Are Westlaw and Lexis Violating Lawyer Copyrights By Publishing Legal Briefs and Memoranda In Their Databases? New York Lawsuit Filed for Damages Under U.S. Copyright Law

Well, this seems silly.  As a lawyer, whenever I filed something in the public record of a court case - and I did this for over 20 years - never once did I think WAIT, I better make sure I've protected my copyright on this thing.   I mean really.

However, two lawyers up in New York are suing both West Publishing Company and LexisNexis for having the audacity of taking documents like briefs and legal memoranda, copying them, and placing them on their databases.  That's right.  The lawyers are arguing that they are due actual and punitive damages for a violation of federal copyright laws because West and Lexis have digitally collected and sold these public records to their clients.

Oh my, oh my.

The lawsuit isn't new.  It was filed as White v. West Publishing Company & Reed Elsevier Inc. in the Southern District of New York back on February 22, 2012.  You can read the complaint here.

UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh wasted no time in writing about this, and his blog post is worth your time to read.  

From Professor Volokh's perspective, the issue here isn't the existence of a copyright -- he argues that the briefs are copyrighted material of the lawyers who wrote them (or maybe the law firm, or maybe the client, too - but this is a rabbit trail and Prof. V argues work for hire doesn't extend this far) -- it's the question of whether or not the fair use doctrine will apply here to allow the two big legal research companies the ability to share these briefs for their own profit under the fair use defense to copyright infringement under federal law.

Meanwhile, up in Canada there's another case dealing with a similar issue of copyright violation of lawyers whose briefs have been copied and then placed into legal software databases and it's been certified as a class action.  More on that case here.  

Another law professor shares his take on things over at the Law Librarian Blog; it comforted me to read that he thought this to be a little silly, too. 


Twitter Cuts LinkedIn App - So How Does Your LinkedIn Account Look Now? Are You Now More Interested in LinkedIn Account Than UR Twitter Page?

LinkedIn is much more than an online resource for employers and job seekers these days, especially for lawyers, law firms, other professionals, and businesses.  My clients like LinkedIn, one attorney calling it "more than Twitter, less than Facebook." 

Chances are your teenager isn't on LinkedIn; chances are you're not reading nor are you considering writing about your summer vacation plans on LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is different. 

LinkedIn is a place where more and more professional discussion happens.  Another client has been having lots of networking success by beginning some discussions and contributing to others via LinkedIn Groups that are filled with members in niches in which she has an interest.   She's found that even though some people don't go to the LinkedIn site to read the Discussion itself, they do catch her name in their email notification of the Group's Discussion and this has resulted in one or more email or phone one-on-one chat with referrals and clients.

Which means that I have had more than one phone call to complain about Tweets disappearing from LinkedIn because Twitter has blocked the old LinkedIn application.  No more automatic sharing of tweets over on the LinkedIn account.  (You can tweet on LinkedIn and have it appear on Twitter; just not vice versa.)

There's been lots of discussion on why Twitter has done this.  Some good reads if you want to delve into this further include:
  •  ZDNet's article, "Twitter mimics Facebook, kills own ecosystem," where writer Stilgherrian wonders if Twitter has hit its own self-destruct button by blocking LinkedIn.
  • Fortune has an interesting piece with a consumer vs business discussion by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes, "Inside the LinkedIn Twitter Divorce."
  • Business Insider has Owen Thomas take on things with his piece, "Twitter Gives LinkedIn the Bird," where Thomas points out that with one hand, Twitter abandons LinkedIn while recently allowing Facebook to do exactly what it's now forbidden to LinkedIn. 
What does Twitter have to contribute to this discussion? Read Twitter's own explanation here, "Delivering a consistent Twitter experience."

What does this mean to you and me? 

I don't know of any client that goes directly to Twitter.com to tweet.  Or to LinkedIn for that matter.  They use other sites like HootSuite or MyYahoo or Google+ to coordinate their social media.  (Not Tweetdeck, since it dropped everything but Facebook after Twitter bought it last fall.  Guess that was a hint of things to come, huh?)

So, this news isn't impacting how they tweet.  It is impacting their consideration of LinkedIn - more than one lawyer has voiced more interest in communicating at a site that has a "professional demeanor" (to quote one client) than to be concerned with Twitter.   It's actually made some take a closer look at LinkedIn, and how to become more involved there in a proactive way.

They want a way to get around the Twitter block because they want to build their presence on LinkedIn.  Not Twitter. Not Facebook.  Facebook is for their personal stuff.  

It's too soon to tell, but from what I'm hearing right now, many pros are discovering a loyalty and curiosity in LinkedIn that they didn't know they had before Twitter decided to dis LinkedIn.  We'll see what happens... after all, Facebook has decided to compete with LinkedIn in the near future ....