Category Archives: News

It’s Banned Books Week: September 21 – 27

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Each year many organizations focus on Banned Books Week, and for good reason.  Banned and challenged books inhibit our freedom to read and promote censorship, both of which are intimately linked to our freedom of speech.  The American Library Association actively promotes recognition of Banned Books Week and encourages everyone to get involved.  Check out their site here.

Want to check out banned and challenged books from years past?  You can see those lists here.  Note that the Dave Pilkey series, Captain Underpants, has earned the top spot on the list for the past three years now.  Listen to Dave Pilkey’s public service message here and stick around to hear John Monforte read Maurice Sendak’s Into the Night Kitchen (another book on the banned/challenged list) while you are there.

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The focus of Banned Books Week this year is on graphic novels and comics.  NPR also featured Banned Books Week on it’s broadcast todayBone, by Jeff Smith, made the number ten spot on this year’s list.

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And your quiz of the day:  Which Banned Book are You?

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Stop by the Library to check out our displays of banned comics and graphic novels, as well as the DVDs we have of movies made from banned and challenged books.  Fight for your right to read – pick up a banned book today – it could set you free!

~ Julie Morris ~

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The U.S. Supreme Court Has Been Asked By 32 States to Settle the Issues Surrounding Gay Marriage

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Thirty-two states that either allow gay marriage or have banned it have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle these issues once and for all. The Associated Press reported that the following states have asked the Supreme Court to address the gay marriage laws that differ from state-to-state: Fifteen states that allow gay marriage, led by Massachusetts, filed a brief asking the justices to take up three cases from Virginia, Utah and Oklahoma and overturn bans. And 17 other states, led by Colorado, that have banned the practice asked the court to hear cases from Utah and Oklahoma to clear up a “morass” of lawsuits, but didn’t urge the court to rule one way or another.

Lyle Denniston, a reporter for SCOTUSblog, posted on September 10, 2014 that same-sex marriage cases were set for an early review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, the Court has set September 29 for a private conference to discuss same-sex marriage and to review the seven petitions it has received on gay marriage.

Listed below are the seven petitions the Court has received and from which states they came:

  1. Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Utah-same-sex-marriage-petition-8-5-14.pdf
  2. Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Oklahoma-Smith-petition-8-6-14.pdf
  3. Rainey v. Bostic (Virginia) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Virginia-ssame-sex-marriage-pet.-8-8-14.pdf
  4. Schaefer v. Bostic (Virginia) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Virginia-Schaefer-petition-8-22-14.pdf
  5. McQuigg v. Bostic (Virginia) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/McQuigg-petition-8-29-14.pdf
  6. Bogan v. Baskin (Indianna)http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/14-277-baskincert.pdf and
  7. Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin) http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/14-278-pet.pdf

Will the U.S. Supreme Court Review Any of America’s Gay Marriages Laws?

Sometime after September 29, 2024, I will write a follow-up blog detailing which, if any, of the above listed petitions were granted Cert by the U.S. Supreme Court.

~Jane Fraytet~

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Net Neutrality or a Two-Tiered Internet?

What is net neutrality and what are the issues?

Law professor Tim Wu coined the phrase “net neutrality” in a 2003 law review article.   While net neutrality has a number of complex implications, the main idea here is that the Internet is an impartial conduit for information and that all traffic on the Internet would be equal.  That concept seems pretty straightforward. However, net neutrality is a complex, important concept to understand.

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Tim Wu (Open Rights Group)

Since the world moved from dial-up to broadband, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has worked to keep the Internet open and neutral. However, on January 4th, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s “Open Internet” rules in Verizon v. FCC. Basically, the court stated that the FCC does not have the authority to impose its net neutrality rules on Internet service providers (ISPs).

“Even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.”

As a result of this decision, there is a grey area that allows Comcast or Verizon to charge extra to have content from certain providers like Netflix streamed more quickly or give preference to their business partners.

Founding Principle. The Internet was founded on the principle of net neutrality. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who created the World Wide Web, has said, “Being able to connect freely and equally to the Internet is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now the society is based on it” (Scola, 2014). We take for granted that we as a members of our society, we can access the information we want just like everyone else.

Consumerism. The Consumers Union has been vocal in the debate on net neutrality. They believe that the new FCC rules while prohibiting Internet service providers from blocking traffic, would allow ISPs to charge online providers like Amazon, Google, or Netflix a fee for preferred access to customers. Delara Derakhshani, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, stated that this Internet fast lane “could create a tiered Internet where consumers either pay more for content and speed, or get left behind with fewer choices” (“Internet,” 2014). Conceivably, content providers could give preferential treatment to online sites that pay them the most.

Innovation. American Libraries Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling argues that having to pay for faster, efficient access would dissuade entrepreneurs from experimenting. Websites of small businesses and nonprofits would be out of the mainstream and all those start-ups would never make it out of their garages. Stripling has stated, “Many of the innovative services we use today were create by entrepreneurs who had a fair chance to compete for web traffic. By enabling the Internet service providers to limit access, we are essentially saying that only the privileged can continue to innovate” (Miller, 2014). While limiting access would not be the end of the Internet, we could lose the creativity that has resulted in current advances.

Intellectual Freedom. The ALA’s policy statement on the issue of net neutrality is based on the value of intellectual freedom. Intellectual freedom is one of the ethical principles of the profession and is included in the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Intellectual freedom is the “right of all peoples to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.”  The Internet allows everyone to inform themselves and others. Without net neutrality, information could be more restricted.

Digital Divide. In April, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) held a hearing to focus on the role of libraries in providing Internet Services. The IMLS is charged with advising the president and Congress in such matters. The hearings highlighted the fact that the digital divide continues to grow in this country. A Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report in 2013 states that while 70% of Americans have broadband access; 88% of households with incomes over $75,000 have broadband. Only 54% of households with an annual income of less than $30,000 have broadband. Furthermore, the Pew study found 63 million Americans do not have either a broadband connection or a smartphone.

Access.  Public libraries, not only worried about having to negotiate with ISPs over potentially high rates for patrons to have access to the library’s resources, are also concerned about the broader issue of protecting the equitable use of the Internet for the “common good.” 77 million people use the public library for Internet access each year (“ALA Responds,” 2014). According IMLS President Susan Hildreth, 60% of American libraries offer the only free computer Internet access in their communities and only 9% of those have high capacity connections (Herther, 2014). Furthermore, Internet service providers will not have any business incentive to run fiber optic cable to small towns; and without fiber optic cable, there is no broadband access. Without a policy of net neutrality, these numbers will only go down.

Some organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have gone so far as to warn that ISPs could conceivably slow down the websites of political parties and other organizations with which the ISPs’ executives disagree.

A Solution. Kathleen Ann Ruane in a report for the Congressional Research Service suggests a solution for the FCC that would enable the Commission to continue its advocacy of net neutrality. According to the Verizon ruling, the FCC does have the authority to issue rules; however, because Internet service providers are classified as information services rather than telecommunication services, the net neutrality rules concerning anti-blocking and anti-discrimination were thrown out. A reclassification of broadband Internet service providers would seem to be a logical solution for the FCC and others advocating for net neutrality.

Net neutrality is complex and important issue.  After reading about the issues, there are still other underlying questions such as: how do you allocate scarce resources (bandwidth) in a free market economy? Traditionally that would be regulated by price. So then the question becomes who pays and how much? This blog only touches the surface.

Still confused?

John Oliver describes net neutrality as the most boring important issue. His humorous You Tube video (13:17) is worth watching. He gives a not-so-boring explanation.

What Can We Do?

Activists protest against proposed new net neutrality rules outside Federal Communications Commission in May. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Activists protest against proposed new net neutrality rules outside Federal Communications Commission in May. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Or we could….

Email comments to the FCC at openinternet@fcc.gov. The FCC has established a new inbox to accept comments through the summer. Chairman Wheeler plans to have new rules in place before the end of the year.

An Addendum

On Thursday, July 10, 2014, 11 higher education and library groups issued a set of 11 principles regarding net neutrality meant for the FCC to consider in its rule making. The principles can be found at http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EPO1305_1.pdf

Want to read more?

  • American Library Association. (2014, March/April). ALA responds to net neutrality decision. American Libraries Magazine, 45(3/4), 10.
  • Chant, I. (2014, February 15). Court strikes down net neutrality. Library Journal, 139(3), 12-14.
  • Delta, G.B. & Matsuura, J. H. (2014).  Regulation of Access, Interoperability, and Services.
  • In Law of the internet.  St. Paul, MN:  Thomson/West.
  • Heller, M. (2014, June 23). What should academic librarians know about net neutrality? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://acrl.ala.org/techconnect/?p=4396
  • Herther, N. K. (2014, June).  FCC and IMLS update focus. Information Today, 31(5), 1-35.
  • Internet rules could put you in the slow lane. (2014, July). Consumer Reports, 79(7), 10.
  • Miller, R.T. (2014). A commons at risk. Library Journal, 139(3), 8.
  • Scola, N. (2014, June 12). Five myths about net neutrality. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-net-neutrality/2014/06/12/ff58ad7c-ec06-11e3-93d2-edd4be1f5d9e_story.html

~Betty Thomas~

 

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In Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, the Court Limits Software Patents, but Does Not Eliminate Them

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The US Supreme Court ruled against Alice Corporation, the owner of the patent in dispute.

A New York Times article published on June 19, 2014 said that the trial court had invalidated Alice’s patents, stating that the patent holder had only recited abstract concepts. The trial court’s decision was effectively affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit when it issued seven separate opinions, none of which commanded a majority, thus not issuing clear guidance and direction for software patent protection.

Adam Liptak of the N.Y. Times stated that the Court of Appeals decision for the Federal Circuit in the Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International summarized that the use of Alice’s computer software was not unique, but was simple business software – considered “a building block of the modern economy”, but not deserving patent protection.

According to the US Supreme Court, adding the use of a computer added nothing.

Stating an abstract idea while adding the words ‘apply it’ is not enough for patent eligibility,”  and because the petitioner’s system and media claims add noth­ing of substance to the underlying abstract idea, we hold that they,  too are patent ineligible under §101.

Charlotte Law students, staff and faculty can use their library barcode to view these two BNA articles for a more complete summary of this U.S. Supreme Court patent case decision:

~Jane Fraytet~

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Student Spotlight: Maritza Adonis

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I recently had the opportunity to sit and chat with the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division 4th Circuit Governor, Maritza Adonis, who is a first-year law student here at Charlotte School of Law. Maritza, a Miami, Florida native, graduated from North Carolina State University in 2010 and worked in the Wake County Teen Court before beginning her law school career last fall. In only her first year of law school, Maritza has accomplished so much, both professionally and academically. In addition to her role as the American Bar Association Law Student Division 4th Circuit Governor, Maritza is active in the Black Allied Law Student Association, Counsel for Children’s Rights, Education Legal Society, and Women in Law.  Maritza is also the recipient of the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys’ Sarah Parker 2014-2015 Scholarship.

Maritza won the spring vote for the American Bar Association Law Student Division 4th Circuit Governor position by receiving a majority of the votes from the 17 law schools in the American Bar Association Law Student Division 4th Circuit. As Governor, Maritza will be focusing on several different tasks, but some of her main initiatives focuses on the mental health of law students. Maritza believes mental health is a huge issue for law students, and she wants to figure out why students are not seeking help during law school and figure out a way to resolve this issue. One of the ways that Maritza can be a change agent and advocate for law students is by writing American Bar Association resolutions, which are voted on by the American Bar Association and potentially become American Bar Association Rules. Maritza is also hoping that being the American Bar Association Law Student Division 4th Circuit Governor will help to give Charlotte School of Law more national recognition and instill pride in the current students.

Keep a lookout for the major initiatives and moves Maritza has in store for Charlotte School of Law and the entire American Bar Association Law Student Division 4th Circuit.

~Minerva Mims~

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North Carolina Will Be Introducing Legislation to Rein in Patent Trolls

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State legislation to control patent trolls could move to the House floor this week. A state-wide coalition has formed to enact legislation “that would entitle companies victimized by frivolous demands of lawsuits from NPEs (Nonpracticing entities) to obtain attorney’s fees and treble damages.” A proposed North Carolina bill would aim to rein in patent trolls; the primary sponsor of the bill is state legislator Tom Murry- who said it was very important to pass this bill since there is such a high concentration of technology companies in North Carolina. According to an article that appeared in the Charlotte Observer on May 24, 2014, “the legislation has broad industry support from a coalition that likens the litigation tactics of patent trolls to extortion”.

Updates on this bill will be posted to this blog when and if the bill passes the North Carolina legislature.

~Jane Fraytet~

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Patent Trolls May Think Twice After Supreme Court Moves To Curb Their Abuses*

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Sonia Sotomajor recently wrote two Supreme Court opinions both unanimous and both dealing directly and indirectly with parties known as “patent trolls”. The concepts reviewed in Highmark dealt with the concept of “exceptional cases” and reviewing District Court cases de novo:

The District Court in Highmark found the case “exceptional” and granted Highmark’s motion that their attorney fees be paid by the plaintiff. The Federal Circuit Court reviewed the District Court’s determination de novo and reversed the decision in part. as to the attorney fees.

All aspects of a district court’s exceptional-case determination under §285 should be reviewed for abuse of discretion. Prior to Oc­tane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., ante, p. ___, this determination was governed by the framework established by the Federal Circuit in Brooks Furniture Mfg., Inc. v. Dutailier Int’l, Inc., 393 F. 3d 1378. Octane rejects the Brooks Furniture framework as unduly rigid and holds that district courts may make the exceptional­ case determination under §285 in the exercise of their discretion. The holding in Octane settles this case. Decisions on “matters of dis­cretion” and holds that district courts may make the exceptional ­case determination under §285 in the exercise of their discretion. HIGHMARK INC. v. ALLCARE HEALTH MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, INC.

In the second opinion that Sotomayor wrote Octane Fitness, she wrote that the case law relied upon in Octane from the Brooks case was unduly rigid:

 (a) Section 285 imposes one and only one constraint on district courts’ discretion to award attorney’s fees: The power is reserved for “exceptional” cases. Brooks Furnitureis too restrictive in defining the two catego­ries of cases in which fee awards are allowed. The first category— cases involving litigation or certain other misconduct—appears to ex­tend largely to independently sanctionable conduct. But that is not the appropriate benchmark. A district court may award fees in the rare case in which a party’s unreasonable, though not independently sanctionable, conduct is so “exceptional” as to justify an award. For litigation to fall within the second category, a district court must de­termine that the litigation is both objectively baseless and brought in subjective bad faith. But a case presenting either subjective bad faith or exceptionally meritless claims may sufficiently set itself apart from mine-run cases to be “exceptional.” The Federal Circuit imported this second category from Professional Real Estate Inves­tors, Inc. v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., 508 U. S. 49, but that case’s standard finds no roots in §285’s text and makes little sense in the context of the exceptional-case determination. Pp. 8–10.

(2) Brooks Furniture is so demanding that it would appear to render §285 largely superfluous.

In conclusion, the Wall Street Journal Blog stated that the defense bar hopes that these  rulings will make patent-holding firms,” think twice before filing cases based on flimsy patents.”*

~Jane Fraytet~

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