Authors Guild asks Judge to Ignore the Digital Humanities

Counsel for the Authors Guild have asked the court to deny our motion for leave to participate as amici in the case of Authors Guild v. Google.

On Friday August 3, 2012, the Association for Computers and the Humanities and a group of 64 scholars from disciplines including law, computer science, linguistics, history and literature filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Digital Humanities urging the court in Authors Guild v. Google to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

In its 10 page memorandum in opposition the Guild argues that “It is inappropriate for these entities to inject themselves into private litigation.” This seems a bit rich given that the Authors Guild, a group of some 8500 authors, is trying to assert the right to say no to digitization of over 20 million books. That is leverage on a ratio of more than 2000:1. The Guild is trying to set a legal precedent that would render text-mining without individual permission in any context unlawful. Digital Humanities scholars should not be relegated to studying literature prior to 1923.

This case is not a private arbitration, it will establish an important precedent that either confirms the legitimacy of search engine technology, plagiarism detection software and computerized analysis of text.

The Guild says that our brief simply argues Google’s case and does not have anything to add. Yet at the same time they complain that the digital humanities scholars seek to inform the court about “text-mining and computation analysis”.

The Guild also argues that our legal argument that non-expressive use should be fair use is really just a disguised expert opinion. No doubt, if I was deposed as an expert witness they would complain that my views were just legal argument in disguise.

The digital humanities brief is not, as the Guild contends, asking for an advisory opinion. The brief alerts the court to the important implications of its ruling and highlights what the Authors Guild tries to obfuscate, that this case is much bigger than Google, it’s about the future of humanities scholarship.

The Author’s Guild argues that it is not fair that the digital humanities scholars (and another brief filed by the American Library Association) will each add another 26 pages to their workload.  1056 documents have been filed in this case! It is hard to see the burden of another 26 pages.

Judge Deny Chin (Southern District of New York) is scheduled to hear the parties’ motions for summary judgment on October 9, 2012.