An Open Letter to Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP)

Dear Sirs,

I write to express my profound dismay that Chicago is considering regulating Uber out of existence. Uber is an middleman that connects limo drivers to customers in a way that is convenient, flexible and safe. The Uber rating system keeps limo drivers on their best behavior: this benefits riders, but also the wider community because safe driving saves lives!

Chicago taxis are a disgrace to our great city. I realize that the city tries to monitor drivers but it does not have the resources to pursue anything but the gravest complaints. I walk around the city every day, either with my dog or to and from my office. Almost every day without exception I see taxis driving unsafely  — running lights, not yielding to pedestrians before turning, straddling lanes, changing lanes without indicating, stopping abruptly, etc.

The mission of the BACP is to ensures a fair and vibrant market place for both businesses and consumers. Your mission is not to simply protect incumbent taxi companies from competition. If Uber is a threat, it is a threat to raise standards! One of the great things about Uber is that it empowers the passenger to monitor the driver’s performance. Drivers know this and in my experience, they lift their game accordingly. Uber is efficient. Uber is good for drivers. Uber empowers consumers. Uber saves lives. Please don’t make the mistake of protecting the status quo at the expense of consumers and competition.

Please Remove the No Measured Rates Provision.


Matthew Sag
(in my personal capacity)

Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Associate Director for Intellectual Property of the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies
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Google Book, Settled and Unsettled.

According to Reuters, Google and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) have reached a settlement in the long-running Google Book Search Litigation. Details remain sketchy. The settlement does not affect Google’s current litigation with the Authors Guild.

Nature has just published a comment piece by Matthew Jockers, Jason Schultz myself explaining why humanities scholars filed amicus briefs in the Authors Guild v. Google and Authors Guild v. HathiTrust lawsuits. These suits are still very much alive and it is not clear that the Authors Guild has the same incentives to settle as the AAP did.

Additional Links:

  • Joint Press Release
  • Techdirt comment that this is exactly what Google offered 7 years ago. “Basically, this settlement is AAP admitting that the entire lawsuit was a waste of time and money.”
  • James Grimmelman’s summary. “the settlement does not change the situation on the ground in any significant way”
  • Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly quotes AAP president Tom Allen saying “[we] out an arrangement that doesn’t resolve the legal issues. We agree to disagree on those, but as a practical matter, it does resolve our differences with Google.”


The origins of fair use

I have just added a page to this website devoted to the history of fair use. As I note in my article The Pre-History of Fair Use 76 Brooklyn Law Review 1371-1412 (2011), fair use does not begin with early American cases such as Folsom v. Marsh in 1841, as many accounts assume. The fair use doctrine began over a century earlier when English courts were considering issues of republishing and abridgment — the remix culture of the 1700′s.

My main points are

  • Copyright has always involved some balancing between authors rights and users rights. Fair use is part of the legal tradition of every country that traces its copyright law back to the Statute of Anne.
  • Fair use did not take away from authors rights, it made it possible for the courts to take a purposive reading of the copyright act that actually expanded authors rights.