Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Podcast Revew - This Week in Law

I freely admit that of all the podcasts I’ve posted about, “This Week in Law” (TWIL) will probably strike most readers as the most esoteric and least relevant to their daily lives. Not true. The issues and problems discussed on TWIL are of vital interest to anyone concerned with privacy, the limits of governmental power, public access and the basic liberties of our democracy. And there’s no politics involved. Really.

Denise Howell, the moderator is a practicing attorney and an early adopter of web technologies. She’s a podcaster, blogger, Twitterer, and has first-hand experience with social media. TWIL takes a look at the important legal questions raised by the Internet and looks at them strictly from a legal perspective. Howell assembles a panel of similarly-qualified tech attorneys to talk about hot topics at the forefront of emerging technology.

Past topics include the legal aspects of on-line bullying, liability issues associated with blogging, copyright violations on YouTube, fair use and trademark protection, and many more problems that everyday people run afoul of online.

Although the panels are almost exclusively law professionals, the conversation is almost always geared to the layman. Technical terms are explained, and key concepts outlined so the average person can understand them. Howell does a good job keeping the conversation moving, and making sure the important points are covered.

In addition to achieving a better awareness of some of the legal issues surrounding the Internet (which has changed my behavior somewhat), though listening to the program I also now have a better understanding of lawyers and legal thought processes in general. And if a legal stereotype or joke just sprang to mind as you read that, then you need to listen to this podcast. Howell and her colleagues are interested in trying to find ways to balance what’s practical with what’s ethical and what can provide all parties a reasonable amount of protection of their interests. It’s never a boring discussion!

I only have two complaints about the program. First, the title’s a little misleading. Although “This Week in Law” talks about current issues, it isn’t a weekly program. It comes out about once a month. I subscribe to an RSS feed, so I’m not especially worried – it shows up when it shows up. I think, though, that a more regular release schedule would help the audience grow.

Secondly, sometimes the audio can get a little rough. The sound quality can be a little uneven, and some of the Skype connections can be pretty gnarly – especially when more than one person’s talking. Still, we’re talking about a podcast that’s rough around the edges sonically, not one that’s unlistenable.

It’s a pretty painless way to stay on top of the important legal issues. Because ignorance of the law is no excuse. And that hasn’t changed with Web 2.0.

And remember – you don’t need an iPod to listen to a podcast. You can download it directly to your computer, or just play the audio file on the podcaster’s website.

- Ralph

Day 288 of the WJMA Web Watch. (Is there a statute of limitations for defunct websites?)

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