* This is a literal way of sticking it to the banks — man arrested for attempting to have sex with an ATM machine. He was charged with public intoxication. And solicitation… goddamned $3.00 out of network charge. [The Smoking Gun]
* A new NFL lawsuit alleges that the NFL illegally used painkillers to cover up injuries. This story is brought to you by the letters D, U, and H. [Sports Illustrated]
* In an interview, the admissions dean of the University of Texas says the school “extend[s] opportunities to students who aren’t 100% perfect on paper.” No kidding. [Tipping the Scales]
A couple days ago on Twitter, I noticed Judge Stephen Dillard having a conversation with a few people about the validity of using Wikipedia as a reliable legal authority. I mentioned that I wrote about the topic back in 2011. But given the continued growth and reliance of the general public upon Wikipedia, I decided it was probably worth looking at again.
Two years ago, on March 13, 2012, the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that its 2010 print edition – 32 volumes and 129 pounds — would be its last. Going forward, the internet, not bookshelves, would house Britannica’s wisdom. This week, On Remand looks back at the strange legacy of encyclopedias and one electronic encyclopedia’s recent entanglement with the FBI — with a guest appearance by Hitler.
First published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1768, Britannica’s print version lasted 244 years. Owning a set showcased not only a family’s wealth, but also the family’s hopes that its Britannica-steeped children would move further up in society. Despite its pedigree, however, for many generations Britannica encyclopedias were sold door-to-door. As a result — and as shown by Monty Python – encyclopedia salesmen were more feared than burglars.
When Britannica announced it would cease publishing a print edition, it had already faced years of competition from Microsoft’s online encyclopedia Encarta. And by 2012, Wikipedia, the crowd-sourced, online, “free encyclopedia” was well established. While Britannica prides itself on careful editing and well-written articles authored by its stable of 4,000 expert contributors, Wikipedia is neither written nor edited by professionals. It is, however, updated continuously. Wikipedia’s 30 million articles dwarfs the Britannica’s 120,000 – while requiring not an inch of shelf space or costing a penny. In addition to entries for each Supreme Court Justice and other legal luminaries from David Boies to David Lat, Wikipedia covers essential subjects like Klingon and toilet paper orientation….
It must suck to teach middle school these days. Every student paper has got to be littered with factual citations to the crowdsourced compendium of human knowledge known as Wikipedia. Even if teachers barred students from citing Wikipedia, they just blatantly plagiarize the stuff anyway. Wikipedia is basically the using song lyrics for “write a poem” of the modern era.
Sometimes prestigious law professors may act just like middle schoolers. Cramming to turn in his expert report, one T14 professor allegedly decided to go ahead and spice it up with plagiarized Wikipedia analysis. Indeed, parts of 13 pages of the 19-page report might have been lifted from the website that once explained that “Plato was an ancient Hawaiian weather man and surfer, writer of cosmo girls and founder of the punahou in Ancient Florida?”
When surveying an average law school class, among every other stereotypical type of law student — from the gunners right down to the kids you didn’t know were in the class until they showed up for the final — you’ll typically see a nontraditional student, or, in less polite terms, an old fart. Almost every law school class has at least one of them, and they’re usually more than a bit annoying.
These mature law students tend to favor old-fashioned notebooks over laptops for note-taking during class, and they like to rub elbows with their professors, if only because they’re the same damn age. You may even hear a story or two about how one time, they had to walk uphill, both ways, IN THE SNOW, just to get to school. Ahh, memories — but in truth, most of their classmates would prefer that they just STFU about the good ol’ days.
So what happens when you’ve got an older law student in your midst who also happens to be a well-known author and technology journalist, complete with his very own Wikipedia page? Of course, the most logical course of action for budding lawyers would be to hack it….
SOPA is getting pwned. Yesterday, all the uber players with their epic gear hopped on Vent and raided the SOPA base, and now the newbie Congress people who sponsored the law are running scared. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act have “renounced” their law. The New York Times reports that Senators and Congresspeople are abandoning this thing like it was a campaign promise.
Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, all of the big internet corporations flexed their muscles — and oh, by the way, this is what it looks like when corporations use speech for speech, as opposed to pretending that anonymous corporate campaign contributions magically count as speech.
In the wake of this victory, here’s a question: Is this what we want? Yesterday, the internet used its power for good (though I fear the movie industry will strike back by making you watch full-length Kevin James movies before you can download the next Batman preview). But what if in the future “the internet” wants something bad, something that is more than the mere protection of freedom?
On Sex and the City, Samantha was never seen scrolling through comments on news blogs to make sure her clients’ reputations weren’t being maligned. Instead, she attended fancy New York parties and talked up her roster of good-looking clients.
But SATC is dated. The work of public relations professionals has been made harder (and less glamorous) by the explosion of online news sources. We know that law firm PR folks spend a healthy amount of time monitoring the legal blogosphere to do damage control for their firms. Another place they need to watch is Wikipedia.
The crowd-source encyclopedia has become the go-to reference site for most Internetters. Society’s sages often warn people not to take everything they find in Wikipedia at face value — since the information does not necessarily come from experts and is not systematically vetted — but that advice often goes unheeded.
Because Wikipedia is such an important source of information, and so easily edited, some try to manipulate entries to give them a positive or negative spin. Lawyers at certain firms have been found guilty of this before (e.g., Wachtell). Sometimes dueling manipulation of an entry reaches the level of what Wikipedia calls an edit war — when two or more editors are continually overriding one another’s changes.
The Wikipedia gods ordered an end to the war on the page of Latham & Watkins. BLY1 noticed that the page was put on lockdown. A note from the Wikipedia war god says:
NOTE: IF YOU HAVE COME HERE TO EDIT ABOUT LAYOFFS, THINK TWICE. EDITS MUST BE FACTUALLY VERIFIABLE, AND NEUTRAL. IF YOU ARE CONNECTED TO THIS COMPANY IN ANY WAY WE ADVISE YOU *NOT* TO TOUCH IT.
Someone kept inserting references to Latham’s layoffs and how hard hit first-year associates were. That info has now been scrubbed from the page.
We decided to take a stroll though the revision history of other law firm pages to see who needs to do clean up, and who has done clean up. Cravath, for example, had a very interesting description for a short time…
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