Compare Two PDFs for Differences

 

Probably familiar with the Compare feature in your Word program, but have you ever tried to compare for differences between two PDFs? Not the easiest task, usually. But, as usually is the case, someone has ridden to the rescue with a very cool application called DiffPDF. Open source and available for both Windows and OSX. Once you load up your two docs, you can specify whether you want the application to scan for appearance, characters or words. Differences will then be highlighted in the dual doc window. Compare particular pages or page ranges, or the entire document.

 

 

Local and not web-based, so upload security is not an issue. Very handy to have when you need it. Thanks, Lifehacker and QTrac!

 

There Really Is A "Day" For Everything

Mark your calendars: March 31, 2010 is Document Freedom Day. What exactly is Document Freedom Day? Well, despite the somewhat silly name, the day does serve a useful purpose – to educate regarding and promote the use of open standards and free document formats across the Web. This purpose serves you because adoption of open standards ultimately results in a Web that is more user-friendly and accessible. While the process of opening up the Web in this regard is a bit “techy” for the average lawyer, any Web user can get behind the idea of open sourcing and freely accessible information. Gotta go get my “I ♥  Open Source Docs” pin right away!

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Wikipedia In Court: The How & The When

The logo of Wikipedia.
Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t picked on Wikipedia in a while, so when I got the Legal Writing Institute email this morning with a link to the article entitled Wikipedia in Court: When and How Citing Wikipedia and Other Consensus Websites is Appropriate, I figured it was time for another go-around with the authority-by-crowd-compromise site. Authors Hannah Murray and Jason Miller undertake to define a process to determine when citing to Wikipedia is o.k., despite its faults, failings and questionable authority. The authors premise their article with an explanation of the difference between citing sources like Wikipedia or, egad, the Urban Dictionary for the meaning of slang terms and relying on such sources for the “contours of the xyphoid process.” In short, the authors believe that appropriate citation of Wikipedia is driven by the legal context in which the citation will be used and the structural limitations of Wikipedia in that same context. I say there is no such thing as appropriate citation to Wikipedia in the context of a legal brief or judicial opinion.

One of the issues is that Wikipedia articles are open to constant revision from any source. The authors believe that some of this concern can be addressed by qualifying the citation by date and time, and explain how to find the time-stamp for the particular page. The authors also believe that Wikipedia is a fine resource for determining the community or consensus perspective on a non-legal concept. Thus, the more technical and formalistic a concept, the less appropriate it is to cite Wikipedia.

While I am right there with the authors on their caution against citing the big Wiki for technical concept, scientific or biographical data, I am still not convinced it is a reasonable source for crowd consensus on the meaning of common phrases such as “business day.” Take, for example, the fact that women are highly underrepresented on Wikipedia as editors and contributors and you are missing half of the population that might have an opinion on what a business day is. The field is further narrowed when you consider that Wikipedia contributors are a fairly small (and shrinking) subset of on-line denizens – those that would even consider taking the time to edit a group Wiki. This small subset cannot and should not be considered to be even a remote facsimile of a public “consensus” on any subject, let alone one that might drive the opinion of a court.

The authors opine that the Wikipedia entry is likely more reliable when it is “common wisdom [that] is more likely to be correct.” If so, then why cite Wikipedia at all? Why wouldn’t it be the subject of judicial notice at that point? I say, back away from the Wikipedia and look to the underlying sources. I challenge their conclusion that Wikipedia is a “great source” in this context – go ahead and use it to look up information to settle a quick argument at the bar or to pull links or lists of other resources that might actually be curated and reliable. But don’t even think about going there to support something as important as a legal decision.

For what it is worth, and to sit on the other side of the fence for a moment, any citation to Wikipedia that relies solely on date and time is insufficient – I would hope that anyone citing the source as authority would also consider attaching a copy of the actual language on the page at the time of citation. Consider using a handy Internet Explorer or Firefox tool like iCyte, which freezes a page in time for later review. Then, be prepared to defend your use of this highly questionable resource.

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Primary Legal Materials, FREE & On-Line. It’s About Time

Carl Malamud at O’Reilly Radar reports on Law.Gov, “America’s Open Source Operating System”. As st forth in the opening paragraph:

Public.Resource.Org is very pleased to announce that we’re going to be working with a distinguished group of colleagues from across the country to create a solid business plan, technical specs, and enabling legislation for the federal government to create Law.Gov. We envision Law.Gov as a distributed, open source, authenticated registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States. More details on the effort are available on our Law.Gov page.

Primary legal materials include case law and statutes.

For years, easy access to these materials has been tied up in paid gateways tended by private publishing houses. This has NEVER made sense to me. Why can’t we have a system offering superior access to this free content? The powers behind Law.Gov apparently agree and are working towards that end.  Let the money makers focus on their secondary materials and expert commentary. Case law and statutory law accessible and on-line are necessary components of an open government, a result we all should embrace.

Primary Legal Materials, FREE & On-Line. It's About Time

Carl Malamud at O’Reilly Radar reports on Law.Gov, “America’s Open Source Operating System”. As st forth in the opening paragraph:

Public.Resource.Org is very pleased to announce that we’re going to be working with a distinguished group of colleagues from across the country to create a solid business plan, technical specs, and enabling legislation for the federal government to create Law.Gov. We envision Law.Gov as a distributed, open source, authenticated registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States. More details on the effort are available on our Law.Gov page.

Primary legal materials include case law and statutes.

For years, easy access to these materials has been tied up in paid gateways tended by private publishing houses. This has NEVER made sense to me. Why can’t we have a system offering superior access to this free content? The powers behind Law.Gov apparently agree and are working towards that end.  Let the money makers focus on their secondary materials and expert commentary. Case law and statutory law accessible and on-line are necessary components of an open government, a result we all should embrace.

New: Free Online Law Journal About Free & Online

Merging the ideas of free and open source into both the subject and the product, Andrew Katz has launched a new Free and Open Source Law Review online. Taken from the site:

The International Free and Open Source Software Law Review (IFOSS L. Rev.) is a collaborative legal publication aiming to increase knowledge and understanding among lawyers about Free and Open Source Software issues. Topics covered include copyright, licence implementation, licence interpretation, software patents, open standards, case law and statutory changes.

Sections include case law reviews, full-length research articles, book reviews and ‘tech watch’ reports by non-lawyers. Articles are accepted for publication via the Review’s web site, and are subject to anonymous peer review where appropriate.

The Editorial Committee of the Review is drawn from the membership of the European Legal Network, a non-partisan professional network of Free Software legal experts, and its composition rotates regularly among network members. The network is facilitated by Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), but the membership extends across a broad spectrum of interests engaging in Free Software across four continents. The Review itself receives financial and administrative support from the NLNet Foundation.

Volume 1, Number 1 (2009) is up and running at the jump above. Oh, and you can follow it on Twitter too – @ifosslr.

Hat tip to BoingBoing blog.

Open Source Law Review

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A Slideshow You Will Want To Sit Through

LSNTAPLSNTAP offers up a fantastic slide show of Fifty Tech Tips for Tough Economic Times. The hefty presentation is filled with free and open-source tools and tips on how to make the most of them in your law practice. And these tips are only for the month of July! Download the PowerPoint and sit back and learn a few things you may not have already known about some of your favorites, as well as some new options.

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Don't Mess With Texas, When It Comes to Memorandum Opinions Anyway

It seems Texans are of the “opinion” that one should leave no stone or judicial opinion unturned, even if the opinion is only accessible though Westlaw or Lexis. Erika Wayne at Legal Research Plus tipped me off to a recent change to the Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 47 that discusses the use of unpublished and memorandum judicial opinions. Apparently, in 2003, the Texas legislature barred the use of unpublished legal opinions in civil cases, but authorized the use of memorandum opinions in their place. In 2008, the Legislature took matters one step further by giving the memorandum opinions issued since 2003 full precedential value.
So, what’s the problem you ask? Well, these fully binding, precedential memorandum opinions are only accessible by Westlaw or Lexis. Cha-ching!
Hey, Texas! What’s up with this move to lock the law behind a very expensive toll booth? If the Texas legislature insists that memorandum opinions are binding, then the Texas legislature better figure out a way to open access to them. In an age when information is moving steadily towards free and open source, this short-sighted procedural move seems more than a little backward. I suppose the next move is to require lawyers to ride to court on buckboard.

[Caption]

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Don’t Mess With Texas, When It Comes to Memorandum Opinions Anyway

It seems Texans are of the “opinion” that one should leave no stone or judicial opinion unturned, even if the opinion is only accessible though Westlaw or Lexis. Erika Wayne at Legal Research Plus tipped me off to a recent change to the Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 47 that discusses the use of unpublished and memorandum judicial opinions. Apparently, in 2003, the Texas legislature barred the use of unpublished legal opinions in civil cases, but authorized the use of memorandum opinions in their place. In 2008, the Legislature took matters one step further by giving the memorandum opinions issued since 2003 full precedential value.
So, what’s the problem you ask? Well, these fully binding, precedential memorandum opinions are only accessible by Westlaw or Lexis. Cha-ching!
Hey, Texas! What’s up with this move to lock the law behind a very expensive toll booth? If the Texas legislature insists that memorandum opinions are binding, then the Texas legislature better figure out a way to open access to them. In an age when information is moving steadily towards free and open source, this short-sighted procedural move seems more than a little backward. I suppose the next move is to require lawyers to ride to court on buckboard.

[Caption]

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Law Schools Innovate & Lawyers Reap The Benefits

Not often thought of as hotbeds of cutting-edge tech, Robert Ambrogi pens an informative article over at Law.com about innovation generated in law schools of practical use for lawyers and beyond. These applications and services include: the Intellectual Property Litigation Clearinghouse (on-line database with info about IP disputes in the U.S.); The Grace Case Project (offering coverage of the federal criminal prosecution of W.R. Grace & Co. pending in U.S. District Court in MT); The Journal of Legal Analysis (open access journal by Harvard University Press); ABI Bankcruptcy Case Blog (student-penned research on bankruptcy issues); the Intellectual Property Colloquium (series of monthly podcasts produced by UCLA and supported by Loeb & Loeb); Life After Innocence (blog by law students offering resources and legal assistance to recent exonerees); and, The Codicil (journal by Texas Tech students covering estate planning, communit property and related topics).

Thanks Bob for this great list and thanks Legal Writing Prof Blog for the tip!

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