Category Archives: Events

Book Talk: Attack from Within by Barbara McQuade

This event is canceled due to a scheduling issue. We will repost when it is rescheduled.

Join us for a VIRTUAL book talk with legal scholar BARBARA McQUADE on her New York Times bestseller, ATTACK FROM WITHIN, about disinformation’s impact on democracy. NYU professor and author CHARLTON McILWAIN will facilitate our discussion.


“A comprehensive guide to the dynamics of disinformation and a necessary call to the ethical commitment to truth that all democracies require.”

Timothy Snyder, author of the New York Times bestseller On Tyranny

American society is more polarized than ever before. We are strategically being pushed apart by disinformation—the deliberate spreading of lies disguised as truth—and it comes at us from all sides: opportunists on the far right, Russian misinformed social media influencers, among others. It’s endangering our democracy and causing havoc in our electoral system, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and in our Capitol. Advances in technology including rapid developments in artificial intelligence threaten to make the problems even worse by amplifying false claims and manufacturing credibility.

In Attack from Within, legal scholar and analyst Barbara McQuade, shows us how to identify the ways disinformation is seeping into all facets of our society and how we can fight against it. The book includes:

  • The authoritarian playbook: a brief history of disinformation from Mussolini and Hitler to Bolsonaro and Trump, chronicles the ways in which authoritarians have used disinformation to seize and retain power.
  • Disinformation tactics—like demonizing the other, seducing with nostalgia, silencing critics, muzzling the media, condemning the courts; stoking violence—and why they work.
  • An explanation of why America is particularly vulnerable to disinformation and how it exploits our First Amendment Freedoms, sparks threats and violence, and destabilizes social structures.
  • Real, accessible solutions for countering disinformation and maintaining the rule of law such as making domestic terrorism a federal crime, increasing media literacy in schools, criminalizing doxxing, and much more.

Disinformation is designed to evoke a strong emotional response to push us toward more extreme views, unable to find common ground with others. The false claims that led to the breathtaking attack on our Capitol in 2021 may have been only a dress rehearsal. Attack from Within shows us how to prevent it from happening again, thus preserving our country’s hard-won democracy.


BARBARA McQUADE is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, where she teaches criminal law and national security law. She is also a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. From 2010 to 2017, McQuade served as the U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She was appointed by President Barack Obama, and was the first woman to serve in her position. McQuade also served as vice chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and co-chaired its Terrorism and National Security Subcommittee.

Before her appointment as U.S. Attorney, McQuade served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Detroit for 12 years, including service as Deputy Chief of the National Security Unit. In that role, she prosecuted cases involving terrorism financing, foreign agents, threats, and export violations. McQuade serves on a number of non-profit boards, and served on the Biden-Harris Transition Team in 2020-2021. She has been recognized by The Detroit News with the Michiganian of the Year Award, the Detroit Free Press with the Neal Shine Award for Exemplary Regional Leadership, Crain’s Detroit Business as a Newsmaker of the Year and one of Detroit’s Most Influential Women, and the Detroit Branch NAACP and Arab American Civil Rights League with their Tribute to Justice Award. McQuade is a graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school. She and her husband live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and have four children.s an assistant professor of English at Emory University with a courtesy appointment in quantitative theory and methods. He is the author of American Literature and the Long Downturn: Neoliberal Apocalypse (2020). His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of BooksThe RumpusDissent, and other publications.

Author of the recent book, Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the Afronet to Black Lives Matter, Dr. Charlton McIlwain is Vice Provost for Faculty Development, Pathways & Public Interest Technology at New York University, where he is also Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU Steinhardt. He works at the intersections of computing technology, race, inequality, and racial justice activism. He has served as an expert witness in landmark U.S. Federal Court cases on reverse redlining/racial targeting in mortgage lending and recently testified before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services about the impacts of automation and artificial intelligence on the financial services sector. He is the author of the recent PolicyLink report Algorithmic Discrimination: A Framework and Approach to Auditing & Measuring the Impact of Race-Targeted Digital Advertising. He writes regularly for outlets such as The Guardian, Slate’s Future Tense, MIT Technology Review and other outlets about the intersection of race and technology. McIlwain is the founder of the Center for Critical Race & Digital Studies, and is Board President at Data & Society Research Institute. He leads NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, is NYU’s Designee to the Public Interest Technology University Network, and serves on the executive committee as co-chair of the ethics panel for the International Panel on the Information Environment.

Book Talk: Attack from Within by Barbara McQuade
Thursday, June 6 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Register now for the virtual event!

Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data

Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data

How data surveillance, digital forensics, and generative AI pose new long-term threats and opportunities—and how we can use them to make better decisions in the face of technological uncertainty.

Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data
April 18 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET ONLINE
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“I have been waiting a long time for a clearly written book that cuts through the hype and describes how data—big and small, old and new—actually operate in our lives. Neither utopian nor dystopian, The Secret Life of Data just tells it like it is.”   
—Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies, The University of Virginia; author of Antisocial Media and The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)

In The Secret Life of Data, Aram Sinnreich and Jesse Gilbert explore the many unpredictable, and often surprising, ways in which data surveillance, AI, and the constant presence of algorithms impact our culture and society in the age of global networks. The authors build on this basic premise: no matter what form data takes, and what purpose we think it’s being used for, data will always have a secret life. How this data will be used, by other people in other times and places, has profound implications for every aspect of our lives—from our intimate relationships to our professional lives to our political systems.



ARAM SINNREICH is an author, professor, and musician. He is Chair of Communication Studies at American University. His books include Mashed Up, The Piracy CrusadeThe Essential Guide to Intellectual Property, and A Second Chance for Yesterday (published as R. A. Sinn).

JESSE GILBERT is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the intersection of visual art, sound, and software design at his firm Dark Matter Media. He was the founding Chair of the Media Technology department at Woodbury University, and he has taught interactive software design at both CalArts and UC San Diego.

DR. LAURA DENARDIS is Professor and Endowed Chair in Technology, Ethics, and Society and Director of the Center for Digital Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  Her book The Internet in Everything: Freedom and Security in a World with No Off Switch (Yale University Press) was recognized as a Financial Times Top Technology Book of 2020. Among her seven books, The Global War for Internet Governance (Yale University Press) is considered a definitive source for understanding cyber governance debates and solutions. Professor DeNardis is an affiliated Fellow of the Yale Information Society Project, where she previously served as Executive Director, and is a life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds engineering degrees and a PhD in Science and Technology Studies, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from Yale Law School.

Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data
April 18 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET ONLINE
Register now!

Book Talk – Unlocking the Digital Age: The Musician’s Guide to Research, Copyright & Publishing

Posted March 27, 2024

Join us for a book talk with ANDREA I. COPLAND & KATHLEEN DeLAURENTI about UNLOCKING THE DIGITAL AGE, a crucial resource for early career musicians navigating the complexities of the digital era.


“[Musicians,] Use this book as a tool to enhance your understanding, protect your creations, and confidently step into the world of digital music. Embrace the journey with the same fervor you bring to your music and let this guide be a catalyst in shaping a fulfilling and sustainable musical career.”

Based on coursework developed at the Peabody Conservatory, Unlocking the Digital Age: The Musician’s Guide to Research, Copyright, and Publishing by Andrea I. Copland and Kathleen DeLaurenti [READ NOW] serves as a crucial resource for early career musicians navigating the complexities of the digital era. This guide bridges the gap between creative practice and scholarly research, empowering musicians to confidently share and protect their work as they expand their performing lives beyond the concert stage as citizen artists. It offers a plain language resource that helps early career musicians see where creative practice and creative research intersect and how to traverse information systems to share their work. As professional musicians and researchers, the authors’ experiences on stage and in academia makes this guide an indispensable tool for musicians aiming to thrive in the digital landscape.

Copland and DeLaurenti will be in conversation with musician and educator, Kyoko Kitamura. Music librarian Matthew Vest will facilitate our discussion.

Unlocking the Digital Age: The Musician’s Guide to Research, Copyright, and Publishing is available to read & download.


About our speakers

ANDREA I. COPLAND is an oboist, music historian, and librarian based in Baltimore, MD. Andrea has dual master’s of music degrees in oboe performance and music history from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and is currently Research Coordinator at the Répertoire International de la Presse Musicale (RIPM) database. She is also a teaching artist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program and writes a public musicology blog, Outward Sound, on substack.

KATHLEEN DeLAURENTI is the Director of the Arthur Friedheim Library at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University where she also teaches Foundations of Music Research in the graduate program. Previously, she served as scholarly communication librarian at the College of William and Mary where she participated in establishing state-wide open educational resources (OER) initiatives. She is co-chair of the Music Library Association (MLA) Legislation Committee as well as a member of the Copyright Education sub-committee of the American Library Association (ALA) and is past winner of the ALA Robert Oakley Memorial Scholarship for copyright research. DeLaurenti is passionate about copyright education, especially for musicians. She is active in communities of practice working on music copyright education, sustainable economic models for artists and musicians, and policy for a balanced copyright system. DeLaurenti served as the inaugural Open Access Editor of MLA and continues to serve on the MLA Open Access Editorial Board. She holds an MLIS from the University of Washington and a BFA in vocal performance from Carnegie Mellon University.

KYOKO KITAMURA is a Brookyn-based vocal improviser, bandleader, composer and educator, currently co-leading the quartet Geometry (with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, guitarist Joe Morris and cellist Tomeka Reid) and the trio Siren Xypher (with violist Melanie Dyer and pianist Mara Rosenbloom). A long-time collaborator of legendary composer Anthony Braxton, Kitamura appears on many of his releases and is the creator of the acclaimed 2023 documentary Introduction to Syntactical Ghost Trance Music which DownBeat Magazine calls “an invaluable resource for Braxton-philes.” Active in interdisciplinary performances, Kitamura recently provided vocals for, and appeared in, artist Matthew Barney’s 2023 five-channel installation Secondary.

MATTHEW VEST is the Music Inquiry and Research Librarian at UCLA. His research interests include change leadership in higher education, digital projects and publishing for music and the humanities, and composers working at the margins of the second Viennese School. He has also worked in the music libraries at the University of Virginia, Davidson College, and Indiana University and is the Open Access Editor for the Music Library Association.

April 3 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Register now!

Authors Alliance 10th Anniversary Event: Authorship in an Age of Monopoly and Moral Panics

Register here for this IN-PERSON event
hosted in San Francisco at the Internet Archive on May 17

Moral panics about technology are nothing new for creators. Copyright, in particular, has been a favorite tool to excite outrage. We were told that the motion picture industry would “bleed and bleed and hemorrhage” if the law didn’t prohibit VCRs. Because of the photocopier, industry experts warned that “the day may not be far off when no one need purchase book.” MP3 players, we were told, would leave us with no professional musicians, but only amateurs. 

Today, we are told that librarians lending books online will undo the publishing industry, and that AI will destroy entire creative industries as we know them.  At the same time, authors face real and unprecedented challenges in reaching readers, working within an increasingly consolidated publishing marketplace, a concentrated technology stack that seems aimed at optimizing ad revenue over all else, and a labyrinth of private agreements over which authors have almost no say. 

So what’s real and what’s hyperbole? Join us on May 17th to celebrate Authors Alliance’s 10th anniversary and be part of an engaging discussion with leading experts to cut through the hype and hear about the real challenges and opportunities facing authors who want to be read. 

The event will include a keynote address from author, activist, and journalist Cory Doctorow, as well as a series of panel discussions with leading experts on authorship, law, technology, and publishing.

Register here
Hosted in person in San Francisco at the Internet Archive
May 17, 2024
4:00pm to 7:00pm
Reception to Follow

4:00 Welcome & Introduction:  Dave Hansen, Executive Director of Authors Alliance

4:15 to 5:15 Technology, the Law, and Authorship

Moderator: Marta Belcher, President and Chair of the Filecoin Foundation as well as the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web

  • Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley
  • David Bamman, Associate Professor, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley
  • Sasha Stiles, award-winning poet,  language artist and AI researcher

5:15 to 6:00 Platforms, the Publishing Industry, and the Public Interest

Moderator: Corynne McSherry, Legal Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

  • Daphne Keller, Director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center 
  • Alison Mudditt, CEO of the Public Library of Science (PLOS)
  • Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian and founder of the Internet Archive

6:00 to 6:45 Keynote:  Cory Doctorow, science fiction author, activist and journalist 

6:45 Closing remarks

7:00 Reception to follow

For those of you who can’t join us in person, the event will be recorded and video shared out to Authors Alliance members (so if you aren’t a member, join (for free) today!)

Fair Use Week Webinar: Fair Use in Text Data Mining and Artificial Intelligence

Posted February 16, 2024
Text Miner, generated by MidJourney

Computational research techniques such as text and data mining (TDM) hold tremendous opportunities for researchers across the disciplines ranging from mining scientific articles to create better systematic reviews, or curated chemical property datasets to building a corpus of films to understand how concepts of gender, race, and identity are shared over time. Unfortunately, legal uncertainty, whether through copyright or restrictive terms of use can stifle this research. Recent copyright lawsuits, such as the high-profile cases brought against Microsoft, Github, and StabiltyAI underscore the legal complications.

So how can fair use allow for computational research techniques? Join us for this Fair Use Week webinar, co-sponsored with the the Library Copyright Institute, to find out! 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024
1pm – 2:30pm ET / 10am – 11:30 PT
Register here

We’ve written quite a bit about fair use in TDM and AI for research applications already, and the topic is certainly complicated. Join us for this event to hear live from legal experts and researchers. We plan to include substantial time for Q&A, so bring your questions! Panelists include: 

  • Dave Hansen, Executive Director, Authors Alliance
  • Rachael Samberg, Scholarly Communications Officer, UC Berkeley
  • Lauren Tilton, Claiborne Robins Professor of Liberal Arts and Digital Humanities, University of Richmond

Book Talk: Wrong Way by Joanna McNeil

Posted February 13, 2024

Join us for a VIRTUAL book talk with author Joanne McNeil about her latest book, WRONG WAY, which examines the treacherous gaps between the working and middle classes wrought by the age of AI. McNeil will be in conversation with author Sarah Jaffe.

This is the first Internet Archive / Authors Alliance book talk for a work of fiction! Come for a reading, stay for a thoughtful conversation between McNeil & Jaffe about the labor implications of artificial intelligence.

February 29 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET


WRONG WAY was named one of the best books of 2023 by the New Yorker and Esquire. It was the Endless Bookshelf Book of the Year and named one of the best tech books by the LA Times.

“Wrong Way is a chilling portrait of economic precarity, and a disturbing reminder of how attempts to optimize life and work leave us all alienated.”
—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

For years, Teresa has passed from one job to the next, settling into long stretches of time, struggling to build her career in any field or unstick herself from an endless cycle of labor. The dreaded move from one gig to another is starting to feel unbearable. When a recruiter connects her with a contract position at AllOver, it appears to check all her prerequisites for a “good” job. It’s a fintech corporation with progressive hiring policies and a social justice-minded mission statement. Their new service for premium members: a functional fleet of driverless cars. The future of transportation. As her new-hire orientation reveals, the distance between AllOver’s claims and its actions is wide, but the lure of financial stability and a flexible schedule is enough to keep Teresa driving forward.

Joanne McNeil, who often reports on how the human experience intersects with labor and technology brings blazing compassion and criticism to Wrong Way, examining the treacherous gaps between the working and middle classes wrought by the age of AI. Within these divides, McNeil turns the unsaid into the unignorable, and captures the existential perils imposed by a nonstop, full-service gig economy.


About our speakers

JOANNE MCNEIL was the inaugural winner of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation’s Arts Writing Award for an emerging writer. She has been a resident at Eyebeam, a Logan Nonfiction Program fellow, and an instructor at the School for Poetic Computation.
Joanne is the author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User.

SARAH JAFFE is an author, independent journalist, and a co-host of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast.

Book Talk: Wrong Way by Joanne McNeil
February 29 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Register now!

Join for the Launch of our Latest Legal Guide: Writing About Real People

Register here to join us on December 7, 2023 at 1pm ET/ 10am PT for the launch of our latest legal guide “Writing about Real People.”

Writing about real people can raise a number of complicated legal issues for authors. Laws governing defamation, privacy, and rights of publicity have a number of fact-specific rules,  exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions that can be difficult to navigate without help. We’ve found that these issues can be an obstacle to creation for all types of authors, from bloggers to narrative nonfiction authors to historians, cultural anthropologists, and other scholarly authors. 

As part of our highly used series of guides on legal issues for authors, Authors Alliance has created a guide to writing about real people for nonfiction authors. This latest guide covers three main legal issues: false statements and portrayals (e.g., defamation), invasions of privacy, and rights of publicity and identity rights. The guide includes substantial practical guidance, addressing issues such as permission, documenting your research and working with an IRB.

Join us on December 7 to learn more about the guide and what it covers, how you might use it in your work, about plans we have for accompanying materials we will release in the near future, such as one-page summaries for quick reference.

Book Talk: The Internet Con by Cory Doctorow

Posted October 25, 2023

Join us for a virtual book talk with author Cory Doctorow about THE INTERNET CON, the disassembly manual we need to take back our internet.


When the tech platforms promised a future of “connection,” they were lying. They said their “walled gardens” would keep us safe, but those were prison walls.

The platforms locked us into their systems and made us easy pickings, ripe for extraction. Twitter, Facebook and other Big Tech platforms hard to leave by design. They hold hostage the people we love, the communities that matter to us, the audiences and customers we rely on. The impossibility of staying connected to these people after you delete your account has nothing to do with technological limitations: it’s a business strategy in service to commodifying your personal life and relationships.

We can – we must – dismantle the tech platforms. In The Internet Con, Cory Doctorow explains how to seize the means of computation, by forcing Silicon Valley to do the thing it fears most: interoperate. Interoperability will tear down the walls between technologies, allowing users leave platforms, remix their media, and reconfigure their devices without corporate permission.

Interoperability is the only route to the rapid and enduring annihilation of the platforms. The Internet Con is the disassembly manual we need to take back our internet.


CORY DOCTOROW is a science fiction author, activist and journalist. He is the author of many books, most recently RADICALIZED and WALKAWAY, science fiction for adults; HOW TO DESTROY SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM, nonfiction about monopoly and conspiracy; IN REAL LIFE, a graphic novel; and the picture book POESY THE MONSTER SLAYER. His latest book is ATTACK SURFACE, a standalone adult sequel to LITTLE BROTHER. In 2020, he was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. He works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is a MIT Media Lab Research Affiliate, is a Visiting Professor of Computer Science at Open University, a Visiting Professor of Practice at the University of North Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group.

Book Talk: The Internet Con by Cory Doctorow
Tuesday, October 31 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Register now for the virtual discussion!

Book Talk: Against Progress by Jessica Silbey

Posted May 8, 2023

Join journalist MARIA BUSTILLOS for a virtual book talk with author & professor of law JESSICA SILBEY for her latest book, AGAINST PROGRESS.


When first written into the Constitution, intellectual property aimed to facilitate “progress of science and the useful arts” by granting rights to authors and inventors. Today, when rapid technological evolution accompanies growing wealth inequality and political and social divisiveness, the constitutional goal of “progress” may pertain to more basic, human values, redirecting IP’s emphasis to the commonweal instead of private interests.

Against Progress considers contemporary debates about intellectual property law as concerning the relationship between the constitutional mandate of progress and fundamental values, such as equality, privacy, and distributive justice, that are increasingly challenged in today’s internet age. Following a legal analysis of various intellectual property court cases, Jessica Silbey examines the experiences of everyday creators and innovators navigating ownership, sharing, and sustainability within the internet eco-system and current IP laws. Crucially, the book encourages refiguring the substance of “progress” and the function of intellectual property in terms that demonstrate the urgency of art and science to social justice today.

Purchase Against Progress from Stanford University Press.

JESSICA SILBEY is Professor of Law at the Boston University School of Law. She is the author of Against Progress: Intellectual Property and Fundamental Values in the Internet Age (Stanford, 2022), The Eureka Myth: Creators, Innovators, and Everyday Intellectual Property (Stanford, 2015), and was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2018.

May 9 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Register now for the free, virtual event

An Update on our Text and Data Mining: Demonstrating Fair Use Project

Posted April 28, 2023

Back in December we announced a new Authors Alliance’s project, Text and Data Mining: Demonstrating Fair Use, which is about lowering and overcoming legal barriers for researchers who seek to exercise their fair use rights, specifically within the context of text data mining (“TDM”) research under current regulatory exemptions. We’ve heard from lots of you about the need for support in navigating the law in this area. This post gives a few updates. 

Text and Data Mining Workshops and Consultations

We’ve had a tremendous amount of interest and engagement with our offers to hold hands-on workshops and trainings on the scope of legal rights for TDM research. Already this spring, we’ve been able to hold two workshops in the Research Triangle hosted at Duke University, and a third workshop at Stanford followed by a lively lunch-time discussion. We have several more coming. Our next stop is in a few weeks at the University of Michigan, and we have plans in the works for workshops in the Boston area, New York, a few locations on the West Coast, and potentially others as well. If you are interested in attending or hosting a workshop with TDM researchers, librarians, or other research support staff, please let us know! We’d love to hear from you. The feedback so far has been really encouraging, and we have heard both from current TDM researchers and those for whom the workshops have opened their eyes to new possibilities. 

ACH Webinar: Overcoming Legal Barriers to Text and Data Mining
Join us! In addition to the hands-on in-person workshops on university campuses, we’re also offering online webinars on overcoming legal barriers to text and data mining. Our first is hosted by the Association for Computers and the Humanities on May 15 at 10am PT / 1pm ET. All are welcome to attend, and we’d love to see you online!
Read more and register here. 


A second aspect of our project is to research how the current law can both help and hinder TDM researchers, with specific attention to fair use and the DMCA exemption that Authors Alliance obtained for TDM researchers to break digital locks when building a corpus of digital content such as ebooks or DVDs.

Christian Howard-Sukhil, Authors Alliance Text and Data Mining Legal Fellow

To that end, we’re excited to announce that Christian Howard-Sukhil will be joining Authors Alliance as our Text and Data Mining Legal Fellow. Christian holds a PhD in English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia and is currently pursuing a JD from the UC Berkeley School of Law. Christian has extensive digital humanities and text data mining experience, including in previous roles at UVA and Bucknell University. Her work with Authors Alliance will focus on researching and writing about the ways that current law helps or hinders text and data mining researchers in the real world. 

The research portion of this project is focused on the practical implications of the law and will be based heavily on feedback we hear from TDM researchers. We’ve already had the opportunity to gather some feedback from researchers including through the workshops mentioned above, and plan to do more systematic outreach over the coming months. Again, if you’re working in this field (or want to but can’t because of concerns about legal issues), we’d love to hear from you. 

At this stage we want to share some preliminary observations, based on recent research into these issues (supported by the work of several teams of student clinicians) as well as our recent and ongoing work with TDM researchers:

1) Licenses restrictions are a problem. We’ve heard clearly that licenses and terms of use impose a significant barrier to TDM research. While researchers are able to identify uses that would qualify as fair use and also many uses that likely qualify under the DMCA exemption, terms of use accompanying ebook licenses can override both. These terms vary, from very specific prohibitions–e.g., Amazon’s, which says that users “may not attempt to bypass, modify, defeat, or otherwise circumvent any digital rights management system”–to more general prohibitions on uses that go beyond the specific permissions of the license–e.g., Apple’s terms, which state that “No portion of the Content or Services may be transferred or reproduced in any form or by any means, except as expressly permitted.” Even academic licenses, often negotiated by university libraries to have  more favorable terms, can still impose significant restrictions on reuse for TDM purposes. Although we haven’t heard of aggressive enforcement of those terms to restrict academic uses, even the mere existence of those terms can have chilling and negative real world impacts on research using TDM techniques.

The problem of licenses overriding researchers rights under fair use and other parts of copyright law is of course not limited to just inhibiting text and data mining research. We wrote about the issue, and how easy it is to evade fair use, a few months ago, discussing the many ways that restrictive license terms can inhibit normal, everyday uses of works such as criticism, commentary and quotation. We are currently working on a separate paper documenting the scope and extent of “contractual override,” and will be part of a symposium on the subject in May, hosted by the Association of Research Libraries and the American University, Washington College of Law Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property.

2) The TDM exemption is flexible, but local interpretation and support can vary. We’ve heard that the current TDM exemption–allowing researchers to break technological protection measures such as DRM on ebooks and CSS on DVDs–is an important tool to facilitate research on modern digital works. And we believe the terms of that exemption are sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of a variety of research applications (how wide a variety remains to be seen through more research). But local understanding and support for researchers using the exemption can vary. 

For example, the exemption requires that the university that the TDM research is associated with implement “effective security measures” to ensure that the corpus of copyrighted works isn’t used for another purpose. The regulation further explains that in the absence of a standard negotiated with content holders, “effective security measures” means “measures that the institution uses to keep its own highly confidential information secure.” University  IT data security standards don’t always use the same language or define their standard to cover “highly confidential information” and so university IT offices must interpret this language and implement the standard in their own local context. This can create confusion about what precisely universities need to do to secure the TDM corpora. 

Some of these definitional issues are likely growing pains–the exemption is still new and universities need time to understand and implement standards to satisfy its terms in a reasonable way–it will be important to explore further where there is confusion on similar terms and how that might best be resolved. 

3) Collaboration and sharing are important. Text and data mining projects are often conceived of as part of a much larger research agenda, with multiple potential research outputs both from the initial inquiry and follow-up studies with a number of researchers, sometimes from a number of institutions. Fair use clearly allows for collaborative TDM work –e.g., in  Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, a foundational fair use case for TDM research in the US, we observe that the entire structure of HathiTrust is a collective of a number of research institutions with shared digital assets. And likewise, the TDM exemption permits a university to provide access to “researchers affiliated with other institutions of higher education solely for purposes of collaboration or replication of the research.” The collaborative aspect of this work raises some challenging questions, both operationally and conceptually. For example, the exemption for breaking digital locks doesn’t define precisely who qualifies as a researcher who is “affiliated,” leaving open questions for universities implementing the regulation. More conceptually, the issue of research collaboration raises questions about how precisely the TDM purpose must be defined when building a corpora under the existing exemption, for example when researchers collaborate but investigate different research questions over time. Finally, the issue of actually sharing copies of the corpus with researchers at other institutions is important because at least in some cases, local computing power is needed to effectively engage with the data. 

Again, just preliminary research, but some interesting and important questions! If you are working in this area in any capacity, we’d love to talk. The easiest way to reach us is at

Want to Learn More?
This current Authors Alliance project is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation, which has also supported a number of other important text and data mining projects. We’ve been fortunate to be part of a broader network of individuals and organizations devoted to lowering legal barriers for TDM researchers. This includes efforts spearheaded by a team at UC Berkeley to produce the “Legal Literacies for Text Data Mining” and its current project to address cross-border TDM research, as well as efforts from the Global Network on Copyright and User Rights, which has (among other things) led efforts on copyright exceptions for TDM globally.