Around the Blawgosphere: Takes on Apple's iBook Author; Volunteer Job Requiring 5 Years Experience?

  • Print.


Launch’s Legal Fallout

A big tech story this week was the Apple’s launch of iBooks Author, a free tool allowing users to create textbooks, which the company says will “reinvent textbooks” by allowing iPad users to access texts that are interactive and constantly updated and available at a relatively low price.

Legal Writing Prof Blog is already mulling what kind of effect electronic textbooks might have on the legal profession.

“Some might argue that the transition to electronic text has already effectively occurred with services like Westlaw and Lexis dominating the legal research market and traditional paper libraries, in both firms and counties, being disassembled,” the blog writes. “The current reality, however, is one where students read paper casebooks. The paper casebook is the last real bridge between the digital age student and reading in traditional print. Eliminating this link could make it more difficult to get students to browse traditional print secondary sources that are currently, in my opinion, superior in paper form. And some writers have seriously questioned the wisdom of putting the law book market in the hands of Apple, a company that is notoriously closed and proprietary,” the blog says, citing a 3 Geeks and a Law Blog post by King & Spalding library and records manager Greg Lambert in 2010.

Meanwhile Litigation & Trial’s Maxwell Kennerly questions whether iBooks Author’s software license is even enforceable. Apple’s end-user license agreement “plainly tries to create an exclusive license,” Kennerly writes, but in order for an exclusive license / transfer of copyright to be valid under 17 U.S.C. § 204, there has to be an “instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed.”

Kennerly wrote that Apple doesn’t ask anyone to sign anything before using iBooks Author—although it does require that something is signed “before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place,” citing the EULA. But the EULA “leaves both Apple and the author in a strange stand-off: Apple doesn’t actually have the right to tell the author not to take their work somewhere else, but the author can’t do that without breaching the EULA—even though they retain full rights in their copyright. But Apple has been too clever by half here: if an author does breach the EULA (by not subsequently signing the written agreement after having used the ‘free’ software) and distributes their iBooks-created-work elsewhere, what are Apple’s damages? Because Apple doesn’t have a copyright interest in the book (like an exclusive license), they can’t claim lost royalties as the damage. Instead, they have to claim that an author breached the EULA of a program that users did not have to pay for in money.”

Ask Not If Your Country Can Pay You…

The Department of Justice has had a hiring freeze since January 2011, Christopher Danzig notes at Above the Law, and in May of last year, the blawg noted advertisements for unpaid temporary positions there for entry-level or junior attorneys. But now, the DOJ is seeking to fill an unpaid position in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is asking for someone with at least three years of experience—preferably, someone with five years of experience.

“Of course, the position offers no benefits,” Danzig writes. “And hires would not be allowed to work anywhere else for the 12-month duration of the position. There are so many things wrong with this, I’m not sure where to start. First, on principle: it’s insulting to think that anyone from any profession with five years of post-degree experience (or even the job’s technical minimum of three years) is worth zero financial value. If you’re fresh off the educational boat, OK, maybe you’re kind of worthless. But five years working in the field is significant, no matter how you slice it.”

Danzig notes that at the five year mark, many “Biglaw associates start burning out and ditching their firms for other legal jobs or even other professions. I wonder if the DOJ is aiming for these folks?”

Magical Thinking in Mommy Mags

At the Careerist, Vivia Chen confesses that parenting magazines get under her skin. She writes that the latest offender to her sensibilities is Working Mother, which recently suggested (in slide 14) that one could be a senior trial attorney and work from home.

“Are you kidding me?” Chen wrote. “Doesn’t being a ‘trial’ lawyer mean you have to show up in court? Is the author just totally clueless about law practice? Or is she trying way too hard to be encouraging about the type of legal work you can do from home?

“But what truly bothers me about this type of article (aside from the lie it tells) is that it depends on magical thinking—that women can play traditional mom, do challenging work without leaving the house, and somehow reach the top.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.