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Last week, Netflix announced some big changes in their structure and offerings. First, they will split into two companies: one for streaming and one for physical DVD rental. Second, Netflix subscribers will be able to share and discuss their rentals through Facebook. The Netflix blog reports: “The Netflix/Facebook integration empowers you as a Netflix member to share what you watch from Netflix with your friends on Facebook and to discover what your friends are watching both on Facebook and within the Netflix user interface. This makes it easier and more fun to find new television series and movies to watch.” Michael Drobac, Director of Government Relations at Netflix, has a caveat, however. This access will be limited to users outside of the US due to a “1980s law that creates some confusion over our ability to allow U.S. members to share what they watch.” Since Netflix didn’t cite the code or link to which “1980’s law” they are referring to, I thought it might be useful to post about it. Mr. Drobac is talking about  18 USC § 2710, “Wrongful Disclosure of Video Tape Rental or Sale Records.” This law authorizes civil penalties for release of consumer rentals or sales without informed consent of the renter or a court order.
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This morning, President Barack Obama participated in a LinkedIn Town Hall Meeting at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

Since the museum is across the street from us, we were able to participate in some of the fanfare that a Presidential visit brings. But, the parking situation was a bit difficult to say the least.

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We were lucky enough this week to have two great groups of folks visit us at Justia — Tom Bruce and Sara Frug of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, and Robb Shecter and Lisa Hackenberger from Tom and Sara were here for a few days to talk about current and (cool) future projects, topped off by a visit to Fry’s on their last day.  (And Courtney and I were also lucky enough grab a few minutes to get them up to speed on our current universal citation project.)  Robb and Lisa stopped by Tuesday afternoon to chat with everyone about all the great stuff Robb is up to with, as well as future opportunities for collaboration.  Below is a photo of the some of the gang (we leave it to Tom to explain his t-shirt :), plus our Justia ambassadors, Sheba and Rio.  It was great to see all of them and hope they come back soon!

Youtube Trademark on Quistive

Anyone who has ever searched the website has surely thought that the private sector could offer a better system.  Google agreed, and nearly a year ago struck a deal with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to make all of the data on patents and trademarks available not only to their own search engine, but in bulk format to other companies so that they could take the data and work with it.

We’ve been impressed with the work of Robb Shector on and Now, he’s made excellent use of the trademark data to create Quisitive, an iPhone app for searching trademarks in a new and very innovative way.

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The Texas Attorney Generals’ Office issued an opinion in July that effectively halts the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s investigation of the Cameron Todd Willingham case. Mr. Willingham was executed in 2004 after he was convicted of arson and murder in a 1991 fire that killed his three children. In 2009, the Texas Forensic Science Commission reported findings from a nationally recognized arson scientist that criticized and called into question the arson investigation and findings at trial. The investigation has been profiled nationwide,  with excellent coverage by the New Yorker and PBS’ Frontline (which my colleague Ken reviewed last year).
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Buried in an announcement from the Judicial Conference today on standards and procedures for sealing civil cases comes news of an approved fee increase for PACER access:

The Conference . . . authorized an increase in the Judiciary’s electronic public access fee in response to increasing costs for maintaining and enhancing the electronic public access system. The increase in the electronic public access (EPA) fee, from $.08 to $.10 per page, is needed to continue to support and improve the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system, and to develop and implement the next generation of the Judiciary’s Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system.

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Step 1. California imposes a Use Tax collection duty on retailers with an affiliate or corporate nexus to California.

Step 2. Amazon immediately abandons its California-based affiliates.

Step 3. Amazon seeks a referendum on the New Sales and Use Tax law.

Step 4. Rinse and Repeat.

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Earlier this week, a panel of Ninth Circuit judges held in Diaz v. Brewer that an Arizona bill withdrawing health benefits for domestic partners of state employees violated the federal Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The state originally offered these benefits to spouses of state employees, but in April 2008 expanded coverage to include both same-sex and different-sex domestic partners. In September 2009, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that restricted benefits once again only to (different-sex) spouses. Several state employees whose same-sex partners would lose their much-needed health benefits if the bill went into effect brought this suit to enjoin the governor and relevant state officials from implementing the new law. Represented by Lambda Legal—the largest legal organization working for the civil rights of LGBT people—the employees challenged the law as violating the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. Continue reading →

As readers of this blog, you probably already know that we at Justia are big fans of universal citation. With that said, I wanted to give you all a heads up that Courtney, in continuing to fight that good fight, has written a great piece on the topic which is now up  on Cornell’s VoxPopuLII blog. In it, she generally discusses media neutral citation and more specifically provides details of the work we’ve been doing here in applying universal citation to Justia’s corpus of state codes.  Head on over and check it out!

Additional Links & Resources – current movement to provide the organizational infrastructure needed to facilitate the adoption and use of a uniform set of media and vendor neutral citations that can be used for all American court decisions.  This site also has links to lots of great resources on the history and work that’s been done in the field so far.

Here is a rundown of August’s highest scoring lawyers on Justia Legal Answers, along with a look at which Onward blog and Facebook posts readers viewed the most.

Justia Legal Answers’ Top 10 Legal Answerers for August 2011

  1. Francis M. Boyer, 2,311 points, 48 answers
  2. Mark A. Siesel, 801 points, 16 answers
  3. Terrence Rubino, 775 oints, 24 answers
  4. Milan Marinkovich, 600 points, 12 answers
  5. Robert Neal Katz, 551 points, 11 answers
  6. Andrew Bresalier, 400 points, 8 answers
  7. Dheeraj K. Singhal, 330 points, 14 answers
  8. Andrew John Hawes, 310 points, 7 answers
  9. Cynthia Jean Nelson, 250 points, 5 answers
  10. Donald Joseph Quinn, 250 points, 5 answers

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