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BLAWg In Bloom

The Indiana Law Library Blog

Cyber(law) Monday — it won’t cost you a cent!

You’ve already selected the obligatory new tie for Dad; used the discount code UGLYXMASSWEATER to buy Mom a festive holiday cardigan; and snagged the video game at the top of your sister’s wish list.  Now what should you do with the rest of your Cyber Monday?  Why not consider engaging in a bit of computer law research?

According to the Council on Research Excellence,  Americans spent an average of over 2 hours per day (142.8 minutes) parked in front of their computers as of 2009.  Technological advances and the increased importance of computing and the Internet in American society have created a burgeoning new legal field.  Per Black’s Law Dictionary, cyberlaw deals “…with the Internet, encompassing cases, statutes, regulations, and disputes that affect people and businesses interacting through computers.  [It] addresses issues of online speech and business that arise because of the nature of the medium, including intellectual property rights, free speech, privacy, e-commerce, and safety, as well as questions of jurisdiction.”

There are a number of online legal publications devoted to technology and intellectual property issues.  Among them, the Maurer School of Law’s IP Theory, which is available in our digital repository.  Other major law journal publications covering this topic include the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Harvard’s Journal of Law & Technology, and Florida’s Journal of Technology Law & Policy.  In HeinOnline, you can search the Law Journal Library for topical articles in additional journals.  While you are there, be sure to search their new Intellectual Property Law Collection too.

Several of the law library’s electronic databases also contain cyberlaw material.  Bloomberg’s Technology and Internet Law practice page has a sizable amount of information, with an emphasis on current developments and news.  Lexis Advance’s Computer & Internet Law database can be selected (and searched) using the “Browse Topics” tab and contains a helpful breakdown of the major subtopics.

Another great place to conduct Internet law research is IUCAT.  Because cyberlaw is a loosely-defined area of law that is closely intertwined with several broad legal concepts, search term selection is particularly critical, whether you are searching the Internet or a library catalog.  Try using “cyberlaw” and its synonyms, such as “Internet law” or “virtual law” or “computer law”.  Additionally, it is a good practice to attempt searches combining the core subject term (i.e., “the Internet”) and any narrower terms applicable to your research interests (i.e., “privacy” or “intellectual property”).  The law library has several recent print publications on computer and technology law.  Books on this subject are classified beginning at KF390.5 and located on the 3rd floor.  Thumb through the volumes of  Law of the Internet (3rd edition), peruse Virtual Law, or scan Internet Law in a Nutshell (on reserve at the circulation desk).

For current awareness resources, look at the ABA Journal’s list of technology law-focused blogs and news sites, Science and Technology Law Blawgs, and any of the numerous institutes on technology and law: Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, Center for Innovation Law & Policy, and Stanford’s Center for Internet & Society, to name a few.  These organizations often host conferences and publish articles on Internet law and related topics.  GL&HF researching cyberlaw!

Managing Facebook in the Legal Profession

Today, CLE programs abound discussing the proper and ethical use of social media by attorneys.  In Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers (KF 320.I57 K46 2012), a recent addition to the law library’s collection, authors Dennis Kennedy and Allison C. Shields discuss both basic and advanced features of Facebook and how these can be employed in the legal profession.  No matter how long you’ve been using Facebook (or even if you’ve never used Facebook), this text offers excellent discussion of the ethical implications of your Facebook choices.  Unlike many resources that might tell you to delete your Facebook account before looking for jobs, this text enthusiastically encourages the use of Facebook by attorneys, but in a mindful manner.

The chapters are arranged as progressive lessons, walking the reader through the process of setting up a Facebook account, managing one’s privacy and security settings, and building a profile.  Each lesson offers practical advice about what one’s choices will mean in terms of who can view or otherwise access your profile.  At less than 200 pages, this book is brimming with useful information (and will probably in fact only take you, as the title suggests, about an hour to peruse).

The following are a few highlights from the book:

  • General Principles of Facebook use (pp. 28-29): When setting up your account, assume Facebook intends to share more than you might intend and consequently “assume more people can see your Facebook activities than you think.”  This means you need to go through each privacy and security setting, understand what each does, and set them according to your comfort level.  With the frequent changes that occur in Facebook, however, you cannot “set and forget” – it is important to check your settings from time to time.
  • Security (p. 32): Security settings are discussed at length, but one particularly good piece of advice was to turn on secure browsing for your Facebook account; this helps keep your account safe when using public WiFi.
  • Privacy (p. 35): We are most often told to delete our Facebook accounts because of foolish things we may have posted in the past that potential employers would still be able to see; however, as the authors point out, there is now a feature on Facebook that allows you to limit the audience for individual posts.  Essentially you can alter how your profile appears to different people (i.e. Friends versus Public).  You can see how your profile appears to these groups by using the “View As” feature on your profile.
  • Pages versus Profiles (beginning at p. 61): Lesson 4 discusses Facebook pages.  If your intent is to create a Facebook account for your firm rather than yourself, Facebook now asks that you create a page rather than a profile.  This lesson offers suggestions for this type of account.
  • Advanced Topics (beginning at p. 137): Perhaps most helpful in this book are the advanced topics located at the back.  Where the lessons focus on setting up and managing a Facebook account, the advanced topics focus more on ethical and legal implications of Facebook accounts.  These topics include “Ethics” (pp. 137-47), “Separating Your Personal from Your Professional Presence” (pp. 149-52), “Facebook Apps” (pp. 153-57), “Litigation and Discovery” (pp. 159-61), and some final “Tips” (pp. 163-69).

Even if you’ve been using Facebook since its inception, this book is worth a read.  There’s no denying that social media has made its way into the legal profession, but the choices made in one’s Facebook account can have serious ethical and legal implications.  This is certainly not the only resource available discussing these issues, but for a quick read on the subject, check it out.

And while you’re at it, “like” the law library on Facebook!  At the beginning of the year I set a challenge that we would give away a $25 Starbucks gift card once we reach 100 likes.  We’re getting closer, but we can’t give it away until we make that goal, so like us (and if you already have, tell a friend!).
Source: Dennis Kennedy & Allison C. Shields, Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers (2012).