GBS: The Public Hearing

Today, we sent Judge Chin a letter requesting that he make video of the fairness hearing available online. This case directly affects the rights of millions, the overwhelming majority of whom will be unable to be present at the hearing in person. In keeping with our principles of using technology to improve access to the legal system, we’ve asked the judge to bring them more fully into the process by making a recording of the hearing available. It’s much better that everyone can see for themselves what takes place at the hearing rather than needing to rely on the incomplete and possibly incorrect recollections of reporters and bloggers. Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Judge Chin:

We write to request that the Court make public a video recording of the October 7 fairness hearing in the Authors Guild Inc. v. Google Inc. case. Specifically, we ask the Court to use its existing video-conferencing capabilities to prepare and make available to the public a recording of the proceedings. Indeed, if an overflow room is required to accommodate those who wish to attend the hearing, the Court will already be using those same capabilities to provide a video stream to the overflow room. If the Court is concerned about the costs and technical burdens associated with distributing the video files to a potentially large number of viewers, the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School would be willing to assume that responsibility.

We believe that there is a compelling public interest in making the hearing videos available broadly and immediately. The substantial public interest in the case has already been demonstrated by the volume of filings the Court has received and the substantial media coverage of the lawsuit and settlement. The settlement class contains millions of members worldwide, the overwhelming majority of whom will be unable to attend the hearing, but whose rights will be directly affected by what happens there. Nor is the impact of the settlement limited to class members; it will directly affect the rights and options available to thousands of libraries and billions of readers. The Court’s physical facilities cannot possibly accommodate more than a tiny fraction of interested class members; transcription will impose substantial delays. Recording is the only feasible option for enabling immediate and meaningful access for those who are interested in the settlement but cannot afford the trip to New York or fit in the courtroom.

We also do not believe that the usual concerns justifying limiting public access apply in this case. Unlike, for example, criminal sentencing proceedings, this civil and commercial case will not require discussion in open court of any sensitive material, nor will participants in the hearing have personal privacy interests that require protection. Similarly, the class-action nature of the case means that far more people than usual have a direct interest in the proceedings, and thus are in no sense outsiders to the case. Moreover, the far-reaching nature of the proposed settlement makes this a topic of legitimate and substantial public concern. All these factors counsel making the hearing as broadly public as possible, as quickly as possible. Distribution of video recordings of the hearing is well tailored to meet this goal.

We thank the Court for its consideration of this request.

Respectfully yours,

James Grimmelmann
Associate Professor of Law
New York Law School

I applaud this initiative, and hope Judge Chin responds favourably.

Publicizing the Oct.7th hearing is more relevant and necessary than ever-Will you, i.e. NYLS call the court to see if there is any progress or positive response from the Court to this still very valid and appropriate request.