Meet govinfo: Federal Law Research Gets a Makeover


By: Chloe Martin

This month, the U.S. Government Publishing Office introduced the world to govinfo, a beta website that will eventually replace the Federal Digital System (FDsys) as the go-to resource for federal primary law from all three branches of government. Read our Q&A to learn more.

How does govinfo differ from FDsys?

The content available for access will not change, but govinfo offers some new and improved features:

  • New ways to browse content (alphabetically and by category);
  • Responsive design for better display on mobile devices;
  • More choices for sharing pages and content on social media;
  • Enhanced search filters; and
  • The brand new “related documents” feature which will display other documents within govinfo that relate to or reference a particular document.

Who can access govinfo?

Everyone. Govinfo, like FDsys, is available to the public.

What major resources are available to search and browse on govinfo?

  • The Federal Register
  • The Code of Federal Regulations
  • The Federal Budget
  • The U.S. Code
  • Congressional Bills
  • Statutes at Large
  • The Congressional Record
  • Congressional Calendars, Hearings, and Reports
  • U.S. Court Opinions, including SCOTUS decisions

How can I access govinfo?


The GPO is requesting public feedback on its new site; visit this survey to tell the GPO what you think!

Fighting For Superman

image: flickr user b-tal

Warner Bros. recently announced that Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) is going to direct a new film version of Superman. The casting rumors have begun, and the studio wants to start filming in June 2011, it’s reported. But it’s only been four years since Superman Returns was generally panned. What’s the big rush?

The flurry of activity is due to ongoing litigation between Warner Bros. (which owns DC Comics) and the heirs of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel. Shuster and Siegel sold the Superman rights in 1938 for $130.  They’ve been trying to get them back ever since. Although the exact parties have changed over the years (with Shuster’s and Siegel’s heirs eventually on one side and various iterations of Warner Bros. and DC on the other), the question of who-owns-what is still not settled.

In 2008, the United States District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Siegel’s heirs are entitled to partial copyright of Superman’s character (542 F.Supp.2d 1098), but left several other issues unsettled.  Shuster’s heirs have also stepped into the fray and after several hiccups, the parties are set to begin discovery. The new Superman film is one way Warner Bros. is trying to minimize economic losses, whatever the outcome of the suit may be.

Superman isn’t the only comic book character to make an appearance in copyright jurisprudence. For example: Snyder’s previous film, Watchmen (based on a graphic novel of the same name), was subject to a fierce lawsuit (630 F.Supp.2d 1140) prior to its release in theatres. And Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane went to court (360 F.3d 644) over characters created for the Spawn series. The judge in that case described one Spawn character as “a kind of malevolent Superman figure, although actually rather weak and stupid” and appended the opinion with cover art and other images of the characters in question. These cases themselves now appear in treatises, ALR annotations and law review articles on copyright law.

The University Library has a large collection of comic books and graphic novels available for check out, including Watchmen, works by Neil Gaiman and Superman titles.

Court-Watching Made Easy

We’re a little over 1 month into the Supreme Court’s 2010 term, and there have already been some interesting arguments touching on, among other things, the sale of video games to minors and the Westboro Baptist Church. You can follow the developments at the Court on the news, but there are also some great websites that track what’s going on, from grant of certiorari to decision.

SCOTUSblog, one of the best sources for Court news, keeps track of the most interesting recent petitions for certiorari and recently granted petitions. To prepare for oral argument, you can check the Legal Information Institute’s oral argument previews, and SCOTUSblog’s collection of briefs and other case documents. And, of course, after the argument you can check out the audio on the Supreme Court’s website and at the Oyez Project; starting with the 2010 term, transcripts and audio will be posted on Friday of every argument week. When the opinion is finally handed down, you can follow the happenings live at SCOTUSblog, get the syllabus sent automatically to your email account from the LII, see a visual representation of the votes from Oyez, and download the full slip opinion from the Supreme Court.

If that’s not enough, you can play some Oyez Baseball and find out where your favorite former Justice is buried. Or you could use all of this information to dominate your own FantasySCOTUS league!

Use for federal gov docs

If you’ve been using to access federal government documents, prepare yourselves for a long-awaited arrival:  the Federal Digital System, found at!   The Government Printing Office has announced that, at the end of 2010, FDsys will be the GPO’s electronic system of record for government publications.

From now through the end of 2010, the sites will operate concurrently, but in 2011 you’ll have to use FDsys to retrieve the United States Code, Code of Federal Regulations, presidential documents, the Federal Register, the United States Government Manual, and many other useful government resources.  The COL Library encourages you to take the time to explore the FDsys site and how it functions.  There are helpful tutorials available, demonstrating how you can search or browse using the site.  Because the site is currently in public beta, the GPO is seeking public feedback.  Now is the time to share your thoughts about the new site!

An exciting feature of FDsys is the number of authenticated government documents.  The GPO takes a number of steps to assure that many of the electronic government documents are unaltered from their original publication.  The authenticated  documents available on FDsys have visible digital signatures.  A verified, authentic document will contain a Seal of Authenticity.  The seal is a graphic of an eagle and the words “Authenticated U.S. Government Information.”  Visit and click on a recent piece of popular legislation–like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act–to see the digital signature.