rely on these evaluations for employment decisions will start this year, and that there’s evidence to support such cases.

“Our analysis would support an argument that the use of SET has adverse impact on female instructors, at least in the two settings we examined,” he said. “Replication of this kind of experiment and analysis elsewhere would strengthen the argument. Eventually, lawsuits will lead universities to do the right thing, if only to mitigate financial risks.”