Tag Archives: author talk

Book Talk: Attack from Within by Barbara McQuade

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.

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“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.

ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS

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.

CHARLTON McILWAIN
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
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Book Talk: Big Fiction

“Sinykin’s Big Fiction is a book of major ambition and many satisfactions. Come for the comprehensive reframing of a key phase in U.S. literary history, stay for the parade of interesting people, the fascinating backstories of bestsellers, the electrically entertaining prose. The story of literary publishing in the postwar period has never been told with such verve.” – Mark McGurl, author of Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon

Book Talk: Big Fiction
Thursday, May 9 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
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In the late 1950s, Random House editor Jason Epstein would talk jazz with Ralph Ellison or chat with Andy Warhol while pouring drinks in his office. By the 1970s, editors were poring over profit-and-loss statements. The electronics company RCA bought Random House in 1965, and then other large corporations purchased other formerly independent publishers. As multinational conglomerates consolidated the industry, the business of literature—and literature itself—transformed.

Dan Sinykin explores how changes in the publishing industry have affected fiction, literary form, and what it means to be an author. Giving an inside look at the industry’s daily routines, personal dramas, and institutional crises, he reveals how conglomeration has shaped what kinds of books and writers are published. Sinykin examines four different sectors of the publishing industry: mass-market books by brand-name authors like Danielle Steel; trade publishers that encouraged genre elements in literary fiction; nonprofits such as Graywolf that aspired to protect literature from market pressures; and the distinctive niche of employee-owned W. W. Norton. He emphasizes how women and people of color navigated shifts in publishing, arguing that writers such as Toni Morrison allegorized their experiences in their fiction.

Big Fiction features dazzling readings of a vast range of novelists—including E. L. Doctorow, Judith Krantz, Renata Adler, Stephen King, Joan Didion, Cormac McCarthy, Chuck Palahniuk, Patrick O’Brian, and Walter Mosley—as well as vivid portraits of industry figures. Written in gripping and lively prose, this deeply original book recasts the past six decades of American fiction.

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ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS

DAN SINYKIN is 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.

TED UNDERWOOD is a professor in the School of Information Sciences and also holds an appointment with the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. After writing two books that describe eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature using familiar critical methods, he turned to new opportunities created by large digital libraries, using machine learning to explore patterns of literary change that become visible across centuries and thousands of books. His most recent project moves in the opposite direction, using theories of historical interpretation to guide the development of large language models.

He has authored three books about literary history, Distant Horizons (The University of Chicago Press Books, 2019), Why Literary Periods Mattered: Historical Contrast and the Prestige of English Studies (Stanford University Press, 2013), and The Work of the Sun: Literature, Science and Political Economy 1760-1860 (New York: Palgrave, 2005).

Book Talk: Big Fiction
Thursday, May 9 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
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Book Talk: Unlocking the Digital Age

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.

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“[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.”
– Dean Fred Bronstein, THE PEABODY INSTITUTE OF THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

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.

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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.

Book Talk: UNLOCKING THE DIGITAL AGE
April 3 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
VIRTUAL
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Book Talk: REPLAY by Jordan Mechner

From Prince of Persia to Replay: A video game creator’s family odyssey

Jordan Mechner (creator of “Prince of Persia”) shares his story as a pioneer in the fast-growing video game industry from the 1980s to today, and how his family’s back story as refugees from war-torn Europe led to his own multifaceted 4-decade creative career. Interweaving of past and present, family transmission, exile and renewal are at the heart of his award-winning graphic novel “Replay: Memoir of an Uprooted Family.”

For general audiences, including anyone interested in video game development, graphic novels, transmedia, or multigenerational family stories.

Book Talk: REPLAY
March 27 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
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About REPLAY

1914. A teenage romantic heads to the enlistment ofice when his idyllic life in a Jewish enclave of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is shattered by World War I.

1938. A seven-year-old refugee begins a desperate odyssey through France, struggling to outrun the rapidly expanding Nazi regime and reunite with his family on the other side of the Atlantic.

2015. e creator of a world-famous video game franchise weighs the costs of uprooting his family and moving to France as the cracks in his marriage begin to grow.

Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner calls on the voices of his father and grandfather to weave a powerful story about the enduring challenge of holding a family together in the face of an ever-changing world.

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JORDAN MECHNER is an author, graphic novelist, game designer, and screenwriter. He created the video game Prince of Persia in 1989, rebooted it with Ubisot in 2003, and wrote the first screenplay for Disney’s 2010 film adaptation, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. His other games include Karateka and The Last Express. In 2017, he received the Pioneer Award from the International Game Developers Association. Jordan’s graphic novels as writer include the New York Times bestseller Templar (from First Second, with LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland), Monte Cristo (Mario Alberti), and Liberty (Etienne LeRoux). Replay is his first book as writer/artist.

Book Talk: REPLAY
March 27 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
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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.

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ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS

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
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Virtual Book Talk: The Apple II Age

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND!

Last month, we hosted Laine Nooney and Finn Brunton for an in-person discussion at the Internet Archive. We had considerable interest from people who couldn’t make it to the discussion, so we’re pleased to host the conversation again, this time virtually, so that anyone can join in!

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Join us for an engrossing origin story of the personal computer—showing how the Apple II’s software helped a machine transcend from hobbyists’ plaything to essential home appliance. Author LAINE NOONEY will read a selection from their new book, then discuss the importance of the Apple II with historian FINN BRUNTON.

If you want to understand how Apple Inc. became an industry behemoth, look no further than the 1977 Apple II. It was a versatile piece of hardware, but its most compelling story isn’t found in the feat of its engineering, the personalities of Apple’s founders, or the way it set the stage for the company’s multibillion-dollar future. Instead, historian Laine Nooney shows, what made the Apple II iconic was its software. The story of personal computing in the United States is not about the evolution of hackers—it’s about the rise of everyday users.

Recounting a constellation of software creation stories, Nooney offers a new understanding of how the hobbyists’ microcomputers of the 1970s became the personal computer we know today. From iconic software products like VisiCalc and The Print Shop to historic games like Mystery House and Snooper Troops to long-forgotten disk-cracking utilities, The Apple II Age offers an unprecedented look at the people, the industry, and the money that built the microcomputing milieu—and why so much of it converged around the pioneering Apple II.

About our speakers:

Laine Nooney is assistant professor of media and information industries at New York University. Their research has been featured by outlets such as The Atlantic, Motherboard, and NPR. They live in New York City, where their hobbies include motorcycles, tugboats, and Texas hold ’em.

Finn Brunton (finnb.net) is a professor at UC Davis with appointments in Science and Technology Studies and Cinema and Digital Media. He is the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the InternetDigital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Technologists, and Utopians Who Created Cryptocurrency, and the co-author of Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest.

Book Talk: The Apple II Age
July 13th @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Register now for the virtual discussion!

LECTURE: The Publisher Playbook, May 25

Join Kyle K. Courtney & Juliya Ziskina of Library Futures for a review of how publisher interests have attempted to hinder the library mission.

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FROM THE ABSTRACT: Libraries have continuously evolved their ability to provide access to collections in innovative ways. Many of these advancements in access, however, were not achieved without overcoming serious resistance and obstruction from the rightsholder and publishing industry. The struggle to maintain the library’s access-based mission and serve the public interest began as early as the late 1800s and continues through today. We call these tactics the “publishers’ playbook.” Libraries and their readers have routinely engaged in lengthy battles to defend the ability for libraries to fulfill their mission and serve the public good. The following is a brief review of the times and methods that publishers and rightsholder interests have attempted to hinder the library mission. This pattern of conduct, as reflected in ongoing controlled digital lending litigation, is not unexpected and belies a historical playbook on the part of publishers and rightsholders to maximize their own profits and control over the public’s informational needs. Thankfully, as outlined in this paper, Congress and the courts have historically upheld libraries’ attempts to expand access to information for the public’s benefit.

Read the full article, “The Publisher Playbook: A Brief History of the Publishing Industry’s Obstruction of the Library Mission.”

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

KYLE K. COURTNEY is a lawyer and librarian dedicated to issues surrounding copyright, access, and preservation. He serves as Copyright Advisor and Program Manager at the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication. His “Copyright First Responders” initiative is in its seventh year, spreading from Harvard to libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and soon, internationally. He is the co-author of the White Paper on Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books (with David Hansen). He serves as an Advisor to ALI, helping to draft the first Restatement of Copyright. He co-founded Fair Use Week, now an international celebration sponsored annually by over 100+ universities, libraries, and other institutions, and won a Knight Foundation Grant to test technology for crowdsourcing copyright and fair use decisions. He also currently maintains a dual appointment at Northeastern University: teaching “Cyberlaw: Privacy, Ethics, and Digital Rights” for the interdisciplinary Information Assurance and Cybersecurity program at the Khoury College of Computer Science and teaching both “Legal Research and Writing for LLM’s” and the “Advanced Legal Writing Workshop” at the Northeastern University School of Law. He holds a J.D. with distinction in Intellectual Property Law and an MSLIS. He is a published author and nationally recognized speaker on the topic of copyright, technology, libraries, and the law. His blog is at http://kylecourtney.com and he can be found on Twitter @KyleKCourtney.

JULIYA ZISKINA is an attorney, artist, photographer, and open access advocate based out of Brooklyn, New York. A forever curious jack-of-all-trades, she believes strongly in a vibrant, collaborative global commons. She completed her JD at the University of Washington in Seattle and served as a graduate student representative on the Faculty Council on University Libraries. As a law student, Juliya co-founded an initiative for an institutional open access policy at the University of Washington, which was successful as of June 2018. Previously, she advocated for the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) in Washington, DC with the Student Advocates for Graduate Education, representing over 150,000 graduate students. In 2015, she attended OpenCon in Brussels, Belgium, where she co-led a workshop on grassroots mobilization. Later that year, she presented on a panel at the American Libraries Association Annual Conference on advancing open access through library partnerships with students and early career researchers. A lifelong grassroots rabble-rouser, she started her career by co-founding an underground student newspaper at her high school that was acclaimed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Student Press Law Center. Juliya’s work has strengthened her belief in the importance of the free flow of information and the human side of the law.

LECTURE: THE PUBLISHER PLAYBOOK
Thursday, May 25 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Watch the session recording

Book Talk: The Apple II Age

Join author Laine Nooney for an IN-PERSON reading from their new book, followed by a conversation with historian Finn Brunton.

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“The Apple II Age is a joy to read and an extraordinary achievement in computer history. A rigorous thinker and a bright and witty writer, Nooney offers a compelling account of the initial attempts to make computers inviting to the public. The Apple II Age, like the old microcomputer itself, is bound to intrigue both experts and newcomers to the subject.” ―JOANNE MCNEIL, author of ‘Lurking: How a Person Became a User’

Join us for an engrossing origin story for the personal computer—showing how the Apple II’s software helped a machine transcend from hobbyists’ plaything to essential home appliance.

6:00 PM — Reception
6:30 PM — Book Talk: The Apple II Age
7:30 PM — Book Signing 

Please note that this event will be held in person at the Internet Archive.

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If you want to understand how Apple Inc. became an industry behemoth, look no further than the 1977 Apple II. It was a versatile piece of hardware, but its most compelling story isn’t found in the feat of its engineering, the personalities of Apple’s founders, or the way it set the stage for the company’s multibillion-dollar future. Instead, historian Laine Nooney shows, what made the Apple II iconic was its software. The story of personal computing in the United States is not about the evolution of hackers—it’s about the rise of everyday users.

Recounting a constellation of software creation stories, Nooney offers a new understanding of how the hobbyists’ microcomputers of the 1970s became the personal computer we know today. From iconic software products like VisiCalc and The Print Shop to historic games like Mystery House and Snooper Troops to long-forgotten disk-cracking utilities, The Apple II Age offers an unprecedented look at the people, the industry, and the money that built the microcomputing milieu—and why so much of it converged around the pioneering Apple II.

Laine Nooney is assistant professor of media and information industries at New York University. Their research has been featured by outlets such as The Atlantic, Motherboard, and NPR. They live in New York City, where their hobbies include motorcycles, tugboats, and Texas hold ’em.

Book Talk: The Apple II Age
May 11 @ 6pm
IN-PERSON @ 300 Funston Ave., San Francisco
Register now for the free, in-person event

Book Talk: Against Progress

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

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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.

BOOK TALK: AGAINST PROGRESS
May 9 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Watch session recording

Law Professor Makes Digital Copyright Book Open for All

After spending years researching the history of U.S. copyright law, Jessica Litman says she wants to make it easy for others to find her work.

Digital Copyright is available to read now.

The law professor’s book, Digital Copyright, first published in 2001 by Prometheus Books, is available free online (read now). After it went out of print in 2015, University of Michigan Press agreed to publish an open access edition of the book. Litman updated all the footnotes (some of which were broken links to web pages only available through preservation on Internet Archive) and made the updated book available under a CC-BY-ND license in 2017.

“I wanted the book to continue to be useful,” Litman said. “Free copies on the web make it easy to read.”

Geared for a general audience, the book chronicles how copyright laws were drafted, written, lobbied and enacted in Congress over time. Litman researched the legislative history of copyright law, including development of the 1976 Copyright Act, and spent two years in Washington, D.C., observing Congress leading up to the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998.

“Copyright is very complicated. It can take years to agree on the text,” Litman said. “The laws that result from that process are predictable in disadvantaging the public interest because readers, listeners and viewers don’t sit at the bargaining table — or the people who create new technology because they don’t exist yet.”

Indeed, it’s in the interest of people crafting laws to erect entry barriers to anything new, Litman adds.

Reclaiming Rights

Initial response to her book was positive, said Litman, the John F. Nickoll Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. In 2006, she added an afterward with the release of a paperback edition of the book. As sales dwindled, the book went out of print. Still, Litman said there was demand and she wanted to make it broadly available to the public.

Taking advantage of the book contract’s termination clause, she wrote to the publisher to recapture rights to the book. Litman said she persuaded the University of Michigan Press to publish a revised online and print-on-demand edition with a new postscript under a Creative Commons CC-BY-ND license.

Many authors are not aware of this option and the nonprofit Authors Alliance, of which Litman was a founding member, helps provide resources to assist authors in the process of regaining their copyright. 

Typically, publishers require authors to sign contracts giving up their copyright so the company can publish, distribute and make a return on the investment of the book. One of the challenges over time, explains Dave Hansen, Executive Director of the Alliance, is that a publisher may stop printing a book when sales drop below a certain threshold. Yet, there may be potential readers that the author still wants to reach, if he or she could reclaim the copyright.

The Alliances offers free guides on Understanding Rights Reversion and Termination of Transfer.

Once the author has the rights back, there are low- or no-cost options to make it freely available. A copy can be donated to a collection at a library, such as the Internet Archive, for scanning and posting. Additionally, academic libraries are increasingly offering open access publishing services to reformat and post works online. 

The Promise of Open

Today, Digital Copyright is being downloaded hundreds of times every month. Free copies of the book had been available on the web from the mid-2000, in a variety of open access archives including  Michigan’s Deep Blue Repository. The book is also available for hard copy purchase from  online booksellers as a print-on-demand book through University of Michigan Press’s Maize Books series.

Litman is among a growing number of academics who advocate for more open sharing of their research. On the University of Michigan Senate task force, Litman helped revise the university’s copyright policy to give the institution the right to archive all faculty scholarly work as a condition of transferring the copyright in the work to the faculty member who creates it. She also worked with the law school library to help its law journals rewrite their standard form contracts to allow open access publication.  

Her advice to fellow authors: “Behave as if the law were more sensible than it is. Live in the world as you would like it to be, in hopes that the world will come around.”

Litman is an adviser for the American Law Institute’s Restatement of Copyright, a past trustee of the Copyright Society of the USA, a past chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Intellectual Property,  and past member of the Future of Music Coalition’s advisory council.

She will discuss her open access publishing experience and her take on copyright law with Brewster Kahle at a free online book talk April 20. Register here