FLAG Foreign Law Guide

The FLAG Foreign Law Guide of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, is a searchable database which consists of a “collaborative Internet gateway to the holdings of foreign, international and comparative law in UK universities and national libraries.”

Use of the search mechanism is a bit quirky and the database essentially finds internet library links in the UK to the subjects requested.

The FLAG 2002 Press Release wrote about FLAG as follows:

“FLAG (standing for Foreign Law Guide) is an Internet gateway to statute, case law and treaty collections held in nearly 60 UK libraries. It includes details of the active and historic collections in over 50 universities including Oxford, Cambridge, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff. It also features the vast collections of foreign and international law held by the British Library, the Advocates’ Library (part of the National Library of Scotland) and the National Library of Wales. Of special interest is the inclusion of details of the law collections of research institutes covering Slavonic, East European, Russian and Arab affairs.

Within seconds, it is now possible to trace which libraries in the UK hold collections of legislation, case law or treaties for any one of over 200 countries (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland excluded). The database also includes locations for the working documents, proceedings, decisions and resolutions of over 60 international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation and the Council of Europe (the European Union is excluded). It helps users identify the strongest collections of international and comparative law on a range of over 40 topics, including arbitration, intellectual property and environmental law.”

Blawgs, Blogs and the Law

Sarah Kellogg has a nice piece about blawgs, blogs and the law at DCBar.org.
There is very little question that as blawging increases, specialty blogs for every area of law will surface, and indeed are surfacing, and that such blogs will become required reading down the road for people in the profession dealing with a particular legal field. Some law professors have already seen this vision, whereas the bulk of legal faculty apparently flounder in the fading world of yesteryear.

Still, the law is at the forefront of the blog movement and we see much innovation in legal blogs, whereas most of the rest of the academic disciplines are still not even out of the starting blocks. Most academics are still publishing to generally inaccessible traditional monopoloy-oriented peer-review journals, grinding out the same old jargoned pablum, without realizing that the world of tomorrow is beginning to pass them by.

Government and "us" – Do they care? Does the law stink?

ValenB4 has this posting over at FreeRepublic.com

I disagree with this all-or-none type of thinking. The US is not barbaric, Europe is not barbaric. All countries have their good and bad elements. Whatever barbarism there is usually the result of government. Friedrich Nietzsche once said that the state is the coldest monster of them all. He was exactly right.

There is a lesson to be learned for conservatives in this Schiavo debacle, no matter how it ends. It is that the state does not care about us – even if it is run by conservatives. Just because we live in a democratically based country, do not make the mistake of thinking that the government is ‘us’. They are not us.

These people are bureaucrats and politicians who will do anything to keep power and who will hide behind thousands of pages of laws and regulations. They scratch and claw to attain power over our lives but then pass the buck off to others in an endless labyrinth of bureacracy in order to avoid making morally difficult decisions that may hurt their chances of staying in power.

They care more about the law than right or wrong. Well, sometimes the law stinks. Morality is more important than the letter of the law. But morality is an inconvenience to the state, it doesn’t want to be bothered. There is something wrong with a country’s laws when those laws can take precedence over the relationship between parents and child, that some ex-husband with questionable motives can legally kill someone like this.

Laws are supposed to serve the people. But laws are increasingly being used to serve the status quo of the established elites, who are primarily concerned with not having their boat rocked. The power elites just want the public to shut up and be content with the bread and circuses of ESPN, soap operas, reality TV, celebrities, and whatever other bullsh*t comes their way.

We are becoming less a nation of laws and more a nation of men, passions, and whimsical government. The Constitution is a dead document. We only obey it selectively and when its convenient. We don’t obey it in the way we go to war, the way we allow abortion to be legal, the way the courts legislate from the bench, the way we tax and spend.

But thank God that there are still enough people who care enough to force the government to do one thing right, to actually save a life.

Unfortunately, there no longer appear to be enough people who care enough….

How Times Can Change – Swiftly

Youssef M. Ibrahim asks Will the Mideast Bloom? (Washington Post, Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page B01):

“…This much is real. And while many Arab democrats have been struggling for years, there is a keen sense of irony that a passionately Christian American president who has supported Israel, invaded an Arab country and presided over an occupation marred by violence might actually make a positive difference in the Muslim world. It has people here citing the Koranic verse that speaks of a catastrophe that bears good fruits….”

The Absurdity of the US Patent Law System

If you want to see how absurd the US patent law system is with respect to the internet, take a look at this March 9, 2005 article at ZDNet UK by Matthew Broersma entitled Amazon patents gender stereotyping.

Amazon.com through the gifted inventor Zhengrong Song, who has assigned the March 8, 2005 patent on “Methods and systems of assisting users in purchasing items” to Amazon.com, has received US Patent Nr. 6,865,546.

Here is a sample commentary by Broersma about that patent:

“The patent concerns inferring information about gift recipients and using that information to suggest appropriate items and services, such as birthday or Valentine’s Day reminders and age- and gender-appropriate gifts. ‘For example, if the purchased toy is a dress for a doll, it may be inferred that the recipient is a girl, the patent states.”

Or how about patenting the inference that if someone buys a Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling that this person is a “fan” of such books who could be so marketed. This “patent absurdity” knows no end.

Thankfully, this absurd patent system has not yet reached Europe in legal form, but it may, if European supporters of software patents and patents on internet methodology get their way. As Broersma writes:

“Web sites using such techniques may now be compelled to pay Amazon a licence fee, at least in the US. Patents on pure software and business processes (or the idea of writing software that supposes girls may like dolls) are currently not enforceable in Europe, but a draft directive on the “patentability of computer-implemented inventions” now making its way through the European Parliament could remove most restrictions, the directive’s opponents claim….”

What the Law Pundit is planning to register is a patent upon our tried and true methodology for recognizing the affliction of idiocy. Inter alia, our patent application will contain the following example of the “idiocy affliction recognition patent”: “For example, if anyone supports software patents or patents on internet methodology, it may be inferred from this position on this specific issue, that the supporter is suffering from the affliction of idiocy.”

In any case, this is a ZDNet article well worth a read.

European Union Law Policy & Institutions

EULegal.Org has been created as an adjunct to EU Pundit. EULegal.org covers European Union Law, Policy and Institutions.

EULegal.Org is designed as a reference tool to save time researching the European Union. An attempt has been made to put basic information and links regarding the European Union on one page, thus providing a simple overview of a government system which can otherwise appear formidable to someone looking for EU information.

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Crossposted to EU Pundit.

Edge Spotlights The Pancake People : Digital Information Copyrights

The March 7, 2005 Edge (7,300 words), has one of the most interesting discussions we have seen in a long time on the effects of the digital revolution. It is billboarded as “AN EDGE SPECIAL EVENT” featuring a match between these two heavyweights:

Richard Foreman
George Dyson

as judged by

made up of
Kevin Kelly, Jaron Lanier, Steven Johnson, Marvin Minsky, Douglas Rushkoff, Roger Schank, responding to Richard Foreman and George Dyson

What a great idea.

Relevant for the law are Marvin Minsky’s observations on copyrights (MINSKY is cofounder of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and author of The Society of Mind).

“Mr. Foreman complains that he is being replaced (by “the pressure of information overload”) with “a new self that needs to contain less and less of an inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance” because he is connected to “that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.”

I think that this is ridiculous because I don’t see any basic change; there always was too much information. Fifty years ago, if you went into any big library, you would have been overwhelmed by the amounts contained in the books therein. Furthermore, that “touch of a button” has [improved] things in two ways: (1) it has [changed] the time it takes to find a book from perhaps several minutes into several seconds, and (2) in the past [it] usually took many minutes, or even hours, to find what you wanted to find inside that book — but now, a Computer can help you search through the text, and I see this as nothing but good.

Indeed, it seems to me that only one thing has gone badly wrong. I do not go to libraries any more, because I can find most of what I want by using that wonderful touch of a button! However the copyright laws have gotten worse — and I think that the best thoughts still are in books because, frequently, in those ancient times, the authors developed their ideas for years well [before] they started to publicly babble. Unfortunately, not much of that stuff from the past fifty years is in the public domain, because of copyrights.

So, in my view, it is not the gods, but Foreman himself who has been pounding on his own head. Perhaps if he had stopped longer to think, he would have written something more sensible. Or on second thought, perhaps he would not — if, in fact, he actually has been replaced.”

Where Does the Money Go? Top Philanthropists Donate Generously

There is an often mistaken idea that people who amass a lot of money just spend it on themselves. This is definitely not true.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has an article entitled The Giving Spree in an article about generous donors, the top 60 of whom gave $10-billion in 2004. There is a top 10 list headed by Bill and Melinda Gates:

The Top 10 Donors
William H. (Bill) III and Melinda F. Gates
Susan T. Buffett
John M. Templeton
Caroline Wiess Law
George D. Cornell
Leo A. and Kay K. Drey
Pierre and Pam Omidyar
Bernard Marcus
Sidney E. Frank
Michael Bloomberg

Read the article here to find out the amounts involved as well as to read a bit about the donors.

New York Public Library (NYPL) Opens Digital Gallery

We have numerous postings on LawPundit about intellectual property rights, but often we can not escape the feeling that many people still do not understand that we are in a different time and age as far as the future use of digital images is concerned. You have to see this press release. Talk about open source….

As reported by Sarah Boxer in the New York Times Critic’s Notebook, the New York Public Library, effective March 3, 2005, has opened a Digital Gallery of digitized images from its collections and including “illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.”

The search box is found on the NYPL home page in the upper right hand corner.

An image chosen here is the NYPL Digital Image having the Digital ID: 62138 (a postcard of Harvard Law School ca. 1900), which we have reduced in size and compressed as a .jpg and to which we have otherwise made no artistic corrections (otherwise one would have to straighten the scanned image slightly):


As Boxer writes:

“So far, about 275,000 items are online, and you can browse by subject, by collection, by name or by keyword. The images first appear in thumbnail pictures, a dozen to a page. Some include verso views. You can collect ’em, enlarge ’em, download ’em, print ’em and hang ’em on your wall at home. All are free, unless, of course, you plan to make money on them yourself. (Permission is required.)”

As can be imagined, the NYPL servers are sometimes already so overloaded that they are having trouble meeting with the demand. The site is definitely quite interesting.

Blogs which are among the first to link to this precedential phenomenon are:

Malins Blog
Detrimental Postulation
Amardeep Singh
Bill Allison’s Weblog
TFS Reluctant
DrWeb’s Domain

The European Union Dream

The blog Where We’re Bound has a March 1, 2005 posting on the EU entitled The European Union: A Different Kind of Dream where we find written:

“Jeremy Rifkin’s [most recent book] postulates that the The American Dream is in decline. Americans are increasingly overworked, underpaid, and squeezed for time. But there is an alternative: the European Dream – a more leisurely, healthy, prosperous, and sustainable way of life. Europe’s lifestyle is not only more desirable, argues Rifkin, but may be crucial to sustaining prosperity in the new era.”

We agree in part and disagree in part. We think that a blend of the advantages of the US and the EU would be optimal.

Take a look at the full posting.

Crossposted to EU Pundit.

Microsoft Eolas Patent Case Remanded for New Trial

We have previously covered the Microsoft Eolas patent case in depth (district court judgment in this case, the Bonito Boats precedent, the so-called Eolas patent, and the USPTO action in the Ex Parte Reexamination.

We have viewed this case from the beginning as a paradigm example of the abuse to which patent laws are being subjected by companies and individuals patenting ideas, digital methodology, software and business methods. In our view, this issue is the most important matter being decided in law today, because it partially determines who will run the digital world of tomorrow. We must be extremely careful that monetary resources and power do not fall into the hands of simple opportunists, who are using flaws in our patent and copyright laws to try to enrich themselves at the cost of the populace without having contributed anything to the world from which they seek riches.

Not only is the United States Patent Office reviewing the Eolas patent (see the links above), but on March 2, 2005, in a case heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in

Case Nr. 04-1234,

the court affirmed-in-part, vacated-in-part and remanded the case for a new jury trial.

As Judge Rader, speaking for the Circuit Judges RADER, FRIEDMAN, and PLAGER, writes:

“Because the district court improperly granted judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) in Eolas’ favor on Microsoft’s anticipation and obviousness defenses and improperly rejected Microsoft’s inequitable conduct defense, this court vacates the district court’s decision and remands for a new trial on these issues.”

If we use Judge Rader’s discussion of those particular issues as a guideline, Eolas has little chance of succeeding on retrial, since no jury will find for Eolas once these defenses are presented to them.

Eolas has invented nothing, but is trying to profit from the stupidity of our patent laws and the antiquated manner in which patents are still granted. Perhaps Eolas will ultimately add something to our world by its bad example, thus hopefully leading to more sensible patent legislation which makes it harder for this kind of nonsense to happen.

Another and immediately important aspect of this case is that the parties had to split costs. Eolas is going to have to start to pay its own way in this world, and that will make its future increasingly and rightfully more difficult.

Other coverage of this case is found at:

Patently-O: Patent Law Blog has a thorough discussion of the Microsoft Eoloas case.

arstechnica has a thoughtful article, “Microsoft scores victory in Eolas patent case appeal” by Eric Bangeman

See also “Microsoft Ruling Overturned: New Trial Ordered in Browser-Related Patent Dispute” by Michael Liedtke, Associated Press, Thursday, March 3, 2005, Page E05, Washington Post (free registration required).

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