September 2013 Business Meeting

CALL held its first business meeting of the year on September 27, 2013 at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse.

CALL President Maribel Nash opened the meeting by welcoming some new members:

  • Emily Barney of Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Debra Denslaw of Valparaiso University Law Library
  • Philip Johnson of John Marshall Law School
  • Annie Mentkowski of Northern Illinois University College of Law
  • Karl Pettitt of Northern Illinois University College of Law
  • Heather Simmons of University of Illinois College of Law
  • Larissa Sullivant of Valparaiso University Law Library.

Vice-President/President-Elect Margaret Schilt thanked for sponsoring the meeting. She noted that Mike Taylor from as well as Kelly Harper and Jen Stringfield from Lexis were all present at the meeting. Margaret then invited Mr. Taylor to address the Association.

Meeting Sponsor Message

Mike Taylor of Law 360
Mike Taylor of Law 360

Mr. Taylor commented on the “miraculous growth” of since it started 10 years ago with two men writing the IP Bulletin in a Starbucks. He said Jean O’Grady, writer of the Dewey B Strategic blog, called this an “improbable rise.” He remarked that has been successful despite an unfriendly news business environment.

Mr. Taylor noted that now has 36 newsletters, including new newsletters on privacy, hospitality, and aerospace and defense. He said they would soon introduce newsletters on capital markets, tax, and international arbitration. Mr. Taylor detailed the process by which’s 110 writers go through 12,000 cases a day to write stories for the newsletters.

Meeting Speaker

Randal C. Picker,  James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law; Senior Fellow, the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory
Randal C. Picker, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law; Senior Fellow, the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory

Margaret then introduced the speaker for the business meeting, Randal C. Picker. Prof. Picker is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics and a law degree from the University of Chicago. His primary areas of research interest are the laws relating to intellectual property, competition policy and regulated industries, and applications of game theory and agent-based computer simulations to the law. He currently teaches classes in antitrust, network industries, and secured transactions.

Meeting Speaker Randal C. PickerProf. Picker gave a talk entitled “The Mediated Book: ebooks and the digital library.” Members interested in seeing the slides from the talk can access them here. He thanked the Association for the opportunity and said he feels he is with “one of his tribes” when he speaks with librarians. First, Prof. Picker discussed how the shift in content from physical books to electronic books changes how books may be read and sold.

Kindle Example

Prof. Picker said that the Kindle is unique because it takes a book and makes it part of a larger platform, a different world from free-standing print books. He noted that Amazon sees the Kindle as a service and, according to the Terms of Use, Amazon may “modify, suspend, or discontinue the service in whole or in part any way at any time.” He noted further that Amazon actually did erase books from Kindles in a situation where someone uploaded content to the Kindle platform to which they did not own the rights. Ironically, the book that was removed was George Orwell’s 1984.

Prof. Picker then talked about how the Kindle mediates the reading experience by gathering information from readers including annotations, highlights, and bookmarks. He said this information is gathered in servers outside of the United States. This means that other countries may access information about what a user is reading.

Prof. Picker said that aggregating that information for all users of the Kindle service is what is really interesting because Amazon advertises, and Amazon sells advertising based on personalized information. Prof. Picker noted that physical books do not have any of these Kindle features.

Content Creation

Prof. Picker then discussed how content creation in the world of ebooks makes it different from a world of physical books. He said that an ebook creates the possibility of individualized content created just in time. This allows, Prof. Picker noted, the possibility that books could be updated automatically as things change rather than in several slow print editions, something that he said makes sense for changes to something like the Bankruptcy Code but might not matter to the general reading public.

He further noted just-in-time ebooks might make it possible to run advertisements in books and create ad-supported books. He said this raised the possibility that one’s Kindle could freeze for 30 seconds for a McDonald’s commercial. Prof. Picker asked if this was terrible because it interferes with the reader or is it good because it offloads the cost of books on to advertisers.

Google Books

Second, Prof. Picker talked about ebooks gathered together in digital libraries and used Google Books as an example. Prof. Picker explained how Google Books puts unique limits on access to works in the public domain. Prof. Picker quoted extensively from the document that comes with a Google book which states that Google is “merely [the] custodian of the public domain,” but goes on to say, “Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so . . . we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,” including a prohibition on automatic querying of the database. Prof. Picker noted that Google privately allowed him to do automatic querying across Google Books.

He also said that Google has a good argument that Google Books is protected under the fair use copyright doctrine because searching across a large corpus of data to see how particular phrases are used seems transformative. His concern, however, was that courts would find that Google’s internal uses of the data were transformative, but that public-facing uses of the data were not.

Finally, Prof. Picker discussed the Author’s Guild’s lawsuit challenging Google Books. He noted that the judge rejected as “too clever” an attempt to deal with orphan works—works for which the copyright holder cannot be found—by saying that copyright holders have to opt out of the class action.

Speaker Q&A

Prof. Picker then took questions from the audience. One Association member asked him to comment on access to ebooks for readers who cannot afford an e-reader. Prof. Picker briefly discussed the publishing industry’s attempts to find a way to lend ebooks through libraries, and stated that they were unclear and nervous about trying to find a new business model. He noted that Congress is considering “unlocking” cell phones to unbundle the device from the cell phone service provider and stated that Congress might similarly “unlock” e-readers to open up new ways to provide content.

He further noted that the market might be reaching “peak e-reader” as people move over to using tablets, which can handle content from multiple e-reader platforms. Prof. Picker said that if tablets remain open to multiple players, then that would weaken Amazon’s hold on the market.

Another member asked how librarians can teach young attorneys how to look at the broader context of things when ebooks show one screen at a time and lose the browsing capability of physical books. Prof. Picker said that he encourages students to look at the broader context of a case by creating links to cases within the cases he includes in his electronic casebook. He said that those links reduce the transaction cost of going outside the document they are reading.

Another member mentioned that users can use Google’s NGram viewer to do phrase searches across Google Books, and Prof. Picker explained further how he used Google Books to test his ideas about the prices of razors and blades before ultimately doing his actual research in a dataset of old Sears catalogs from the library.

The last question was how ebooks affect royalties. Prof. Picker answered that they may affect royalties because royalty rates are higher for authors using Amazon’s self-publishing program. He said this frightens the big publishing houses because authors might decide that they do not need a publisher.

Maribel thanked the speaker and asked him for his Twitter handle so that people could follow him. Prof. Picker said his Twitter handle is “@randypicker.”

Committee Annoucements

Scott VanderlinTwo committees then made announcements. Scott Vanderlin, co-chair of the Continuing Education Committee, encouraged members to respond to his committee’s email survey about programs. He said the committee hopes to create programming that is most valuable to members. He added that members may also email him or Heidi Kuehl about what kinds of programs they would like to see. Scott also noted, on behalf of the Public Relations Committee, that he had recreated the CALL display from the exhibition hall in Seattle for those members who missed it. The display included a mock pay phone that played a recording about CALL.

at Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse
at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse

Robert Martin, co-chair of the Community Service Committee, praised the membership for their past generosity to good causes. He noted that the Committee’s goal for this year is to raise more than $1,000 and pointed out that CALL had come very close to raising that amount last year. Robert told the group that the cash donations for this business meeting were to the American Cancer Society. He asked members to let him know if they wanted CALL to make the donation in memory of someone. He further noted that the in-kind donation of school supplies at this business meeting goes to Chicago Public Schools students in temporary housing.

President’s Announcements

Maribel then made three announcements. She thanked the membership, on behalf of Frank Drake, the Bylaws Committee, and the Executive Board for voting on the proposed changes to the bylaws. She announced that the changes passed with 98.9 percent of those voting in favor.

a gift from our new CALL President to the outgoing CALL President
a gift from our new CALL President to the outgoing CALL President

Maribel then presented a thank- you gift to CALL’s immediate Past President JoAnn Hounshell for her service to CALL. Finally, Maribel announced that the next business meeting would be at Wildfire in the private dining space.

with Maribel Nash and Margaret Schilt
with Maribel Nash and Margaret Schilt

Margaret finished the meeting by drawing the door prize, two $25 Barnes and Noble gift cards donated by LexisNexis. Margaret thanked the two Lexis representatives present, Kelly Harper and Jen Stringfield, for their support.

The meeting was adjourned.