Legal Research Blog


Episode 25:

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It’s Friday for me, probably the weekend for you. Sounds like you don’t have a good excuse not to subscribe to the podcast and rate us five stars on iTunes.

1. The Hollywood Reporter recently published an interesting article on the case pending before the Ninth Circuit whereby the Court will consider whether the batmobile is entitled to copyright, rather than trademark or trade dress, protections. The strange argument appears to be that an inanimate object can rise to a level requiring protections as if it were a person. My favorite quote appears at the end:

If Towle is able to establish that DC has no protectable rights in the Batmobile, you should quit your job and start selling replicas of the General Lee and a decked-out DeLorean time machine.”

So if DC loses, I guess, see ya. Off to print some money by making Back to the Future DeLorean replicas.

2. @ouij points out on the subreddit that this next story is a great lesson in civics. It looks something like this: the Massachusetts legislature passed laws about 10 years ago designed make it illegal to take “upskirt” photos. Here’s the text of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, 105(b):

Whoever willfully photographs, videotapes or electronically surveils another person who is nude or partially nude, with the intent to secretly conduct or hide such activity, when the other person in such place and circumstance would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in not being so photographed, videotaped or electronically surveilled, and without that person’s knowledge and consent, shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 21/2 years or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

(Incidentally if you’re a Fastcase member, you can check out the indexed opinion at here.)

As always, please take note of our subreddit at Feel free to submit stories there or vote on the stories you’d like to hear us discuss that day. You can also email us at podcast /at fastcase /dot com.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 28: It’s Hard Out There a Bank Robber

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The Fastcase office is buzzing with TopForm preparations but I’m sneaking away to record a podcast. If you think this was a wise decision, would you care to subscribe to the podcast and rate us five stars on iTunes? I’ll be your new best friend.

1. The ABA Journal wonders: should Hawaii cops be allowed to sleep with prostitutes in the course of an investigation? I discuss how the Hawaii PD backpedaled on this issue.

2. Oldschool bank robberies don’t pay like they used to. According to FBI statistics, about 60% of bank robbers will be tracked down within 18 months. More interestingly, the mean take-home from a bank robbery is about $4000. Definitely doesn’t seem worth it. Which explains why the number of bank robberies is significantly down overall over the course of the past few years.

3. While speaking to law students at the Brooklyn Law School recently, Justice Scalia said that he thought the question of whether computer data was one of the effects protected by the Fourth Amendment was a really good question. Actually, what he said first was, “Mmm. Mmm.”

4. Carolyn Elefant takes a good look at whether crowd sourcing lawyers is unethical. She doesn’t think so. I’m sort of constrained to disagree.

As always, please take note of our subreddit at Feel free to submit stories there or vote on the stories you’d like to hear us discuss that day. You can also email us at podcast /at fastcase /dot com.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 27: It’s All About the Software Patents

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This is a special edition of  The Law Review: I’m asking Patrick Taylor, Software Engineer at Fastcase, to join us to talk about the Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank case pending before SCOTUS re: software licenses. Patrick, being a coder geek working at a legal research company, is likely going to have a unique take on things I’m looking forward to hearing. And by to by, have you subscribed to the podcast and rated us five stars on iTunes yet? We’d really appreciate it.

Much of today’s special episode is going to focus around Dean Holbrook’s Op-Ed piece on Forbes re: the potential demise of software patents.  You’ll have to listen to the podcast for a synopsis of this episode, but the jumping-off point will be, of course, 35 U.S.C. § 101:

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

As always, please take note of our subreddit at Feel free to submit stories there or vote on the stories you’d like to hear us discuss that day. You can also email us at podcast /at fastcase /dot com.

Thanks for listening!


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Back after an impromptu hiatus! I came down with a really bad case of the flu last week while simultaneously traveling to Chicago for the NABE and BLI conferences, so we took an unscheduled break. But fear not — we’re back now. Consider welcoming us back by subscribing to the podcast and rating us five stars on iTunes!

1. The government isn’t psyched about the whole PRISM leaking and is responding in-kind by requesting $9 million from the government for next year to fund its “insider threat” program. This program would allow it to monitor employees with secret clearance (or above) on or off the job. The monitoring wouldn’t end at the job — the program seeks to leverage off-site social media behavior to assess risk (as well as potentially polygraphs to extirpate would be whistleblowers).

2. Check out this truly awesome piece of journalism by Brad Hearth at USA Today titled, “The ones that get away.” This is a really interesting theory about hard and fast rules in many counties across the US against extradition. Sometimes, certain cities will forego pursuing over 90% of potential felons for monetary reasons. Philadelphia in particular was called out pretty hard in the article. Interestingly, I’ve participated in quite a few teleconference motions arguments in PA where the defendant was incarcerated in a prison in another state and present by video — seems like at least a partial solution?

3. We’re linking to a sad but legally intriguing case of a Texas man who recently died of skin cancer allegedly caused by burns he received at eight years old when a then-13-year-old boy doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. 99 percent of the boy’s body was covered in burns and he died in 2011 at age 23. The attacker is now being charged with murder in adult court. Interestingly, when the crime was committed, a juvenile had to be at least 14 for a capitol murder case to be transferred into adult court, but that age was changed to 14 in 1999. It’s an interesting policy question we’ve seen show up on the podcast a few times before: do we apply the law as it existed when the act was committed, or do we use the date of the victim’s actual death to determine which law governs?

4. Dean Chemerinsky recently wrote an op/ed calling for Justices Ginsburg and Breyer to retire. And soon. According to Chemerinsky, the Justices are 81 and 79 respectively and this summer could be the last viable time a democratic president could push new Justices in for confirmation. Depending on your ideology I suspect this could either be good or bad news, but Dean Chemerinsky points to some precedent, including Roe v. Wade, that could legitimately change with another conservative Supreme Court Justice.

As always, please take note of our subreddit at Feel free to submit stories there or vote on the stories you’d like to hear us discuss that day. You can also email us at podcast /at fastcase /dot com.

Thanks for listening!

Two Great Services that Work Great Together: Announcing HeinOnline Law Reviews on Fastcase

Last year we announced a groundbreaking partnership with HeinOnline: HeinOnline users would see hyperlinks to caselaw from Fastcase, and Fastcase users would be able to search HeinOnline databases such as law reviews, historical state statutes, acts, and attorney general opinions. The news was welcomed by fans of both services alike.  Legal tech blogger Martha Sperry said that the combination was like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, adding:

Nice to see these well-respected resources partnering to offer more to subscribers. This is a benefit to those groups that is worth noting.

The first phase of this partnership launched at the end of 2013, when Hein launched caselaw links from Fastcase.  The combination brought new functions to HeinOnline users, as caselaw citations in the system are now hyperlinked, bringing cited cases from Fastcase into HeinOnline.

Today, we’re happy to launch the second phase of this partnership, integrating HeinOnline’s extensive law review collection in Fastcase. Using your Fastcase account, you now have access to search one of the most comprehensive databases of law review articles in the world.  The HeinOnline collection includes more than 2,000 law review titles, each going back to the first page of the first volume.  It’s by far the largest collections of law reviews and law journals in the world — and starting today, you can search the entire collection in Fastcase, and subscribe to HeinOnline whenever you want at a discount.

You’ll see several new ways to search law reviews in Fastcase. If you already know which journals you want to search (or if you want to search them all), you can access the entire database of journals by hovering your mouse over the Search menu and selecting Search Law Reviews. Selecting HeinOnline Law Reviews will allow you to browse or search more than 2,000 journals, back to the first page of each.

All  journals are selected by default, but you can mix and match the ones of particular interest to your search query as well. You’re free to search using a keyword (Boolean) search or using natural language.  As with primary law searches on Fastcase, you’ll get a list of results, the most relevant paragraph of each, ranked by Fastcase’s relevance engine.

This update marks several big changes for Fastcase.  Fastcase has traditionally been a primary law service, with access to cases, statutes, regulations, court rules, constitutions, and the like.  The HeinOnline collection is a major expansion into secondary materials.  In addition, the HeinOnline law reviews are in PDF format, so there’s a new way to view documents in Fastcase.  Our PDF player is still in its early stages, so watch for upgrades in the weeks and months ahead.

In addition, this marks the first time we’ve offered suggested results in Fastcase.  Now, when you’re searching in Fastcase, in addition to standard search results, you’ll also get suggested results from HeinOnline.  The law review materials add such depth to caselaw, statute, and regulations searches, we provide them in a collapsible sidebar on the right-hand side of the page.  If you don’t care to see suggested results, simply close the panel. When you’d like to review them later, simply open the panel on any search results page.

We’re selective about the journal articles we suggest: we’ve hand-tagged each journal with the states we believe it primarily implicates. If you’re searching Pennsylvania case law, there’s a good chance the Penn State Law Review is going have articles relevant to your search, so it’ll be one of the many journals we search in that jurisdiction to suggest relevant journal results.

If you (or your firm or law school) already subscribe to HeinOnline, you can view the law review content on Fastcase at no additional charge.  If you don’t already subscribe, we make it easy to sign up on a monthly or annual basis.  Clicking on a link to a law review article will bring up the following window (at first):

If you’re a member of an organization already subscribing to HeinOnline, you can click the link to get a token and attach it to your Fastcase account. (Note that if you log into HeinOnline through a third party website, you may have to first click on that organization’s link to HeinOnline in order to authenticate your account before syncing it with your Fastcase account.) Otherwise, you’ve got two great options to subscribe to HeinOnline’s database at a substantially reduced rate.

For an individual user, for $59 per month (with no obligation to continue subscribing) or $595 per year (~16% discount), you can sign up to view and download law review articles on Fastcase for whatever period you subscribe. (Enterprise subscriptions are also available for mid- to large-sized firms.)

Once you’re authenticated and/or subscribed to HeinOnline, pulling up a journal article acts substantially like accessing any other document in Fastcase. You’ll see the actual scanned PDF displayed on the screen, which you can search or download to your machine to email or print out.

We want to emphasize that this is the first step in a multi-part rollout for secondary sources on Fastcase. In successive releases, we’ll include several other ground-breaking features, as well as  HeinOnline’s historic state statutes, acts, and attorney general opinions beyond those already offered by the Fastcase service.

These are the early steps of a progressive partnership between Fastcase and HeinOnline, designed to empower the users of both services.  Subscribers to HeinOnline and Fastcase together will have access to two powerful, unrivaled legal research experiences.  It’s two great services that work great together — like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.