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June 2005

The Power of RSS

By Robert J. Ambrogi

If you are not yet using RSS, you are missing out on the single best way to get news and updated information via the Internet. An acronym for really simple syndication, RSS is a standard that enables delivery of Web content directly to your desktop.

The power of RSS is in its convenience. With the proper software, you can use RSS to aggregate in a single location all of the Web news and information services you rely on. Get headlines from the New York Times and Law.com, postings from your favorite blogs, and updates from the federal government, all without having to surf from site to site.

This column is not an essay on RSS. For that, go to Wikipedia, where you can read about RSS in greater detail and find links to desktop software and online services that can read RSS feeds.

But a number of recently launched RSS feeds demonstrate the variety of ways in which this is becoming a powerful tool for legal professionals.

Take, for example, Auto Recalls, a free service that allows you to use RSS to track automobile recalls listed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Developed by Tim Stanley, co-founder of FindLaw and now CEO of the Web site development company Justia, this new service provides RSS feeds allowing users to track all recalls or to narrow the recalls they track by make, make and model, or make, model and year.

Of course, this is of interest to anyone who owns a car. But for lawyers in certain practices, it is of real value. For an injury lawyer or a consumer lawyer, for example, desktop delivery of recall notices has obvious and practical value.

You, however, are an IP lawyer and could care less about auto recalls. Well, how about searching patents using RSS? A new service called PatentMojo enables patent professionals to create watchlists for patent searches and monitor them through RSS feeds. The service searches the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data daily and delivers updates via RSS. Unlike many services that offer information via RSS, PatentMojo charges a subscription of $15 a month, but it offers a seven-day free trial.

Another source of IP information via RSS is the U.S. Copyright Office. It recently began offering four RSS feeds, one for updates to its home page, another for its NewsNet news service, one for Federal Register notices and one for current legislation. The Copyright Office provides information on these feeds and links to them here.

In fact, the U.S. government provides all sorts of information via RSS. A rough count found some 240 federal government feeds. They cover topics as far ranging as product safety news, food and drug recalls, economic reports, census statistics, agricultural statistics, EEOC news releases, medical news, State Department briefings and environmental news.

You can find most of these feeds through the U.S. Government RSS Library, part of the federal government portal FirstGov. Feeds are indexed by topics, which include agriculture, consumer, data and statistics, health, international relations and others.

What other kinds of information can you get via RSS? Here's a sampling:

  • Supreme Court opinions. Cornell's Legal Information Institute has circulated Supreme Court opinions by e-mail for years through its liibulletin. Less well known are the LII's RSS feeds for the court's decisions. It has two: one for Supreme Court decisions issued today and another, longer listing of the court's recent decisions.
  • Federal court orders. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York has created an RSS feed of judgments, orders and complaints docketed within the previous 24 hours. Find it at: https://ecf.nyed.uscourts.gov.
  • Secretary of state filings. This column has previously mentioned Secretary of State Blawg, a service devoted to tracking corporate and UCC filing information and requirements from all 50 states. Whenever a state makes any changes in its procedures or issues any sort of news related to filing, this blog track it. It now includes RSS feeds, one for the blog as a whole and one for each of the 50 states.
  • Legislative developments. GovTrack tracks the status of federal legislation, the speeches of representatives on the House and Senate floors, voting records, campaign contribution summaries and more. Even better, you can define the issues you want to follow and then receive updates by through an RSS feed.
  • Law journal articles. Law Journal Feeds, created by Washington and Lee School of Law, uses RSS to monitor the tables of contents of more than 500 law journals, providing both a current list of law journal contents as well as notification whenever journals publish new articles. From this page, you can view and search the entire list of publications, or you can download a file that will allow you to load the entire list to your own RSS reader.
  • State government news. Another site that recently added an assortment of RSS feeds is Stateline.org, which is devoted to state-by-state coverage of legislative and public-policy news. It offers a separate feed for each U.S., plus three feeds for top national news and state round-ups and another dozen feeds covering issues such as crime and courts, energy, environment, politics, social policy, taxes and technology.
These are just some of the recently created RSS feeds of interest to legal professionals. Many others are available and many more are created virtually every day. If you are not using RSS, you should be.

© 2005 Robert J. Ambrogi.