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Powerset Labs Invitations

Back in June I wrote about Powerset, a start-up aiming to become an important natural language search engine. At the time I said, “I’m probably wrong, but this one feels like it might go a mile or two.”

Since then I’ve become one of the Powerset Labs volunteers, let into the alpha test phase, and if anything my sense has strengthened that these people are on to something important and useful. Along with perhaps a couple hundred other active volunteer testers — there’s growning bench strength, and I imagine more and more will move from passive to active roles . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information: Libraries & Research, Miscellaneous

World’s Silliest Laws and Weirdest Cases

The British Broadcasting Corporation has a report about a survey to choose the most bizarre and ridiculous laws still on the books in the UK.

Some 4,000 people took part in the poll by the British television channel UKTV Gold.

Among the silliest laws, according to the vox populi (or is that vox dei?):

  • It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament
  • It could be regarded an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British king or queen’s image upside-down
  • In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants
  • It is
. . . [more]
Posted in: Substantive Law: Legislation

Pay for What You Can Get for Free? Not Such a Crazy Idea…

All of you, I’m sure, are aware of Radiohead’s recent experiment in distributing its most recent album. Rather than release a CD, the band made its music available for download from its website, giving “customers” the choice of paying whatever amount they wanted for the album. The results of the experiment are of interest to both music industry executives (who can’t believe an artist would cut them out of the loop) and classical economists (who can’t believe a rational consumer would pay for something they can get for free) alike.

Early results on the experiment are coming in. A company . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

The Charter Disassembled

As I said I might, I did in fact “feed” IBM’s Many Eyes with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, just to see what a “tag cloud” for it would look like. You can get to it here, or by clicking on the image.

As you can see our anxieties — French, English, language — are writ large. (En anglais, il faut dire; je me demande comment la version français apparaîtrait et s’il y aurait des differences entre les versions…) I’m glad to see “law” is larger than “government.”

The site uses Java, so you’ll have to have that . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

SharePoint Pedia

Many law firms appear to have implemented or will be implementing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007) for online network collaboration and search.

A Google Blog Search on: *sharepoint law firm* has any number of interesting and relevant posts on its applicability to a law firm environment.

From a recent post (sorry, can’t remember where from) I saw mention of a fairly recent “pedia” (or is that “wiki”?) for SharePoint called SharePointPedia that I don’t think has yet been mentioned on SLAW. They describe themselves in these terms: is a web site where people discover and

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Information: Information Management

The Brazilian Constitution as a Word Cloud

Speaking of visualizing legal information, as I was just a post ago, here’s the Brazilian 1988 Constitution done as a “tag” cloud. It’s one of the Visualizations on Many Eyes, an IBM experimental particpatory sandbox. The graphic is linked to the site, and you’ll need Java on to see it. You can search for terms (in Portuguese, naturally) and the cloud display will give results that reflect your search term as it changes letter by letter.

I can’t say that this is ideally what I’d do to a legal document but it does at least give a different perspective. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Digg’s Displays

Have you seen what Digg Labs are doing with the stories you digg on that social bookmarking service? Seeing is the operative word, because they’re experimenting with a number of ways — four, in fact — to display the weight of stories graphically, and they’re a little wild.

From their main page:


Digg Arc displays stories, topics, and containers wrapped around a sphere. Arcs trail users as they digg stories across topics. Stories with more diggs make thicker arcs.


Digg BigSpy places stories at the top of the screen as they are dugg. As new stories are dugg, . . . [more]

Posted in: Technology

Citation Style for a General Audience

The Alberta Supreme Court at 100: History & Authority, ed. Jonathan Swainger (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press / Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2007) arrived in my mailbox today. I haven’t read the whole book, but my superficial impression is that it is, in substance, an interesting and useful contribution to the literature.

What caught my eye, though, were the case citations. Here are some examples:
Page 24, note 41: R. v. Cyr, Alberta Law Reports 12, (1917-18):336
Page 62, note 16: R. v. Nan-E-Quis-A-Ka, NWT, Territories Law Reports [cited hereafter TLR] 1(1889):211
Page 92, note . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information: Libraries & Research

Information Freedom: Possible and Good.

Maybe its just me, but the web, as represented in my aggregator, seems to be drawing these threads together tightly this morning. First, we have the news that file sharing is good for the music business, plus the fact that some US universities are starting to rebuff the RIAA‘s requests for data on file-sharers. Anonymity is good for information quality where the information being exchanged is somehow protected or proscribed. But where the information is not controlled, anonymity is less crucial, and increased access makes markets work better. When the information is free (as in speech), . . . [more]

Posted in: Substantive Law

Canada Post Creates Second Life Shopping Island

We are seeing that the social networking tool/virtual world Second Life is gradually becoming more relevant to business as more organizations take the plunge to test it out and market their wares to SL users.

Case in point: Canada Post has just launched Maple Grove, a city in Second Life. It was announced Thursday (see press release Canada Post Leaps Into Virtual World – Nov. 1/07) and the grand opening took place Saturday with a six-hour music festival. Maple Grove includes brand name stores where you can purchase real world items and have them shipped (using, of course, . . . [more]

Posted in: Technology

Westlaw WebPlus Search Engine

Westlaw has taken its WebPlus search engine out from behind the paywall and made it available freely on the web. Through a combination, it seems, of editorial selection of sites or domains and an algorithm the engine offers to fetch you from the web a better selection of legally interesting results than a simple Google search might do.

Slow typing in the search box brings up a list of suggested “issues.” Results can be filtered by a simple set of facets.

There’s a promo video that was used within Westlaw proper for law students — who seem to me, alas, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Information: Libraries & Research

The Law of Tattoos

Well Slaw hasn’t had a discussion about piercings or personalized skin art. Because – you might say – what does this have to do with law or legal information.

Well given that these things are manifestations of some sort of creativity, it isn’t surprising that there might be IP implications.

Yes – there is law, and the leading expert is an Ottawa native ((Harkins is legal counsel at Brinks, Hofer, Gilson & Lione, a Chicago intellectual property law firm. He is the son of Zoe and John Harkins of Ottawa.)) whose article “Tattoos and Copyright Infringement: Celebrities, Marketers and . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous, Substantive Law