Sunday, March 29, 2009

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION

The three generation in legal profession
(Summary: This paper explains how information technology may be used by the persons pursuing legal profession.

This was read by Justice Yatindra Singh, judge Allahabad High Court Allahabad at Kerala Law Academy Trivandum on 12.3.09 and before Karnataka Judicial Academy Bangalore on 23.3.2008.)


INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Information Technology—brought about by computers, Internet, and Cyber space—is a technology for accessing and dissemination of information. Let's take a look on the different steps by Information technology.

1st STEP: INTERNET
In the early 1970's, Vint Cerf (the mathematician and computer scientist) and Robert Kahn (the Engineer) took the first step, when they figured out a way of splitting information into small packets and sending it from one computer to another in such a way that the packets could be put back together when they reached their destination. This method of splitting information into packets and putting them back together again came to be known as Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).

An important feature of TCP is that it can be carried out even if there is a network of computers. This is possible because every computer has an address and a packet is like a letter with the address of the receiver as well as sender. A computer in the network can figure out whether the packet is meant for it or not and if it is not, then it will pass it on in the direction of the computer for which it is sent. This way of getting a packet to its destination is called Internet Protocol (IP) and the address of computer on the network is called Internet Protocol (IP) Address.

This is how the Internet was born: it is nothing but the global or universal network of all computers (whether standing alone or in a network) that are capable of transmitting, communicating or retrieving information.

2nd STEP: WEB TECHNOLOGY
The next step of the journey started with Tim Berners Lee. After finishing his masters in Physics from the Oxford University (where he was banned for hacking computers), he started working as fellow at CERN, European Nuclear Physics research laboratory See End-note-1). The laboratory had different computers with different programmes, having different format. His main job was to see that information from one computer should be easily transferred and can be read in the other computer.

In the late 1980's, Lee thought about linking information available on different computers at CERN so that it would look like as one information system that every one could read. He wrote a proposal for the same on 13th March 1989. This led to the web technology and the first web page was uploaded on 6th August 1991 at CERN.
In developing the web technology, Lee used HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and hypertext transfer protocol.
  • HTML: it is a language for encoding documents. One of the advantage of writing a page in HTML is that a hyperlink (or link) can be provided to another web page. Every document or site or resource has a unique address called the Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The link is provided by embedding the URL of the other site/page. It is a piece of text that is differentiated from the regular text by a special colour (usually blue) or special formatting (such as underlining).
  • HTTP: When You click on the link, by a mouse or other pointing device, you are taken to the website referenced by that link. This transfer or retrieval of information takes place according to the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).
Lee did not invent the HTML or the HTTP but put them together to develop the Web technology.

3rd STEP: WORLD WIDE WEB - Free and Open
The web pages are in a way linked with one another forming a web; they can be anywhere in the world. It is for this reason that this method is aptly termed as the World Wide Web (www) or the web.

The Web technology was developed at CERN and was its IPR. On April 30, 1993, CERN's declared the web technology to be freely available; to be used by anyone, without paying any fees to CERN.

There are many ways of communication and retrieving information on the Internet. The web is one of the methods but the decision to make it freely available, has led the Web to be the most powerful and popular form of communication and retrieval of information on the Internet. It is so common that we often think that the web and the Internet are one and the same.

4th - NEXT STEP: WEB 2.0 AND SEMANTIC WEB
Web 2.0
Because of the name Web 2.0, many think that it is next generation web but this is not so: it is not a technical update of existing Web specifications but refers to changes in the way software developers and end-users use web. This 'Web 2.0' caught on during O'Reilly Media conference in 2004. According to him:
'Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.'
Others define it as,
'Web 2.0 is a knowledge-oriented environment where human interactions generate content that is published, managed and used through network applications in a service-oriented architecture.'
Broadly, it refers to a trend in web design and development of web-based communities and hosted services that aim to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing between users i.e. social-networking sites, wikis, etc. Some specific examples are Wikipedia, Flicker.

Semantic Web
The fundamental characteristic of Web at present is to link web pages: it is basically a web of documents rather than for data and information that can be processed automatically. The Semantic Web aims to make up for this.
What Web has done for web-pages, the Semantic Web is to do for data. It is an extension of the current web – a sort of next generation web where data – instead of web pages - will be connected, enabling computers to understand and process data in much better way then they do at present. In substance information will be better defined for computer programmes to understand.

5th STEP: FEED TECHNOLOGY
The purpose of any website is to give information and there are many ways to get new information on a website.
  • The traditional way is to go on a website and see what new information is available there.
  • As the technology improved, it was no longer necessary to go on the website. You could register your email-id and the website would send new information by email.
  • The latest is the feed technology.
A 'web feed' (also called 'syndicated feed' or just 'feed') is a data format for providing updated content of a website. If they are published by the website then they can be accessed through program called aggregator (also called a feed reader or a news reader). When you subscribe to feed with an aggregator then whenever instructed, the aggregator checks the websites in its feed list to see if they have new content; if so, then the aggregator either makes a note of the new content or downloads it. This can be scheduled to check for new content periodically and this is normally done. Depending on whether the feed is full or summary, you can read the new content on your computer or have to go to the website to read it.

These programmes are available free of cost: some are independent programmes; others are either part of the email programme or web browser. This method of getting new information has many advantages. Amongst the others,
  • You don't have to waste your time by going to the websites and see what new information is there because as soon as the new information comes on the websites, it is delivered to your computer.
  • You can play news editor and subscribe feed of only that part of the information on the website that interests you.

The feeds are of two kinds: one is RSS, the other is atom. There is some debate as to what RSS stands for, but the majority agree that it stands for 'Really Simple Syndication'. There is technical difference between the two but for user there is no difference; they do the same work. RSS is older and is more popular; it works with podcast too. Not all websites currently provide feed, but it is growing rapidly in popularity and almost all important websites offer it.
The fact that any website provides feed is indicated by an orange button that says RSS or XML (the computer language that feed uses) or by an orange symbol. They look like as follows:

SOME GOOD FEED READERS & WEBSITES
Some good feed readers programmes are as follows:
They are free and you can choose the one that you like. You can see an easy tutorial as how to subscribe feed in Google reader.

Some of the good website that offer feed in the field of law are:
The other good website is Judis but it does not provide feed of its contents. There is mistake in the website. It refers to old website of the Allahabad High Court that is not updated. The new website as mentioned above may be seen.

The other good websites that offer feed are:
One other good website is SciTech Daily Review. It does not offer feed but will send updated contents in case you register your email with it.

SOFTWARE TO BE USED
Use open source software (OSS) rather than any proprietary or close source software. There is no copyright infringement by merely using OSS: there is no piracy. The upholders, protectors, and enforcer of law must take care that they are not on the wrong side of law.
No royalty is required to be paid for OSS; however, money could be charged for services. OSS is as good as any proprietary/close source software; at least so far as legal profession is concerned. Some of the successful and commonly used OSS are as follows:
  1. Linux: It is an operating system like windows.
  2. OpenOffice.org suite: It is an office suite similar to Microsoft office suite. It is normally used for word processing, data base programmes, and making presentations.
  3. GIMP: GNU image manipulation programme. It helps in editing images.
  4. Audacity: A programme to record and edit audio files.
  5. Mozzilla foundation: It has come out with the following software:
  • Firefox - an Internet browser, similar to the Internet explorer;
  • Thunderbird - an email manager, similar to the Outlook express
  • Sunbird – it is an e-manager and reminds birthdays, marriage anniversaries and other important dates. It is similar to Microsoft outlook.
The programmes are 'operating system free' e.i. they work in all operating systems. Even if you don't work in Linux, you should use these programmes. This will prepare you to work in all operating systems.

BLOG AND PODCAST
Information technology is abut communication and dissemination of information. It is a powerful tool for expression. Two good ways of expressing yourself are: blogs and podcasts. Both are Portmanteau words. Blog has been made from the words web and log; whereas podcast is made from ipod and broadcast. They do not entail any extra expense apart from the internet connection. You can express views by writing blog or broadcasting your voice on podcast.

Two good places to write your blog are
You can even write a blog in Hindi too. But remember use Unicode Hindi font. If you can type in English then typing in Hindi is easy: you can use phonetic keyboard.

Some good place to keep your podcast are
CONCLUSION
In the end, I will like to add,
जब इंटरनेट हो, साथ तुम्हारे
समझो सूचना, पास तुम्हारे

Click here to download pdf format of the article

End-note-1: It was here that Large Hadron collider (LHC), a particle accelerator, has been built. An experiment where two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. The analysis of the particles created in the collisions will provide new insight into creation of Universe. The experiment started on 10th September 2008.

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