“That’s the letter U and the numeral 2″

The cover of the now-notorious Negativland “U2″ EP

With the recent passing of Casey Kasem, known primarily in the US as the voice of the “American Top 40″ radio countdown and as the voice of Shaggy in the “Scooby-Doo” cartoons, I thought of one of Kasem’s more notorious outings, and one that was an early example of current hot-button topics such as copyright, fair use (an American term, sure, but increasingly close to Canadian-style fair dealing), and transformative use.

Long before law and librarianship beckoned as potential career paths, I really, really wanted to be involved in either film or television, and as part of a high school co-op program, I secured a placement at Global Television, which was a fantastic experience with lots of great memories. My boss was a former DJ and dyed-in-the-wool evangelist for radio (this was the late 90s, so pre-podcast radio-is-dying-or-dead), and I will forever remember a key piece of advice that he imparted – and one that is equally applicable in radio, television, or film – which was that if a microphone is in front of you, you have to respect it and assume that it is on. In other words, watch what you say or do, as you never know when the tape might be rolling. Many, many, many radio, TV, and film personalities have forgotten this fundamental tenet, to their everlasting embarrassment (Gord Martineau, we’re looking at you).YouTube could barely exist without this gift that keeps giving.

Pre-internet, Casey Kasem was a victim of this truism, when in 1991 the band Negativland managed to thoroughly embarrass and infuriate not only Kasem, but also the band U2′s record label, Island Records, with the release of their “U2″ EP. Somehow Negativland had managed to obtain outtakes from “American Top 40″ that captured Kasem ranting in a manner that was very, very much contrary to his relatively wholesome public image. The outtakes were interspersed with what can only be described as an cacophony that also includes snippets from and open mockery of the then-recent U2 songs “Where the Streets Have No Name” and, particularly,  “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For“. The EP had two tracks – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (1991 A Capella Mix)” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Special Edit Radio Mix)” which, despite effectively being disappeared in the pre-internet age, have managed to continue to exist thanks to YouTube and even a later CD release of questionable legality (but awesome title).

It is possible that Negativland would have been able to have the EP released without incident but for the album art, rather than its content. It was released just before U2′s landmark album Achtung Baby, and the giant “U2″ on the cover was seen to be misleading by U2′s record label, which successfully sued for copyright infringement in order to get the album off the shelves.

It is an interesting case, especially 23 years on, as it was coming at the tail end of a period in which sampling without attribution was a pretty common practice (as was the case in a ton of old hip-hop and rap albums and songs, notably Paul’s Boutique, Three Feet High and Rising, and “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” – among many, many others), but was ever-increasingly being curtailed by litigation surrounding the use of uncleared samples. In the realm of mainstream music, at least, sampling has largely become the reserve of wealthy, major-label acts who can afford the time and trouble to obtain clearance for recognizable samples. There are plenty of exceptions, of course, with so-called “mash-ups” becoming a recognizable and viable genre. Record labels like Illegal Art have managed to continue their existence and release music by acts such as Girl Talk, despite their dubious legality and artists like DJ Shadow and the Avalanches have largely evaded closer scrutiny by dicing the majority of samples until they’re unrecognizable.

The difference with Negativland was the fact that they embraced the notoriety that the case brought (and even published a book about it – alas, we don’t have it) and it stands as the closest thing that they have to a “hit” record, a fact that is all the more remarkable given that this whole scenario unfolded prior to the ubiquity of the internet. It is impossible to say how it would have unfolded today, but it would certainly have been very, very different. For a comparison, just take a look at Danger Mouse’s Grey Album mix of Jay-Z’s Black Album and the Beatles’ White Album on YouTube. Once the genie was out of the bottle, it was impossible to put back in.

The scourge of York?

“Don’t like me? Too bad!”
*blows raspberry*

While the issue of campus safety is one that has always been something of an elephant in the room at York – especially of late – there is another animal that lurks in the periphery of our consciousness and every year rears its head. Of course, I am referring to the Canada Geese that, as of this writing, have returned to campus, along with their incessant squawking, grazing, vaguely malevolent staring from rooftops, and, of course, their rather casual approach to bathroom habits (which, incidentally, in addition to being merely gross, is also toxic). They are rather like an unwanted house guest who make themselves comfortable and refuse to leave, all the while befouling your daily space.

Despite their inarguable nuisance factor, they are a protected species under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, wherein, in a worst-case scenario, the maximum punishment is a million dollar fine and a maximum jail term of three years. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not entirely illegal to kill them – it just needs to be done at the right time and place (i.e. with a license and during the appropriate season). It should also be noted that even if you try your best Katniss Everdeen impersonation on one, it might not necessarily kill it. As is often the case with such legislation, the minutiae are to be found in the act’s regulations. It is curious, though, that even thought it is a protected species under the MBCA, Environment Canada admits that their population growth is outstripping hunting, despite the fact that “the limits have been liberalized to the extent possible within the limits permitted for hunting seasons under the MBCA.”

Looking eastward, another invasive Canadian icon is in the news today, as a class action lawsuit began in Newfoundland over the government’s (in)action in managing the moose population, although personally a Canada Goose is a much less potentially intimidating prospect than a moose.

If you do decide to take matters into your own hands, apparently Canada Goose is lovely with teriyaki sauce.


Eastern European and CIS Law

Given the near-ubiquity of Ukraine and Russia, along with the attendant complicated history and politics that run deep between them, in the news over the past weeks and months, it would seem that it would be a good time to do a brief blog post on available resources for legal research former Soviet CIS (Commenwealth of Independent States) states.

The ongoing Russian invasion of Crimea almost seems to read like a fact pattern for an international law or international relations exam. Multiple violated treaties, violations of international conventions, trumped-up justifications for invasion and so on – not to mention the Cold War and Great Game rhetoric and power struggles that just won’t seem to die. Which, of course, means that it is a fascinating situation to watch unfold, as the Guardian’s daily live updates of the situation have proven. Thankfully, the human cost has, at the time of this writing, been mercifully modest. On a personal note, my wife grew up in Crimea and my in-laws still reside there, so it is something that has struck a resonant chord – not to mention tremendous nervousness.

As the Ukrainian crisis has amply demonstrated, the rule of law – along with the accompanying legal frameworks – is hardly robust in many parts of the former Soviet Union. This makes legal research problematic, as the law does not necessarily represent the way the legal system actually works – “dualism” is a long-standing tradition in Russian law.

Our hard copy collection of materials on this area is modest, although we do have a handful. The leading English-language scholar of Russian and former Soviet law is William Butler, from whom we have quite a few texts that he either wrote or translated. Two that are particularly notable right now are International Law: A Russian Introduction and a largely Russian text on comparative law, Foundations of Comparative Law, which includes an essay entitled “Place of Ukraine on the legal map of the world”. Another author whose work is worth consulting is Igor Kavass, whose bibliographies of Soviet and early post-Soviet Russian law are exhaustive.

The usual suspects in terms of databases and eResources are also a rich source of secondary material, and there are also some specialized resources that are useful as well. HeinOnline’s World Constitutions Illustrated is an excellent source of, as the name suggests, world constitutions, both current and historical. There are also selected articles, commentaries, and bibliographies. The turmoil of Russia’s 20th century history is highlighted by the list of constitutions in 1917, 1918 (twice), 1923/24, 1925, 1936, 1937, 1947, 1977, 1978, and 1993.

Another fantastic resource is the Foreign Law Guide, which is a regularly updated source of both primary and secondary information on foreign legal systems. There is often legal history, commentary, and a selection of the best sources on myriad areas of the law in many countries. Not everything is readily available, but where possible they will link to online resources.

As always, if you are stuck or looking for places to start, you can come by and speak with a librarian. We’re here to help!

Tips for Using E-books


Electronic books have become very popular based on our usage statistics. Last semester, the Irwin law titles in the ebrary platform were heavily used. Working with e-books comes with a lot of pros such as the customized features like -

  • Copying and pasting
  • Highlighting into your word document
  • Downloading (this option varies in each platform, some allow you to download a chapter each while others limit you to 100 pages)
  • Creating folders
  • Saving books into your personal bookshelf
  • Export to RefWorks and Endnotes
  • Printing (save as a pdf document first).

Note that you will get better results by creating your own account in ebrary.
E-books are compatible with most devices like tablets, smartphones and eReaders. More information on mobile applications is available here http://guides.scholarsportal.info/content.php?pid=328165&sid=2829117.

There are a few things to note in using e-books.  Like with print books, sometimes we are only permitted to have one or two people access an e-book at a time.  If you are having trouble accessing a book, especially a popular book that needs to be read for class tomorrow, try to access it again in 15 minutes.  Some platforms provide an electronic waiting list.  Be thoughtful of your classmates and download your chapter before reading it so others can access it too.

Downloading and printing have also confused some people.  If you are downloading a chapter or set of pages, take note of how the e-book platform is counting the pages.  Ebrary, for instance, counts the pages starting at 1 for the very first page, even if the page number on the screen is something else, like (i).  You can easily tell by looking at the page count in the top right corner of the ebrary screen.  For example, if the page number printed on the page of the e-book is 172, but it says 202 in the top right corner, you are going to enter 202 as the first page in the page range you want to download (and perhaps eventually print).  Calculate the end page the same way.

If you need help, feel free to contact the reference librarians, or check out the training materials on ebrary’s website:

http://www.ebrary.com/corp/collateral/flash/QuickStart/; http://www.ebrary.com/corp/collateral/en/Quick_Guides/Quick_Guide.pdf.


Eventually the 196 bus will arrive…

It is somehow appropriate that on the first weekend of 2014, the top-grossing movie at the North American box office was titled Frozenwhich pretty much sums up the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 in North America in general and Toronto in particular. For those of you who went home to points outside of Toronto after exams, you were probably fortunate enough to miss the simultaneous beauty and beast of the ice storm (and have power), but alas, were likely unlucky to feel the full brunt of the so-called “polar vortex” (and its -40 wind chill) that is just starting to lift as I write this.

Although it is predicted to be 7 degrees and raining by Saturday, we will undoubtedly have more cold weather before spring arrives, so remember that the library can be a heated oasis for your comfortable studying pleasure until 10 pm during the week (except for Fridays, when we close at 5 pm) and 6 pm on the weekend. While it is hardly necessary to remind you that food is not allowed (no, not even pineapple), life-sustaining hot beverages are allowed – as long as they’re in covered containers. And no, book flasks don’t count.


SCC strikes down prostitution laws

This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark ruling that struck down a series of laws surrounding prostitution. The long-term implications remain to be seen, as the unanimous judgement has been suspended for a year in order to give parliament time to respond and (presumably) enact new legislation.

Incidentally, there is a strong Osgoode connection in the case, as our own Professor Alan Young was part of the team for Bedford, et al.

The decision – Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72 – can be viewed on the Supreme Court’s web site here.

New AODA regulations coming into effect January 1st

For those of your who are interested in disability law and critical disability studies, it is worth pointing out that the latest round of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) regulations will be coming into effect on January 1, 2014 (amazingly, less than two weeks away).

AODA regulations are being gradually rolled out on an annual basis until January 1, 2025, having started on January 1, 2012. The standards can be found in the Integrated Accessibility Standards (O. Reg. 191/11), which exhaustively lay out the standards, along with the deadlines for compliance. It also lays out the penalties for non-compliance, which can be as much as $100,000 a day (!!).

The relevant standards that come into effect this coming January 1st deal with the establishment of detailed accessibility standards for large private sector organizations and small designated public sector organizations, establishment of accessibility plans for large private sector organizations and small public sector organizations, and far beyond (and far too much for me to list here) including but not limited to provision of accessible formats, opening of feedback channels, and the creation of accessible websites (although on this point it should be noted that this is a graduated process, with increased levels of accessibility to follow). On the point of AODA-compliant web sites, York has set up a site to deal with ensuring York’s compliance with these standards.