China, China Law Blog and International Lawyers Development Course at IDLO

Via China Law Blog we refer to an international lawyers development course at the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).

China Law Blog’s Steve Dickinson will be lecturing in Rome, Italy in English on May 18-19, 2006 “on international contract law, with an emphasis on China“. Read here for more.

Given the rising importance of Chinese international trade, this looks like a course of importance for decision-makers and attorneys involved in business with China, if you can make it to Rome in May.

Note: This is not a paid or sponsored ad, but is simply our passing along of information which we consider potentially useful to some of our readers.

Crossposted to EU Pundit.

Justices Opinions Law Clerks Chess and Appellate Delay

Numerous years ago (1973-1974), I worked together with the late Prof. Jim Lake (Harvard Law) of the University of Nebraska Law School on a project to alleviate appellate court delay. The project is referred to here and the results of the project were published as Lake, James A. “The Appellate Process and Staff Research Attorneys in the Supreme Court of Nebraska: A Report of the Appellate Justice Project of the National Center for State Courts, 1973-1974” Denver, 1974.

Our direct partner for this project was the Nebraska Supreme Court for whom our project “central staff” of “research attorneys” functioned as fact-finding “super clerks”. The Supreme Court wanted to know if appellate delay could be reduced by such a “central staff” which drew up preliminary memoranda on “clear cases” before the Supreme Court. Such memoranda could then be used (or not) or edited by the Supreme Court Justices when drafting their opinions of law, thus reducing their workload and speeding up the judicial process.

Although it proved nearly impossible to draw up memoranda which the opinion-writing judge would adopt without amendment (the conservative Nebraska judges were sceptical of delegating any of their judicial role), the project demonstrated that the availability of “more” clerks or “staff attorneys” could in fact reduce judges’ workloads and reduce appellate delay, presuming that judges were amenable to this solution, which was not always the case.

We note in this regard that the number of clerks for many judges around the country have increased since that time to help accommodate increasing caseloads.

Indeed, Bradley Best in his book, Law Clerks, Support Personnel, and the Decline of Consensual Norms on the United States Supreme Court, 1935-1995, as reviewed by Scott A. Comparato, came to the conclusion that the increase in the number of separate opinions written by U.S. Supreme Court Justices has been enabled by the continuous increase in the number of law clerks and support personnel for each Justice.

This assessment was supported ten years later by Michael Barone’s August 2, 2005 article, “Clerk dependency“, in the Washington Times, where Barone concludes that “a proliferation of law clerks has proliferated opinions”.

We do not doubt that this is true. However, there is another side to the law clerk equation which must be counterbalanced against that development, and this is the increasingly litigious nature of modern society (see here generally, Overlawyered) and the general problem of overloaded courts (see e.g. Sunblog for the situation in Florida, as also the problem of statistics at the DOJ).

One solution to overloaded courts is surely arbitration but another – proven and very effective solution – is surely more law clerks for overloaded judges. Indeed, as the National Center for State Courts writes:

Research has demonstrated that the number of law clerks per judge is a very good predictor of an intermediate appellate court’s timeliness. Expeditious courts tend to have more law clerks per judge than the least expeditious courts. (See Roger Hanson, “Resources: The Key to Determining Time on Appeal,” and Stephen J. McEwen, “On the Effective Use of Resources in Pennsylvania,” Court Review 35, no. 3 (1998).” [emphasis added]

That was also the impression that yours truly had as a central staff research attorney for the Nebraska Supreme Court thirty years ago. When faced with work overload – delegate.

A hat tip for suggesting this topic goes to the Boylston Chess Club Weblog and their recent posting “A novel use for chess clocks“, where they cite to the Newark Star Ledger report:

In a bid to limit New Jersey’s next Vioxx trial to just three weeks, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee will use a pair of chess clocks to closely track the amount of time each side has to make its case.”

We thought that such a novel approach to court delay deserved a more in-depth treatment.

Law RSS and Atom

RSS and Atom syndication are increasingly defining the way that news and information is and will be distributed in the future on the internet.

Hence, we need to know something about them.

The main difference between the RSS and Atom syndication standards is that, as written by John Palfrey, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is now the owner and trustee of the RSS specification, whereas the Atom standard is open source.

A short, somewhat dated but understandable history of the development of both standards was written by Glyn Moody at Netcraft.

Other explanatory articles about RSS are found at Radio Userland, RSS Specifications, and Web RRS History.

For current RSS politics, see Sam Ruby’s Intertwingly and Dave Winer’s WordPress Blog.

For developments regarding the Atom feed format see the IETF, where Sam Ruby is the secretary for the IETF’s atompub (see the Atom publishing protocol).

Dave Winer entertained the idea of merging both formats some time ago, but nothing has come of that.

Flickr Archaeology Travel Photos

Speaking of travel, more than a year ago we created a Flickr group called “Archaeology Travel Photos“, a photography site which now has 80 members who have submitted 500 photographs from around the world, many of them of exceptional quality. Take a look, or add new or old photos of your own from your culturally-related business, law or private travel journeys.

Archaeology Travel Photos are accessible through RSS and Atom feeds, as well as through a My Yahoo feed: Here are the feeds:

  • RSS – we ourselves use the RSS feed on pageflakes to see what new photos on archaeology travel have been posted recently.
  • Atom – see our next post for the difference between RSS and Atom syndication
  • My Yahoo! – in My Yahoo, after installing the feed, one must manually adjust the feed (click “edit”) at the My Yahoo page so that it does not point to “Headlines” but rather to “Media”

Top Hotels for Law and Business Travelers

Professionals in law and business generally do a lot of traveling. Accordingly, the quality of hotels at business destinations is important. Most of the well-known lists of the world’s top hotels are produced by travel experts.

TripAdvisor.com has now published its “Top 100 Best Luxury Hotels [Four and Five Star Hotels]” (World, USA, Europe, Asia, Caribbean), based on travelers’ choices. There are thus many surprise selections.

TripAdvisor has also published its “Top 10” lists of “Best Hidden Gems [Hotels not in the 4 or 5 star category]” (World, USA, Europe, Asia, Caribbean), “Best Bargains [Affordable Hotels, Good Value Hotels]” (World, USA, Europe, Caribbean), “Best Hotels for Families [for travelers with small children]” (USA only) and “Best Pools” (USA, Caribbean).

In addition, TripAdvisor has a list of travelers’ choices of the top three hotels for each of the following destinations.

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Hawaii
  • Las Vegas
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • Orlando
  • Paris
  • Philadelphia
  • Rome
  • San Francisco
  • Washington D.C.

The TripAdvisor Top 10 list of the world’s luxury hotels gives an idea of the selection:

1. Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
2. Mina A’ Salam at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai
3. Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai
4. Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest
5. Hotel Gault, Montreal
6. The Peninsula Bangkok
7. Pompano Beach Club, Bermuda
8. Fairmont Vancouver Airport
9. JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa
10. French Quarter Inn, Charleston, S.C.

All of these lists can be requested gratis at the TripAdvisor.com site.

Please note that this is NOT an ad but merely passes on information that we find to be useful to others, as we not only subscribe to the TripAdvisor travel newsletter, but occasionally also evaluate the hotels at which we have stayed.

Studies have shown that the best way to obtain accurate information about a place is to ask someone who has been there, even if that person is a complete stranger, and TripAdvisor applies this principle to hotel selection by travelers.

Google Pages, Pageflakes and Reddit ("read it")

Google Pages, Pageflakes and Reddit (“read it”) are three new tech developments which represent new directions.

Google Pages is a free website page maker and hoster. We have given Google Pages a quick test go at Andis Island and Andisleben. The technology is still very simple and will have to be be improved to be competititve. But it is a free form of webhosting which is bound to find some adherents.

Pageflakes, a name which we do not particularly care for, is an AJAX application which has some impressive features. Our main reservation is that the page loading is simply too slow.

Reddit is a headline lister similar to digg but in its present form reddit is no competition for digg, whose headline feed is featured on LawPundit (lower left column).

A Clueless USPTO Continues its Absurd Practices and the Legal Community Stands Idly By

This past Valentine’s Day
(see Information Week via Aviran’s Place in his posting on “U.S. Grants Patent For AJAX”)
the USPTO issued Patent No. 7,000,180 for “Methods, systems, and processes for the design and creation of rich-media applications via the internet”.

The Abstract of that patent reads as follows:

Rich-media applications are designed and created via the Internet. A host computer system, containing processes for creating rich-media applications, is accessed from a remote user computer system via an Internet connection. User account information and rich-media component specifications are uploaded via the established Internet connection for a specific user account. Rich-media applications are created, deleted, or modified in a user account via the established Internet connection. Rich-media components are added to, modified in, or deleted from scenes of a rich-media application based on information contained in user requests. After creation, the rich-media application is viewed or saved on the host computer system, or downloaded to the user computer system via the established Internet connection. In addition, the host process monitors the available computer and network resources and determines the particular component, scene, and application versions, if multiple versions exist, that most closely match the available resources.”

When one reads the extent of the patent claim, the only conclusion that one can reach about the United States Patent Office (USPTO) for granting this ridiculously broad patent is that the USPTO must be staffed in part by absolute incompetents. To these we can add the mass of backward Congressional legislators who are unable to draft modern and sensible patent legislation suitable for the internet age. Lastly, we find an ineffectual legal community which spends inordinate amounts of its time playing politician and e.g. browbeating Supreme Court nominees or the President of the United States, rather than directing their professional attention to urgent matters of law, which should be their job.

Our comment to all concerned is: WAKE UP!

Is it really possible that the clueless people at the USPTO, legislators in Congress and the legal community as a whole can be so stupid as to allow these kinds of patents to be granted as a matter of prevailing law? It is simply unbelievable. We do not understand it. Eolas, NTP and now the similarly obscure Balthaser Online, Inc.

Based on the Eolas and NTP patent cases as well as this newly granted patent, we think that the U.S. Patent Laws should be renamed “Scam Enablement Laws”.

AJAX and the use of rich media on the internet are technologies which have slowly developed over time through the work of thousands of people around the world. An internet-based patent for any such technology is a contradiction in terms. It is the global state of the art in the internet community which drives innovation and not individuals “inventing things” for that community. The latter puts the cart before the horse. All major internet innovations such as rich media are obvious to any professional in the field – there is nothing “inventive” about them on the part of any so-called patent inventors – what a scam. Rather, the trick is to implement clearly obvious “next step developments” by writing code that is workable and can be commercially exploited, which is a completely different matter.

Writing workable code is in turn dependent on the state of the art of computer technology. We can think of many new applications that we would like to see enabled on our computer screen, but no home computer or graphic card thus far has the ability to implement them because of speed and memory limitations. For example, we want all of our interfaces to be instant 3-D WYSIWYG applications, without any noticeable intervening programs. AJAX is heading in that direction, but “invention” is limited by the state of the art of hardware. Indeed, our Windows installation freezes regularly simply because we push it to the limits. Innovation is thus greatly dependent on hardware improvements. The richer the text, the greater the burden on resources. Innovation on the internet is inextricably intertwined with developments in all of the ancillary industries.

Many patents being granted today can be compared to a Neolithic man who claims to have invented the automobile, but was only hindered to produce it because of the lack of invention in his day of steel and the wheel, not to mention combustible fuel motors and glass.

That some company now claims to be the patent owner for rich media applications on the internet is beyond the pale. It is a modern Alice in Wonderland tale, more Kafkaesque than Kafka.

Worse, it is an anathema to the human spirit. All of that idle chatter everywhere about God and religion, caricatures of prophets, evolution and creation, intelligent design, and what not. No field of human activity proves better our humble primate origins than the state of patents and patent law in the United States. We are right in the middle of a global crowd of baboons, and the baboons are us.
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China Blog and Comparative Law Blog

Jacco Bomhoff, a junior research-fellow at Leiden University Faculty of Law in the Netherlands, has a Comparative Law Blog on “comparative law and judicial decision making” which has a large amount of material on international and EU law.

We extend a hat tip here for his reference to the China Law Blog by Dan Harris, Steve Dickinson of Harris & Moure.

We have blogrolled both blawgs.

Crossposted to EU Pundit.

EU Funding – Training on How to Get It

WelcomeEurope.com offers pay-for-use “training sessions on how to get EU funding and work with European institutions”. (hat tip to EUObserver.com)
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Leading Law Firm Websites Rich in Legal Materials

As we discovered in redesigning LawPundit and adding useful links to law publications (alerts, newsletters, articles, etc.) in the left column of the LawPundit page, many of the websites of large law firms around the world are a rich repository of useful and often quite current legal materials.

The absolute winner in terms of “state of the art” law firm publication technology is WilmerHale, which has RSS feeds to their major publications in numerous fields of law. That this law firm leads the field in internet publication is really not surprising. WashingtonDC-based Wilmer Cutler Pickering, one of the leading corporate law firms in the USA, merged in 2004 with Boston-based Hale & Dorr, one of the leading law firms in the USA in the science and technology sector. Hale and Dorr formerly produced Internet Law Alerts to which we were subscribers.

The WilmerHale RSS feeds are:

Antitrust and Competition
Aviation
Bankruptcy and Commercial
Communications and E-Commerce
Corporate
Defense, National Security and Government Contracts
Environmental
FDA
Financial Institutions
Intellectual Property
International Arbitration
Labor and Employment
Litigation
Private Client
Public Policy and Strategy
Real Estate
Securities
Tax
Trade

Close behind WilmerHale are Baker & McKenzie and firms such as New York City based Paul Weiss, where yours truly was an associate after graduation from law school. Paul Weiss offers the option of e-mail or snail mail subscription to the following publications:

Current Telecom Developments
SEC Updates
Focus: Investment Funds Newsletter
Next: Intellectual Property and Technology Newsletter

Baker & McKenzie is hard to beat in the sheer number of subscription newsletters available by e-mail as follows:

Annual UK Budget – Employee Share Schemes and Related Changes
Apunte Medioambiental – España
Apuntes de Actualidad – España
Baker & McKenzie WTO Monitoring Report
Business Newsletter – St. Petersburg Office
Business Opportunities Alert – Prague Office
Cartel Watch Newsletter
Circular Informativa Sobre Novedades Normativas (Spain)
Commercial Newsletter – London
Commercial Property Newsletter
Employment Law Update – London
Employment/Labor Law Alert – Prague Office
European Financial Services Practice Group Newsletter
European Law Centre EU Monitoring Report
European VAT Newsletter
Global Clean Energy and Climate Change Newsletter
Intellectual Property Newsletter – London
International Litigation & Arbitration Newsletter
Legal Alert – Prague Office
Novedades Laborales – España
Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Newsletter
Philip Marcovici’s Private Banking Newsletter
PRC/Hong Kong/Vietnam IPG Newsletter
PREPARING BUSINESS FOR THE ENLARGEMENT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION 1
Swiss Private Banking Developments
Tax Alert – Prague Office
Telecoms Newsletter
The Global Employment Law Newsletter
Trade Marks Newsletter – London
UK ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH & SAFETY LAW NEWSLETTER
UK Pensions Update
Warsaw E-law Alert
Warsaw Office News
Warsaw Tax Advisors

Sidley Austin has had Sidley Cyberlaw online for numerous years and, as noted by Robert Ambrogi, its daily offer of Internet, IT and IP news has made that website a popular legal destination on the web.

The absolute champion for use of internet presence to get its legal message across is the law firm Mayer Brown which has FORTY mini-websites for separate legal areas:
e.g. at ipcounsel.com one finds
the Corporate Primer for Intellectual Property (a 96 page .pdf file, 2002).

Not all law firms offer publications online to the public. It surely is a discretionary matter of law firm policy. One example is the historically prestigious US law firm Cravath, which does link to firm news in a pop-up box but otherwise provides no public access to firm publications.

We examined about 50 websites of the largest and most prestigious law firms. Except for law firms headquartered in England or Germany, our selection was based largely on the Vault.com list of top law firms in America.

What orders of magnitude are we talking about here? According to a study of Legal Services just published by First Research (January 23, 2006):

The US legal industry includes around 165,000 law offices that generate annual revenue of $180 billion….The industry is highly fragmented: the 50 largest firms hold less than 15 percent of the market. About 150 law firms have annual revenue over $100 million.

The law firms that we examined are among the largest in the world, sometimes comprising more than a thousand attorneys. Such law firms generally offer a full range of legal services to their clients, far beyond those which we mention in our law firm links. Indeed, many of the larger firms have extensive publicly accessible publications covering many diverse fields of legal practice.

Nevertheless, we have selected a few areas of publication which appeared – solely to our own subjective judgment – to be particularly useful for inspection at each law firm website. We think that anyone in the legal field looking at these websites will profit greatly by what they can read there, not just in the areas we have selected.

Our general impression after looking at these many law firm sites is this:

If you really want to know what is going on in the world, turn off your television set and read instead the websites of the world’s leading law firms. There you may just get a better and more balanced idea of the workings of our modern world than is presented by the sensation-seeking mainstream media.

Here are the law firms on our publications link list:

Allen & Overy (Global Law)
Arnold & Porter (Telecoms, Consumers)
Baker & McKenzie (Trademarks)
Bird and Bird (Media)
Cleary Gottlieb (Competition, M&A)
Clifford Chance (European Union)
Cooley Godward (IPOs, Tech)
Covington & Burling (Life Sciences, IP)
Debevoise & Plimpton (Private Equity)
Faegre & Benson (Legal Developments)
Finnegan Henderson (IP, Patents)
Fish & Richardson (Patents, T-marks)
Gibson Dunn (Tech, Corporate Trans.)
Gleiss Lutz (Cross-border Competition)
Hogan & Hartson (Antitrust, Bio, Food)
Kirkland & Ellis (Biotech, Outsourcing)
Latham & Watkins (International Trade)
Mayer Brown (EU Competition)
Munger Tolles (Bankruptcy)
Norton Rose (Tech, Patents)
O’Melveny & Myers (Antitrust, China)
Paul Weiss (Media, Tech, Telecoms, IP)
Pepper Hamilton (Construction Law)
Perkins Coie (Internet Case Digest)
Pinsent Masons (IT, E-Commerce)
Ropes & Gray [Fish & Neave] (IP)
Seyfarth Shaw (Employment Law, IP)
Sidley & Austin (Health Care, Cyberlaw)
Simpson & Thacher (Corporate Alerts)
Shearman & Sterling (Capital Markets, IP)
Skadden (Corporate Law)
Weil Gotshal (Bankruptcy)
White & Case (Global, Data Security)
WilmerHale (Tech, IP, Venture Capital)
Wilson Sonsoni (Technology)
Winston & Strawn (Advertising)

Added to this list can be “niche” law firms such as were featured in a recent article by Robert J. Ambrogi, Law Technology News, Law.com, January 27, 2006, entitled “Package Your Message in a Mini-Web Site“:

Keller & Heckman (Packaging Law)
Preston Gates & Ellis (Electronic Discovery Law)

With such a wealth of legal material available online, it is to be expected that we would find a few websites or web pages devoted to law firm publications, e.g.

LawKT.com offers links to over 60,000 law firm publications and articles online by topic. There is also a search function, although the last publication available through this service that we could find was October 2005, and only the news function is current up to the present date of February 12, 2006.

RR Donnelly RealCorporateLawyer.com links to the publication pages of the following leading law firms:

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP, Alston & Bird, LLP, Arnold & Porter, LLP. Bailey Cavalieri LLP. Baker Botts, LLP, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Baker & McKenzie, LLP, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, Bryan Cave, LLP, Buchanan Ingersoll, PC, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, LLP, Chapman and Cutler LLP, Cooley Godward, LLP, Covington & Burling, LLP, Cozen & O’Connor, LLP, Day, Berry & Howard LLP, Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP, Dechert LLP, Dewey Ballantine, LLP, Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, Duane Morris LLP,Dykema Gossett, PLLC, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, Fenwick & West, LLP, Foley & Lardner, LLP, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, LLP, Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, LLP,Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Haynes & Boone, LLP, Heller Ehrman LLP, Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP, Hogan & Hartson, LLP, Holland & Knight LLP, Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn LLP, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, LLP, Jenkens & Gilchrist, LLP, Jenner & Block, LLC, Jones, Day, Katten Muchin Rosenman, LLP, Kaye Scholer, LLP, Keating, Muething and Klekamp, PLL, Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, King & Spalding, LLP, Kirkland & Ellis, LLP, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP, Kirmayer PLLC, Latham & Watkins, LLP, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP, Littler, Mendelson P.C., Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP, Lord Bissell & Brook, LLP, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, LLP McDermott, Will & Emery, LLP, McGuire Woods, LLP, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, Morrison & Foerster, LLP, Nixon Peabody, LLP O’Melveny & Myers, LLP Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelley, LLP, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, LLP, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, LLP, Pepper Hamilton, LLP, Perkins Coie, LLP, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Piper Rudnick, LLP, Pullman & Comley, LLC, Preston Gates & Ellis, LLP. Proskauer Rose, LLP, Quarles & Brady, LLP, Schiff Hardin LLP, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, Shearman & Sterling, LLP, Sidley Austin LLP, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, Snell & Wilmer LLP, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP, Sullivan & Worcester, LLP, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault, LLP, Thacher Proffitt & Wood LLP, Thelen Reid & Priest, LLP, Thompson Hine, LLP, Vedder Price Kaufman & Kammholz, Vinson & Elkins, LLP, Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, White & Case, LLP Williams Mullen LLP, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, LLP, Winston & Strawn, LLP, Womble Carlyle, LLP

As one can see from the sheer number of law firms and law firm publications online, there is truly a rich supply of legal material available at the websites of the world’s leading law firms.

Future Communications: Intel Collaborating with Skype

Just a few postings ago we posted on Skype as a blockbuster application with tremendous potential impact on the way we communicate in the future.

Via digg we now read at SourceWire as confirmation of the coming importance of Skype that Intel is collaborating with Skype to enhance voice and video on internet connections.

Zillow Your Home

It is sometimes really incredible to see what new things the information revolution is producing.

Via TVC and Yahoo we found a new site called Zillow.com which estimates the market value of homes in the USA. In the Zillow search box, I plugged in the address of the house in which I grew up in the USA and the resulting satellite image showed the house in question, together with square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, plus the estimated retail value in $K (thousands of dollars). Moreover, the detailed satellite image also showed all of the other houses in the neighborhood, together with their estimated retail values.

Talk about transparent neighborhoods, at least in an economic sense. Due to lack of detailed map material for rural areas, and we also checked a rural area in the USA in which we previously lived, less detailed per home information is available for small towns, but Zillow does give an average home price for small towns in the mapped rural region which we examined.

How accurate the estimated retail values are may be open to question, but there is no doubt that Zillow will clearly change the information process by which buyers make home purchases. Indeed, in the first 24 hours, Zillow has been hit with more than 300,000 visitors.

Have you “Zillowed your Home”? If not, you may, in the future.
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Skype Is a Blockbuster Application

Skype is definitely a blockbuster application.
250 million downloads – and counting – is probably just the beginning.

The Skype slogan is “The Whole World can Talk for Free”, and, indeed, any two users who both have Skype identities and the free Skype software installed on their computers can talk for free across the internet (they merely each have to have a microphone and speakers connected to their PCs).

Of course, nothing in life is really perfectly free, and one must bear in mind that users must nevertheless pay their provider for their normal internet connections. However, unless the users use Skype to connect to normal telephone numbers (which incurs extra charges), there is no additional charge if the calls are made from one Skype-user-identity to another Skype-user-identity across their respective internet connections. For those who have an internet flat rate already, the calls then really are practically free.

We have our Skype identity in the information part of this page (close to the bottom) and any of our friends or acquaintances out there who also have a Skype identity are invited to call and try it out. We hope this does not open up our Skype line to spam calls, but, for now, we are simply interested to see how this works. If spam calls do ensue, Skype has several options which permit not only specific callers to be blocked, but also allows the option of permitting calls only from a user-made list of approved contacts. Essentially, these options may ultimately permit the internet Skype community to regulate itself. We shall see.
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Google Book Search and the Law – An Analysis

Paul Ganley of Baker & McKenzie LLP has a 39-page January 13, 2006 article in .pdf form entitled “Google Book Search: Fair Use, Fair Dealing and the Case for Intermediary Copying“. See the Abstract at the Social Science Research Network which also has links to download sites for the article.

The article contains an analysis of US, UK and EU law.
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Caricature and the Power of the Pen

Recent world events involving caricatures and religiously-motivated attacks on free speech merely validate the ancient wisdom that “the pen is mightier than the sword”, any sword. Tyrants and fascist religions and institutions have never understood this wisdom and even in our modern age continue to think that the sword is mightier, even though their own reaction to the power of the pen proves the contrary.

Drawing the Line has an informative posting on political cartoons and relates an interesting story from America in this regard:

In perhaps the best known example of the force of the political cartoon, Thomas Nast’s images in Harper’s Weekly played an important role in the overthrow of the Tweed Ring in 1870s New York City. An exasperated Boss Tweed is recorded to have demanded of his henchmen, ‘Stop them damn pictures. I don’t care so much what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see pictures.’ “

We think that free speech is not limitless and that there should be some limits on caricature (e.g. caricature which functions as libel and defamation), but there is obviously no reason that certain historical figures should be exempted from cartoon portrayal. Indeed, no historical figure is viewed uniformly by all of humanity, and no segment of humanity has the right to instruct other humans as to how to view some personage, even an alleged prophet.

In our view, the most recent “Prophet of God” was Albert Einstein, who showed us how the universe works, and yet, caricatures of Einstein are widespread without in any way detracting from his “message”. There is one difference. Einstein’s message is true. That is why certain nations, rather than to rely on the antiquated messages of their own alleged prophets, are attempting to gain nuclear weapons, whose construction is based on Einstein’s message.

In any case, one of the reasons that blogging has become such an important part of the media scene is precisely because it is an exercise of the “power of the pen”.

When just a few cartoons can provoke world-wide reaction far out of proportion to the cost of the ink and the paper used for publication, the power of the pen has been aptly proven.
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