GBS Blogging: The Public Index


Remember how I said to watch this space for more news about our plans? Well, I’ve got news. Today would have been the deadline for filing objections to the settlement, had the court not granted a four-month delay to let people better understand the proposed settlement and how it would affect them. What better way to mark the date than by announcing our plans to help foster discussion and analysis of the settlement?

New York Law School put out a press release today explaining how we’ll use the four-month delay. We’ve got three tricks up our sleeve. All three are about harnessing the power of public collaboration.

First, we’ll be launching a web site called the Public Index. The name is a bit of a pun. On the one hand, there’s the massive index of books that Google is assembling, the greatest and most important catalog ever assembled. The universal online library needs a good index, and needs it to be available on fair terms. On the other hand, the site itself is also a kind of index—an index to the important conversations taking place over the future of books and publishing.

The Public Index will be a one-stop shop for settlement news and commentary. We’ll have an archive of legal documents and significant analyses of the proposed settlement, a set of discussion forums, and—this is the fun part—a tool for paragraph-by-paragraph annotation of the settlement. We’re hoping to create a space where legal experts can share their knowledge and their detailed readings in a way that makes it easier for those interested in the settlement to know what it really means for them. We’ll help facilitate the conversations, directing attention to places where people have burning questions, cooling off overheated arguments, and suggesting topics for collaborative exploration.

Second, we’ll be taking our amicus brief and putting it online for public editing and discussion. In the run-up to May 5, we’d pulled together a fairly complete amicus brief. We could use the four-month delay to buff it up a few more times ourselves, but the improvements we could make to it pale in comparison to the ones you could make.

Thus, we’re open-sourcing the amicus brief. It will go live on the Public Index in a wiki version. Once there, please take it apart, fix its mistakes, add your own insights, and put it back together in exciting ways we could never have envisioned. At the end of the summer, we’ll collect all the ideas and revisions from the wiki, roll them back together into a single polished version, and file that.

It’s possible that during the summer, the brief will fork, as different groups of interested editors realize they have different perspectives that can’t all be crammed into one brief. So much the better! In addition to our own brief, we hope that the wiki helps other briefs germinate. The wider the range of views about the settlement are placed before the court, the better-informed its consideration of the issues will be.

Third, we’ll be hosting a conference on the issues raised by the proposed settlement. The rescheduled fairness hearing in the case will be on Wednesday, October 7. When you leave the Foley Square courthouse, just stroll across on Worth Street to New York Law School’s new classroom building to our conference on Thursday October 8 through Saturday, October 10. Thursday will be a tutorial day, with presentations walking through exactly how the settlement fits together and how it works. Then on Friday and Saturday, we’ll have an interdisciplinary academic conference on what the settlement means for society, copyright law, the publishing industry, and for the book itself. To bring everything full-circle, we’ll publish the papers written for the conference in a special symposium issue of the New York Law School Law Review.

We’re looking forward to seeing your comments on the settlement, edits to our brief, and questions at our conference. Keep watching this space for announcements, and, of course, feel free to email with any questions.


Sorry, I don’t remember. My bad.


Fascinating— I’ve never seen open-source briefing attempted before. I hope it works well…


Why must you do this during my honeymoon, James? Why? (‘Because the court scheduled it that way’ is not, IMHO, a valid argument ;)

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