2013 Clawbies (Canadian Law Blog Awards) Announced

As reported on Slaw, the 2013 Canadian Law Blog Awards (Clawbies) have been announced. The award for Best Law Library Blog this year goes to The Stream, the blog of the Courthouse Libraries BC. We’ve always been fans of this blog, especially for is practical focus on legal research tips and tools, and legal news affecting practice.

Our own blog was a runner-up for the award this year. As you may remember, we were given the award for best law library blog last year, with special reference to our “engaging (and sometimes irreverent) writing style”.

Among other Osgoode blogs, IP Osgoode was given the award for best Legal Technology blog, and The Court was a runner-up for best Law School/Law Professor blog.

Free music – legally

As a child of the Napster generation, the idea of “free” music is something that has a long and fraught history. Until Napster’s debut in 1999, it was simply assumed that you would fork out $20 for a CD because what other option did you have? Online music was largely relegated to downloading (in retrospect, hilariously awful) MIDI files with their keytar-like takes on music both new and old (amazingly, they still exist). Wholesale downloading of songs was science fiction. Then Napster popped up, and everything changed. Even after the well-publicised war waged between Napster and Metallica ended with the shut-down of Napster in 2001, the genie was out of the bottle and eventually the iPod cemented the change to digital formats.

This blog post is not, however, about the well-publicised sea change in the music industry over the past decade and a half, along with the legal ramifications that are still being determined (although if you want to know about copyright and sound recordings, this is a good start). Instead, I wanted to direct our readers to a fantastic resource for free, high-quality, easily accessed and downloadable music (and is indirectly related to our own library – as well as many others).

A recent article published in the New Yorker entitled “Deadhead” chronicled the writer’s obsession with the Grateful Dead – particularly the obsessive way in which Deadheads regard the Grateful Dead’s live recordings. While the idea of recording a band’s live recordings in this day and age is as easy as pulling out a smart phone, the Dead actively encouraged these recordings, which, at the time, required oftentimes tremendously complicated setups, so long as they were traded for free. There now exists an enormous wealth of Grateful Dead tapes; however, given that they are in a physical format, many are sub-par recordings that are deteriorating further with age. Cue the Internet Archive.

Many of our users will note that searches for historic legal material will link to the Internet Archive, which is an enormous undertaking that is occurring at libraries and beyond. The Osgoode Library has even contributed material. However, it is not solely books that are being collected, but also a tremendous amount of live music as well, including – you guessed it – the Grateful Dead, who have an impressive 9,368 shows included. There are also archives for other venerable acts such as the Smashing Pumpkins, the Drive-By Truckers, and My Morning Jacket. Files can be downloaded in various formats (including uncompressed FLAC files) or streamed. There are also podcasts, virtual record labels, audio books, and much more.

Just remember that when you’re in the library – keep it down.


Opinions on High: New High Court of Australia Blog

Our friend Carole Hinchcliffe, head of the law library at University of Melbourne Law School, informs us that their new blog Opinions on High went live today. The blog airms to provide a public forum for discussion of the judicial decisions of the High Court of Australia by providing commentary on and analysis of recent High Court decisions, general information about the Court, and marking significant activities and events at the Court. It is a forum for discussion of decisions of the Court and a resource for understanding the operation of the Court.

Posts are written by faculty, alumni and friends of the Melbourne Law School with expertise in the subject matter of each case.The blog contains the following types of posts and special sections:

  • Case Pages contain up-to-date news information on pending and decided cases, links to case resources and opinion posts. Every matter the Court decides to hear will have its own Case Page;
  • Feature Posts will mark significant activities and events at the Court;
  • Additional information about the High Court, including its jurisdiction and operation;
  • A list of Legal terms; and finally
  • Links to other blogs

Anyone interested in Australian law or constitutional law generally should make a point of adding this blog to their favourites.


Go on a BibliOdyssey…

Crowning a King – Mediaeval German style

While having breakfast this morning, my eye fell upon a book that I had purchased a few years ago and has since been residing in the dusty chambers of my memory. It is titled BibliOdyssey: Archival Images from the Internet, and it is an interesting, contradictory item – it is a book of images from old, esoteric, and downright weird books that is taken from the BibliOdyssey blog. The blog is both proof that books as an art form are on the decline and that appreciation for the art form has arguably never been greater. With accompanying Tumblr and Twitter sites, it is a veritable treasure trove of exotic esoterica that fills the heart of any true bibliophile with joy. The book’s synopsis, taken from its publisher’s page, outlines its m.o. better than I ever could:

Across the world, libraries and institutions are just beginning to make 
their collections available online, much of this amazing material goes 
unnoticed by the casual surfer. 

BibliOdyssey’s mission has been to search the dustier corners of the 
internet and retrieve these materials for our enjoyment. Thanks to the 
efforts of this singular weblog, a myriad of long-forgotten imagery has 
now resurfaced. Each of these fascinating images is accompanied by 
a commentary from PK, author and curator of BibliOdyssey, and a link 
to the source website.

Although the site’s legal content is relatively minor, there is an interesting entry on the German Sachsenspiegel, which is the first instance of German customary law being committed to the written word. Furthermore, while it was initially written in Latin, the later translation to German also meant it was the first time that German vernacular was put on the page as well. It was an enormously important legal text in Mediaeval Europe, so it is a tremendously illuminating entry.

Looking at the examples of early versions of the Sachsenspiegel, it could only be hoped that all modern legal texts were so lavishly illustrated!

A quick guide to rare books

The first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird

This is a post that really seems to straddle the boundary behind low brow and high brow, since it’s about rare books, but via Pawn Stars.

If you’ve seen Pawn Stars, you’ll know that it’s an extremely popular reality television show that is based out of the Silver and Gold Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. The premise is pretty simple – people bring stuff in to sell or pawn, they haggle, and maybe they can reach a deal. For the benefit of good television, experts are often brought in to authenticate and estimate the value of items.

These experts run the gamut from history to guns (it is the US, after all) to toys to books. Their book expert, Rebecca Romney, is from the Vegas outlet of Baumann’s Rare Books (if you’ve ever looked at the back page of the New York Times‘ Sunday Book Review section, no doubt you’ve seen the NYC Bauman’s ads touting remarkable – and remarkably expensive! – rare books). Being a librarian who has been fortunate to have encountered quite a few rare books (including one bound in human skin at the Harvard Law Library – and the equally creepy [but not a book] Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. death mask), I checked out the Pawn Stars site and eventually stumbled upon Romney’s blog, Aldine.

Rather than being the sort of self-promotional dreck that you might expect for somebody who is plying their trade on reality television, it is actually a rather interesting and entertaining site, with plenty of useful information and food for thought, including the first two parts of an ongoing “Rare Books 101” series (you can find part one here and part two here).

As a further shameless plug for the library, it’s worth a gander to take a look at our own display of rare books cherry-picked from our special collections. Carefully curated by our own Chief Librarian and avid rare book enthusiast, Louis Mirando, it can be viewed on the lower level of the library.

Law and Order: Overthought

Credit: Overthinkingit.com

I’m sure that pretty much all denizens of law schools have, at some point watched at least one episode of Law and Order (or its many, many spin-offs) and, in all likelihood, groaned at some point. While it’s undeniably entertaining, it is also frequently larded with clichés, improbabilities, bad law, and an overly Manichean outlook. After twenty years and over four hundred episodes, these certainly pile up to the extent of “here we go again.”

So, if you’ve ever wondered exactly what would happen if you were to subject the series to an overly rigorous statistical analysis, today is your lucky day. The good folks over at Overthinkingit.com have done it for you, and it took only (!!) two years.

Take a look at it here.

Thanks to the Law Librarian Blog for bringing this to my attention!