Monday, January 31, 2011

Data Privacy Day

The American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom designated this past Friday, January 28, 2011 as Data Privacy Day. The second annual Choose Privacy Week is scheduled for May 1-7, 2011. This website developed a resource for libraries called Data Privacy Day: Our Shared Responsibility — What Libraries Can Do, a tip sheet developed by Data Privacy Day and the National Cyber Security Alliance’s Stay Safe Online. This 23 minute film on privacy issues has "man on the street" interviews and features Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Geoffrey Stone, and ALA President Camila Alire discussing privacy.

News from the Congress and law enforcement raises concerns about data privacy as the Department of Justice has renewed calls for legislation mandating that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) retain certain customer usage data for up to two years. On Tuesday, January 25, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security's hearing on Data Retention as a Tool for Investigating Internet Child Pornography and Other Internet Crimes chaired by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R. WI) had testimony from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein that data retention was crucial to fighting Internet crimes especially online child pornography. Current policies that only require ISPs to preserve usage data at the specific request of law enforcement authorities are just not sufficient, Weinstein said.

It is unclear if the hearing is a sign that a data retention bill is imminent, said John Morris, the general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, who also testified. It is also uncertain whether only ISPs will be required to retain data, or whether services such as e-mail providers might be included, said Morris. Regardless of the scope, mandatory data retention laws raise important privacy and free speech concerns. "In the privacy realm, the bottom line is that law enforcement is talking about having a massive amount of information on 230 million presumably innocent Americans using the Internet, being tracked and retained," he said.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Episode 061 – Conversation with Serge Krimnus, Class of 2010

Episode 061 – Conversation with Serge Krimnus, Class of 2010.mp3

In this podcast, Serge Krimnus, Brooklyn Law School Class of 2010, talks about his career in patent law. He also discusses his article, The Doctrine of Foreign Equivalents at Death's Door, 12 N.C. J.L. & Tech. 159 (2010), which he wrote with guidance from BLS Professor of Law Derek Bambauer. This semester, Brooklyn Law School offers a course in Patent Prosecution which Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law Serge Krimnus teaches. Serge talks about his work as a Patent Agent for The Farrell Law Firm located in Melville, New York. He also offers suggestions for students considering a career in patent prosecution.

Friday, January 28, 2011

BLS Alum Gives Back

This week, Jaime Lathrop, Brooklyn Law School Class of 2002, was the featured speaker at the New York State Bar Association's General Practice Section's Annual Meeting at the Hilton New York. Lathrop, who was was a Notes & Comments Editor of the Brooklyn Law School Law Review, is the director of the Pro Bono Foreclosure Intervention Program of the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project. The program assists poor and low-income families facing foreclosures in Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. He also works on behalf of VLP in partnership with the South Brooklyn Legal Services Foreclosure Prevention Project, which staffs a walk-in foreclosure clinic at Kings County Supreme Court. Since March 2009, Lathrop has worked with a team of 80 lawyers doing pro bono work for homeowners facing foreclosure. “I recruit, train and assign volunteer lawyers who represent homeowners in settlement conferences, negotiate workouts and help with mortgage modifications for Brooklyn homeowners in foreclosure.” Lathrop feels for homeowners who face dire financial situations as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis. “We have a system of law in the United States that left unchecked will always favor the interests of the few over the interests of many,” says Lathrop. “It is important for attorneys to see that everyone gets equal protection under the law.”

Last year, aHuffington Post story called America Fights Foreclosure: Lifelines for People Fighting to Keep Their Homes featured the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project calling it a “lifeline for people trying to avoid foreclosure”. It matches up volunteer attorneys from private practice with people in need of critical legal services. Its mission is to “help people regain dignity and control over their lives”. VLP receives funding from the New York Bar Association as well as private donors.

An article in the Brooklyn Barrister, the publication of the Brooklyn Bar Association, reported that last October, the “Volunteer Lawyers Project was honored as one of the premiere pro bono programs of New York State. To celebrate National Pro Bono Week, the New York State Bar Association, the New York State Courts and the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York presented the VLP with a 2010 Pro Bono Service Award for its innovative programming to assist Brooklyn residents facing overwhelming legal issues related to consumer debt. CLARO, the weekly consumer debt clinic in Kings County Civil Court, which originated with the VLP in 2006 in partnership with a pro bono student action group at Brooklyn Law School, has now been replicated city-wide.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Telecommunications Law Resource Center

At the start of the year, the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) the Telecommunications Law Resource Center (TLRC). The service provides information on all aspects of communications law, including broadcasting, cable, telephone and wireless. The content is invaluable for communications professionals such as attorneys, planners and managers. In addition, as featured in all Resource Centers, the Telecommunications Law Resource Center provides a 15-day free trial that allows access to BNA Insights, cutting-edge articles by thought leaders in the telecommunications field.

The new product is part of several online Resource Centers (RCs) that BNA has introduced beginning in the summer of 2010. These RCs are online hubs that bring the breadth and depth of news, research, and analysis to one place. As of today, there are three RCs, covering labor & employment law, intellectual property law and, now, telecommunications law, with more launches planned for the future. For information about BNA Labor & Employment Law Resource Center, see last year's article on the AALL Spectrum blog from.

All the RCs are designed to be easy-to-use and searchable, similar to popular search engines, to save time. A researcher can do a quick search, advanced search, or use search operators similar to Boolean operators. In addition, cases and legislative updates have their own search areas for easy access. The RCs help legal and business professionals access not just the latest news in their field, but to do so in a way that is user-friendly and time-saving.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BLS Street Vendor Pro-Bono Project

On Friday, January 28 at 6PM, the Brooklyn Law School Environmental Law Society (ELS) and the Street Vendor Project (SVP) will host a meeting to discuss ways that law students can represent street vendors at the Environmental Control Board when vendors receive tickets, and how students can get involved in helping to pass the newly introduced bill which will dramatically lower the civil penalties which vendors face. New York City Councilman Stephen Levin from Brooklyn has sponsored two bills that would reduce the vending fines to pre-2005 levels. Intro 434 and Intro 435, which now each have 17 co-sponsors at City Council, would provide relief to street vendors during difficult times. When the bills come to a hearing, BLS probono students will testify and submit written testimony.

According to Lee Miller, co-chair of land use programs for ELS, the event to be held on Friday in Room 605 will have food from Kwik Meal (the best street meat in NYC!). Lee says that the Street Vendor Pro-Bono Project is a new public interest opportunity for BLS students that started last semester. The ELS is sponsoring and funding the pro-bono project in its first year. The groups cross-promote and work collaboratively to tie vending and sidewalk culture issues to environmental programs. Their objectives include lifting the cap on vending permits and licenses and reducing the fines associated with vending violations.

Students who participate in this pro-bono project have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of New York City-based street vendors. They analyze violations by the Department of Health, the Parks Department and the Police Department, and defend the vendor before the Environmental Control Board (ECB), the administrative tribunal that handles civil violations issued by City agencies. Preparation for these cases involves direct interaction with street vendors, site visits, evidence gathering, and an analysis of Administrative Code provisions and the Rules of the City of New York. Students will refine their legal research and oral argument skills as they present their defenses before administrative law judges at the ECB.

A recent case involves a street vendor operating for the past three years at the corner of 86th and Lexington, Paty’s Taco Truck. Last summer, New York City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin from the Upper East Side introduced a bill to revoke permits of food trucks if they receive three parking tickets. Although the bill is stalled, the street vendor has been targeted for enforcement of a traffic law which prohibits the selling of “merchandise” (not food) from a metered parking spot. The vendor’s truck has been towed three times and all three tickets were dismissed by the traffic court. It is not clear if the law applies to food vendors as the vending laws in New York City consistently distinguish between “food” vendors and “general merchandise vendors”.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union

The White House website has posted this video on how the President Obama is approaching tonight's State of the Union address. The video discusses the history of the State of the Union address with comments from U.S. House of Representatives Historian Matthew Wasniewski. It also has archival footage of Addresses from decades past.

Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient”. Prior to 1913, Presidents delivered the State of the Union in writing. That year, Woodrow Wilson delivered the State of the Union orally.

Since then, the themes of the past century of State of the Union addresses offer a historical kaleidoscope of our nation’s themes and buzzwords. Today’s Daily Beast has created a Media Gallery of word clouds—using Wordle—to provide a way to explore those themes. Word clouds take a chunk of text—in this case State of the Union addresses—and magnify the most-used words while minimizing the least used, providing a new way to look at the State of the Union address. Here is the word cloud from last year's State of the Union address:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Patent Litigation

The Brooklyn Law School Library’s latest New Book List dated January 12, 2011 includes The Patent Litigator’s Job: A Survival Guide by Jennifer L. Dzwonczyk (Call # KF3120 .D99 2010). Written as a guide for lawyers new to patent litigation, it helps with common procedural issues and teaches how to avoid frequent pitfalls of practice. The lifecycle of patent litigation is thoroughly detailed from beginning to the summary judgment stage. The book is in five main parts:

1. Introduction including organizational tips
2. Pre-litigation strategy, initial pleadings and case schedule
3. Fact discovery
4. Expert discovery and summary judgment and notes on Markman hearings
5. Reexaminations, joint defense groups, mediations and settlement

Claim construction is a critical part of costly patent litigation. The 1996 Supreme Court case Markman v. Westview Instruments held that “judges, not jurors, are better suited to find the acquired meaning of patent terms.” District Court judges now often hold Markman hearings away from the jury to determine the scope of a patent’s claims. Markman hearings play a key and crucial role in the outcome of patent litigation and also in the drafting and prosecution of patent applications. The book supplies sample form documents to aid in the patent litigation process. This guide should be used for practical advice and guidance on how to approach patent litigation at a beginner to novice level.

The BLS Library has related material in its collection including Conducting Markman Hearings in Patent Infringement Lawsuits: Leading Lawyers on Interpreting Claims, Developing Court Presentations, and Making a Strong Argument (Call # KF3155.Z9 C66 2007) with these chapters by leading practitioners: Role of patent lawyers, both generally and in the context of Markman hearings / Kurt G. Calia -- Making an impact on the entire case through effecting Markman hearings / Alexander J. Hadjis -- Impact of Markman hearings on patent litigation / Richard T. Redano -- Art of persuasion in Markman hearings / Matthew B. Lehr -- Preparing for and conducting a Markman hearing for claim interpretation in U. S. patent infringement / John R. Crossan -- Making a strong argument / Tim Headley -- Marksmanship: hitting the bull's eye in your patent case / James P. Flynn.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Site Connects to State Governments

The recent launch of will make keeping track of local government easier for researchers at Brooklyn Law School. The project allows users to search local, city and state level government. The initial launch has data from five state legislatures: California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas and Wisconsin. The site hosts official announcements, news coverage, blog posts, social media alerts and more information about local government. It also makes it easy for citizens to organize around issues being debated by state legislatures and contact their elected officials directly.

The website states in its Background and Mission page that the site “comes from the team that brought you, a leading web tool for government transparency in the federal U.S. Congress.” More data and additional states and cities will be added as they become available. Interestingly, the webpage cites the New York State Senate as complying with open government principles. “Writing in early 2011, the situation with official websites for U.S. state legislatures is nearly exactly as it was with THOMAS in 2004. Unfortunately, almost no U.S. state government makes its data available in ways that are compliant with the Principles of Open Government Data, or even close. Out of the 49 bicameral state legislatures in the U.S. and one unicameral body (that of Nebraska), only one single chamber -- one entity out of 99, namely the New York State Senate -- makes its legislative data available in ways that sufficiently comply with the community-generated Eight Principles of Open Government Data.”

The site came out of a 2007 working group held in Sebastopol, California, which developed the 8 Principles of Open Government Data. These principles are the starting point for evaluating openness in government records.
1. Data Must Be Complete - All public data are made available. Data are electronically stored information or recordings, including but not limited to documents, databases, transcripts, and audio/visual recordings. Public data are data that are not subject to valid privacy, security or privilege limitations, as governed by other statutes.
2. Data Must Be Primary – Data are published as collected at the source, with the finest possible level of granularity, not in aggregate or modified forms.
3. Data Must Be Timely – Data are made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data.
4. Data Must Be Accessible – Data are available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes. 5. Data Must Be Machine processable – Data are reasonably structured to allow automated processing of it.
6. Access Must Be Non-Discriminatory – Data are available to anyone, with no requirement of registration.
7. Data Formats Must Be Non-Proprietary – Data are available in a format over which no entity has exclusive control.
8. Data Must Be License-free – Data are not subject to any copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret regulation. Reasonable privacy, security and privilege restrictions may be allowed as governed by other statutes. Finally, compliance must be reviewable. A contact person must be designated to respond to people trying to use the data. A contact person must be designated to respond to complaints about violations of the principles. An administrative or judicial court must have the jurisdiction to review whether the agency has applied these principles appropriately.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

BLS Library Lunch & Learn

For the spring 2011 semester, Brooklyn Law School Library's reference librarians will offer a series of workshops to students. The sessions are open to BLS alumini who are interested in learning about BLS Library resources. Because of limited seating, alumni who want to attend should email Associate Librarian Linda Holmes at or call by phone at (718) 780-7974. The dates and topics are listed below.
  • Wednesday, February 2, 2011: Using Zotero to Organize and Cite Research Sources
  • Wednesday, February 9, 2011: Using the CCH Intelliconnect Database
  • Wednesday, February 16, 2011: Federal Legislative History
  • Wednesday, February 23, 2011: New York Legislative History

All sessions will be held in room 113M on the first mezzanine of the library from 1:00pm to 1:50pm. Lunch will be provided.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Music Law Database

Launched in mid-December, The Discography: Legal Encyclopedia of Popular Music is a new database that links to legal decisions relevant to the music industry. Maintained by Washington University’s Center for Empirical Research in the Law (CERL), the site is the brainchild of Loren Wells, a recent University of Washington law school graduate. He began working on the site as a personal project, and then developed it for use in a law school paper. CERL invited him to launch the project full-scale. The central Database includes 1,300 entries covering 2,400 court opinions (including over 30,000 pieces of data) spanning almost 200 years, fully summarized and searchable by numerous variables, featuring nearly every artist, covering copyrights and contracts, trusts, torts and more. There's also a Blog and up-to-date legal music News.

Wells envisions that the site will be useful for academics, music writers or journalists, and independent music managers who wish to gain familiarity with the legal aspects of the music industry. Some of the most interesting disputes have been eliminated from the database as it does not contain cases that settled out of court. The academic or practical usefulness of the database is unclear for now as Wells decides how to organize the “Case Type” search parameters. The site could provide anything from basic entertainment to meaningful guidance for small-time music managers trying to run a business and protect their clients.

The National Law Journal article "Project marries recent law graduate's love of music with his new vocation" has more details on the database. This YouTube video features Loren Wells explaining features of The Discography and its use in answering such questions as whether black leather pants qualify as a tax deduction for rock stars. Researchers interested in music can see how the courts dealt with this question and nearly any other legal issue involving the music industry.

A search of recent Second Circuit cases dealing with the issue of royalites lead to the case of Robinson v. Sanctuary Record Groups, Ltd., 383 Fed.Appx. 54, 2010 WL 2649849 and this short description: "The Sugar Hill Gang, Grand Master Flash, The Wall Street Mob, The Furious Five, and Grand Master Melle Mel, along with Sylvia Robinson, founder of Sugar Hill Records, godmother of rap music, and former member of Mickey and Sylvia, which had a few hits back in the day, sued Sanctuary Records Group for release from record contracts. After obtaining a default judgment for rescission of the contracts, Plaintiffs sought damages in the realm of $30 million, even though they'd initially only sought rescission. and damages from unpaid royalties. Artists were released from contracts after default judgment, but were awarded no damages. Both Sanctuary and the Plaintiffs appealed, the former seeking to vacate the default and the latter requesting monetary relief. After first being unsuccessful, the Court of Appeals later remanded to the District Court to reconsider their denial to vacate the default; it is the preference of the courts to resolve disputes on the merits."