If you’re interested in law, or at least in keeping yourself well-protected on the Web, there are a lot of great resources on the Web. However, it seems that some of them get all of the attention. Whether it is Creative Commons helping making content licensing easier or the Electronic Frontier Foundation defending bloggers, these resources are well-known and well-loved for what they do, for good reason.
But what about the lesser-known resources? What about the organizations that do good work in the legal field, in particular with intellectual property, but don’t get all of the praise they deserve? Well, here is a short list of some of those resources, in no particular order.
Bear in mind that since I work in the U.S. and deal mostly with copyright issues, this list will be both U.S. and IP-centric but many of these sites provide help on a variety of legal issues, not just intellectual property.
Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Center
Though I am clearly biased in favor of the Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Center
The SCFUC provides a great deal of information about copyright law, much of it pulled from NOLO (see below) and also has an easy to navigate versions of U.S. law, bills and international agreements. The SCFUC also has several tools related to copyright and the latest goings on from copyright cases, legislation and more.
Related to the SCFUC is the Center for Internet and Society (CIS), which is also based at Stanford. The CIS hosts blogs for a variety of experts in the field and has a Fair Use Project that represents artists and scholars “in a range of disputes that raise important questions concerning fair use and the limits of intellectual property rights.”
Both services are extremely valuable and should be in the bookmarks of anyone interested in copyright law in the U.S.
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
The Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) is a loose network of over 1,200 attorneys nation-wide that provide either free or reduced-fee legal services to artists on a variety of topics including copyright, contract disputes, bankruptcy, employment and more.
The VLA is a great resource for artists as it helps with a wide variety of needs and it is also a great charity to support, especially if you are an attorney that needs to get a few more pro bono hours in.
Citizen Media Law Project
The Citizen Media Law Project, a project of The Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has the stated purpose of “to provide legal assistance, education, and resources for individuals and organizations involved in online and citizen media” but its site provides far more than its mission statement might indicate.
First, it provides breakdowns of recent legal cases, the information about which is presented in plain English and is updated regularly, making it a great resource for following up on ongoing cases.
Second, they provide legal guides that are tailored to the state the user is in. Though not all states have a guide yet, mine included, many do and it is interesting to get various legal issues honed down to the state.
All in all, it is a great resource that everyone interested in law on the Web needs to be aware of.
Nolo is a legal information site targeted at end users that provides plain English information on a very wide range of subjects, from business law to immigration. There’s also a store with a library of great books on various legal topics as well as downloadable legal documents for everything from agent agreements to wills at a low price.
There is also a great attorney directory to help you find the lawyer you need in your own area, something that is still surprisingly hard to do in many cases.
Whether you want to find an attorney, search the legal Web or find a good law podcast, Justia can help you out. Of the sites listed here, Justia is the one most targeted at attorneys. However, it has a very powerful lawyer search engine and a great “Blawg Search” that helps you find law blogs on the topics you are interested in (Yes, PT is listed in there).
All in all, it is a bit like Google for lawyers (though it actually uses Google heavily), letting you search the legal Web, look through recent cases and more with ease. All in all, a great site that every blogger should be aware of.
The Web is filled with great resources for those that need legal help or advice, it is just a matter of looking in the right places. though the EFF does great work and Creative Commons has made great strides in making content licensing easier, there are countless other sources for good help, of which these are just five.
In short, the Web is a powerful tool and one that should be used to its fullest extent to protect your rights and ensure that you stay out of trouble, both online and off.