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The Power of the Hyperlink, May 2016 Edition

add_link-512Each month, we plan to share with you a cross-section of the websites that have referred traffic to our collections–collections that you help maintain and grow with your support of the LII.  These are actual examples of how journalists, bloggers, and scads of folks on social media all amplify our efforts to provide free legal reference information by sharing our materials on the Internet.  In turn, they magnify your support of those efforts.

In May, visitors from 16,392 different websites around the world followed links to our content.  At the top of the list are the usual suspects like major social media sites and Wikipedia.  While we love those sites–and their traffic, of course–we thought this sampling of other websites who sent traffic our way might interest you. Our focus this month: News outlets.

There’s the “fourth estate” folks:

Baltimore Sun

  • Linking to Federal Rules of Evidence 413 & 414


  • Linking to a section of the Affordable Care Act

Los Angeles Times

  • Linking to a section of the Communications Decency Act

NY TImes (here, here, here, here, here, here & here)

  • Linking mostly to U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Washington Post  

  • Quoting and linking to our Wex definition of defamation

Then, there’s the little guys:

Bangor Daily News

  • Linking to a section of federal labor law

Picayune Item

  • Quoting the federal definition of an “open alcoholic beverage container”

Rome (Ga) News Tribune

  • Linking to our Bulletin Preview of Foster v. Chatman

And, of course, there’s plenty of “new media” too:

Ars Technica (here & here)

  • Quoting the four-factor test for fair use in federal copyright law

Huffington Post (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here & here)

  • Linking mostly to U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Slate (there were 130 from, this one sent us the most traffic)

  • A little bit of everything….


These were just some of our favorites.   Feel free to let us know when you see the LII quoted by your favorite websites.

Caption Contest

cfr-logo-final-3.0.2015-07-13-104248No, it’s not a logo and tagline for the Code of Federal Regulations we all know and love (it actually belongs to an IT firm in Kuala Lumpur).  But it got us thinking:  what tagline should be on the CFR?  So we thought we’d run a caption contest and see what you come up with.

We can’t offer prizes beyond bragging rights, but the first, second, and third-place winners will be reported in our next newsletter, and if you’re ever in the same town as Tom Bruce, Craig Newton, or Sara Frug, they’ll buy you a beverage of your choice.   

Have fun!



The Full Value of Our Donors

moreOK, I’ll come right out and say it:  I’m an amateurish and awkward spokesman for the LII, and I often look around to see how other organizations talk about themselves and their donors.   

Yesterday, I ran a Google search with that in mind. The first page of 10 search results contained 8 mentions of money and two of blood (before you worry about what that means, exactly, recall that the Red Cross is a big presence on the Web).  It was a little frightening, in the age of Wikipedia, crowdsourcing, and contributed content,  to see how many organizations see the communities that share their mission and beliefs exclusively as a source of financial support.

It’s true: your support often comes to us as money. We’re very grateful for that. But it means much, much more.  In ways both large and small, you help us to bring law to millions of people for free.  And you remind us that there are people out there, like you,  who care about the same things we do.  That’s a very, very good thing for us — we meet so few of the people we serve, and there are things that analytics and usage data just don’t give us.

Thank you for every bit of that.

The LII is, more than anything else, a creative space — somewhere where it’s possible to try new things.  24 years ago, we started out as a couple of guys who were thinking differently about how legal information could be communicated, and even more differently about who needs legal information and why.   You help us protect and maintain that space, in more ways than one.

You’re one of the few ways we have of finding out what our impact really is.  We can look at logfiles and statistics all day, and while we do learn something from that, it mostly takes the form of dry if impressive statistics — 30 million people used the site last year, but why?  To find out more, we ask you to complete surveys, or answer questions, and a surprising number of you do.   A good few of you have sent us stories over the years that describe in detail what you use the LII for and what sort of impact it has on your life, or on the lives of those that you help in turn.  We’ve talked to a few others (too few) in person, and every time we do we learn something interesting about the effect that open access to law has on real people with real problems. We’d like to hear more about that.

(of course, those stories are also a reminder that your donations are changing things for hundreds or thousands of people)

Others help us out with expertise — and that expertise comes in every size and shape that you can possibly imagine.  Some of our users pay very careful attention to changes in the statutes and regulations — and tip us off when we need to correct something. Others have suggested features; three of our users more or less simultaneously suggested that we link the IRS written determinations to the sections of the tax code that they interpret (one of them was the tax expert for our parent University). Margaret Felts, a long-time LII donor, donated her expertise in environmental law to a fracking-law visualization project we did a couple of years ago.  Frank Wagner, a long-time LII supporter who just happens to have been the longest-serving Reporter of Decisions for the Supreme Court, mentors the students who write the LII Supreme Court Bulletin.  And many of you have written materials for WEX. As Craig writes elsewhere in this newsletter, we just received 10,000 hours of audio recordings of Supreme Court oral arguments (and the website that publishes them) as a charitable gift — that’s really big.  But every single one of you who sends us even the smallest correction or question or suggestion improves the site for everyone.

2017 will mark our 25th year of operation — that’s at least a sesquicentennial in Internet time. We’re thinking about what it means to have been around for so long, and where we want to go next.  You have been a big part of shaping that history and you’ll be a big part of shaping our future.  We’d like to know more about what you value about us, what you can imagine us doing, where you would like us to go.  Let us know by writing me.  I promise you it’s going to be interesting.

And once again, thank you for all you’ve done for the cause of open access to law, and for the 30 million people who benefit from the LII’s services every year.

Cornell Saves the Oyez Project

logoThat was the headline of a recent post at Southern California Appellate News reacting to an article earlier that day by Tony Mauro in the online National Law Journal detailing an arrangement between the LII and Justia Inc. to assume operations of Oyez, the online home of Supreme Court oral argument transcripts and audio files.

Since we’ve never been very good at talking about ourselves, we thought we’d let the others do it for us this time.  When he broke the story in a May 25th article titled “‘Oyez Project’ New Home Will Keep Supreme Court Audio Free to Public,” Mr. Mauro aptly noted that the United States Supreme Court “has taped oral arguments for the last 60 years and deposited them with the National Archives. Oyez makes the audio available on its website with additional information, including searchable transcripts that are synchronized to the audio.”

Several other bloggers picked up the National Law Journal story, such as Friend of the LII Paul Caron in his popular TaxProf Blog, and Jamie Baker blogging as The Ginger (Law) Librarian.  James R. Jacobs at Free Government Info ( called the NLJ story “great news.”  Mr. Jacobs wrote he was “afraid that some for-profit publisher like Westlaw or LexisNexis was going to scoop it up.”  He concluded, “Public domain crisis averted!”

In addition to the NLJ story, LII Director Tom Bruce along with Justia CEO Tim Stanley and Oyez founder Jerry Goldman also sat for an interview with Legal Tech blogger and LII friend Bob Ambrogi.  Bob’s story succinctly describes the new arrangement as such: “Oyez will move to the LII as its new home, with infrastructure and technical support from Justia, which had already been quietly supporting the Oyez site for several years.”

        Bob’s story goes on to quote both of LII’s partners in this project:

“I couldn’t be more pleased to know that Tom and his folks at LII will be the stewards and curators of Oyez,” Goldman told me yesterday during a phone call that also included LII Director Thomas R. Bruce and Justia cofounder Tim Stanley. Both Goldman and Bruce gave Stanley credit for his role in orchestrating the move.

“I think this will be good for Oyez,” said Stanley. “The LII has lots of good tech and editorial people. I also personally like that it’s going over to an academic nonprofit group. I think that to keep it open and available is really important.”

But, as usual, the last word belongs to LII Director Tom Bruce.  As he told Bob Ambrogi, “Are there a million things that we can do? Yes. Are there ways that we can use it to up our game in terms of our own Supreme Court resources? Absolutely.”

We look forward to “upping our game” with Oyez; and, when we do, you’ll read about it here.