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The Stream - Courthouse Libraries BC Blog

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Stay current with the latest news and views from Courthouse Libraries BC.  

  • Thanks to the 3% — Now for the Winning Numbers!

    by Nathaniel Russell | Dec 08, 2016

    Our survey of British Columbia's lawyers, discussed in more detail in this post, was a success. We met our survey target of 360 respondents—approximately 3% of the practicing lawyers in this province—and we are in the process of analyzing the feedback we received on the pains felt by today's legal professionals, and the services that Courthouse Libraries BC might be able to provide to help with the challenges.

    We are also pleased to announce the winners from our November 29, 2016 draw, which respondents to our survey were invited to enter along with lawyers who engaged via Twitter (#CLBClawyersurvey2016).

    These winners received a $100 gift card for Chapters/Indigo:

    • Andrew Roth, Terrace
    • Linda Nowlan, Vancouver
    • Geoffrey Trotter, Vancouver
    • Miles Motture, Victoria
    • Kylie Walman, Vernon

    Thanks to all who participated!

  • Using a Wikipedia-Style Website to Serve Free Legal Information

    by Nathaniel Russell | Apr 15, 2015
    Yesterday Courthouse Libraries BC teamed up with the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch to announce by formal press release the addition of CBABC's Dial-A-Law scripts to Clicklaw Wikibooks. It's an exciting step for us, as the host of Clicklaw Wikibooks, since Dial-A-Law scripts are perhaps the longest-surviving example of the BC legal profession's dedication to helping the public with free legal information. The scripts cover over 130 legal topics, and have existed in various formats for over 30 years. Dial-A-Law started in 1983 with help from the BC Law Foundation and its scripts have been edited by volunteer lawyers ever since. For many years you phoned in to hear the scripts read out loud to you. This is still one way you can access them, in fact. And with the popularity of the Web, the scripts soon came online. Many of them have even been translated into Punjabi and Simplified Chinese.
    Yesterday's announcement is significant because now the scripts are even more accessible. Clicklaw Wikibooks are all about keeping legal information in a single spot so that editors and lawyers can update it—this is one of the benefits of a Wikipedia-style platform—but letting the end user choose whether to print, read online, or otherwise export the content in a way that meets their needs.
    Users can download whole contents, or only portions, of Clicklaw Wikibook in PDF or EPUB. They can order a printed book for cost, or they can of course read it online. The open-source nature of the Mediawiki publishing platform means it is a tool that is affordable to implement, but also well-supported by a community of developers who are all about open access and the democratization of information.
    Basically, Clicklaw Wikibooks is about smart, society-friendly use of technology, including print technology. 
    As our CEO, Johanne Blenkin, says in the release "many continue to rely on community libraries and printed materials, so keeping quality legal information in print is also important. Clicklaw Wikibooks is about helping content partners offer their up-to-date legal information in a range of digital and physical formats.”
    Dial-A-Law books will be printed and shipped to public libraries across BC.
    Dial-A-Law Clicklaw Wikibooks cover
    Cover image for Dial-A-Law on Clicklaw Wikibooks
    Visit Clicklaw Wikibooks
  • Of Google's Pending End-to-End Encryption Extension and Vintage Email Legal Ethics Opinions

    by Nathaniel Russell | Jan 07, 2015

    Last June people perked up to the news that Google was developing an email encryption extension to Google Chrome. The alpha version of the “End-To-End” extension was posted publicly for the coding community to test and kick around, and David Whelan dropped the news on Slaw in the course of a more general post about the importance of encryption and the risks lawyers take when they don’t properly safeguard client data.

    Unlike data on your hard disk, data sent by email has always been prohibitively complicated to encrypt. The tools necessary to encrypt email from sender to recipient have long existed, but they required a lot of technical expertise to implement. Luckily—from the perspective of people who like a bit of convenience, even if they’re not terribly concerned about data privacy—a string of legal ethical opinions, including Formal Opinion No. 99-413 of the American Bar Association and the Law Society of BC’s April 1998 opinion on the transmission of confidential information over the internet, seemed to offer near-absolution to lawyers from concern over unencrypted email. These opinions, penned in the 1990s, likened sending unencrypted email to faxes and regular mail, from a technological and legal standpoint. Email in the 1990s was carried over hardlines, like telephone signals, and afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy as well as any other commonly used mode of transmission. The Law Society of BC’s Ethics Committee wrote:

    E-mail on the Internet is transmitted over ordinary telephone lines and is, therefore, unlike cordless or cellular telephone messages, which are broadcast over the open airwaves. […] [A]lthough interception of e-mail on the Internet is possible, the chances of obtaining useful information from an e-mail interception are not significantly better than the chances of obtaining similar information from the interception of an ordinary land-line telephone call.

    Needless to say, the fact that iPhones and many laptops or other everyday email devices lack hardline data jacks demonstrates how the old assumptions underpinning these ethics opinions no longer really hold up. The use of regular old email by lawyers to send confidential information back and forth, while common practice, is really more risky than it was when these opinions were drafted. Especially post-Snowden’s revelations.

    For these reasons, it is quite interesting to read Google’s announcement from December, and on TechCrunch, that “Google’s End-To-End Email Encryption Tool Gets Closer To Launch“. Google’s move to upload the codebase for the next version of End-To-End onto GitHub for hackers to try and break is a good signal. The first release of the code on Google’s own code repository resulted in payouts to hackers who found two security bugs. Now that this improved version has been released for testing, it’s a sign the extension is even closer to appearing in the Chrome Web Store.
    The ongoing challenge appears to be encryption key distribution and management. Google says it won’t release a non-alpha version of the End-To-End extension until they have a solution they’re content with. Apparently, Google is taking a slightly different approach than is conventional with public key encryption, by establishing an authoritative repository of everyone’s public keys. The website TechCrunch says:

    “With its key server, Google is taking a more centralized approach. Users’ public keys will be automatically registered with the server and the directory will publish the key. When somebody then wants to send an encrypted email to another End-to-End user, the system will check the key directory for the right key and encrypt it. You can read more about the exact details for how this is going to work here, but the main point is that this should take away at least one layer of complexity.”

    Also important to note is that this encryption will probably not be restricted to Gmail, since Yahoo! engineers have also contributed to the project.

    The good news is that within 2015 a much less complex encryption option should be available. To follow up on updates, you can check on Google’s Online Security Blog: http://googleonlinesecurity.blogspot.ca

    This post first appeared on Slaw on December 22, 2014 and has been reposted and slightly edited for the benefit of Courthouse Libraries BC readers.



Nate Russell is one of two Liaison Lawyers at Courthouse Libraries BC, and the primary coordinator of lawyer-produced content on www.courthouselibrary.ca and wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca. He blogs on a variety of practical topics relevant to BC lawyers, with an emphasis on technology and issues relevant to small firms.


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