Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Blue Wars: A Report from the Front; Harvard Law Record, 3/21/16

Carl Malamud, Harvard Law Record; The Blue Wars: A Report from the Front:
"The subject of this legal inquisition is a work you all know well: The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. A series of letters from Ropes & Gray LLP firmly asserted and repeatedly reminded me of the legal protections surrounding this work including trademark and copyright protections. THE BLUEBOOK A UNIFORM SYSTEM OF CITATION, Registration No. 3,886,986; THE BLUEBOOK, Registration No. 3,756,727; The Bluebook A Uniform System of Citation, 20th edition, Copyright Registration No. TX0008140199 (June 5, 2015).
The Blue Wars started in 2009 when Frank Bennett, a law professor at Nagoya University in Japan, was working on some open source software for legal citation. Professor Bennett wanted to build in a resolution mechanism for common abbreviations, for example mapping the court name “Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals” to the designated abbreviation (“Temp. Emer. Ct. App.”). The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation 234 tbl.T.1 (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015).
Professor Bennett applied to the Harv. L. Rev. Ass’n for permission to use the rudimentary Bluebook web site and grab the abbreviations. He was firmly rebuffed. Being an open source acolyte, Professor Bennett felt he was entitled to use those common and obvious abbreviations, so he wrote to his spiritual leader [Lawrence Lessig] for help...
These are the challenges in front of us all. What is at stake is not the future of a $36 book, it is the question of how we communicate the law so that we all understand each other; so that our system of justice can be transparent and clear; so that we all know what we’re talking about when we refer to a source. I hope we can do this together."

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