Industry Notes: A Digital Charles Clark Memorial Lecture: September 29

In News by Porter Anderson

Artificial intelligence and copyright, legal consideration and ethics, are in play in a dual-speaker Charles Clark Lecture this year.

At the Charles Clark Memorial Lecture 2018, London Book Fair, Olympia London. Image: Publishers Association

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘The Cloud of Uncertainty’
The last time you thought about the Charles Clark Memorial Lecture may have been as you made your way to London Book Fair and noted that Vanderbilt Law School’s Daniel Gervais was the speaker. That was 2019.

There’s a new Charles Clark Memorial Lecture scheduled now, for September 29 at 3 p.m. CEST /  2 p.m. BST / 1300 GMT / 9 a.m. ET. It’s to be delivered digitally instead of at Olympia London, in the autumn instead of spring. London Book Fair is set for its next iteration April 5 to 7.

The core value here is what you’ll remember: This lecture annually honors the memory of the British publisher and attorney Charles Clark (1933-2006), who was an authority on copyright. The organizations hosting it:

  • The International Publishers Association
  • The Publishers Association
  • Copyright Licensing Agency
  • The Federation of European Publishers
  • The Publishers Licensing Society
  • London Book Fair

The topic this time is artificial intelligence, AI, and what influences and impact it may have on copyright and industries that depend on copyright.

There are two speakers, rather than one.

Judge Kathleen O’Malley

Addressing AI in the legal sphere is Judge Kathleen McDonald O’Malley, a 1994 Bill Clinton appointee to the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Barack Obama nominated her to be elevated to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 2010. In May 2014, O’Malley decided Oracle v. Google, which tested the copyright protection of the Java API.

Judge Kathleen O’Malley

Her decision held that Google’s use of the API in its Android system wasn’t fair use.

It was announced in July that Judge O’Malley will retire March 11. This will give the US president, Joe Biden, a chance to appoint a second judge to a court that had no openings during the single-term administration of Donald Trump.

In her July 28 article on the announcement of O’Malley’s coming retirement, Perry Cooper at Bloomberg Law wrote, “Jason Lichtman, partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP in New York, who clerked for O’Malley while she was on the district court, said he’s excited to find out what comes next for her. But, he said, ‘This is an incredible loss to the bench: there are other brilliant jurists and there are other pragmatic jurists, but Judge O’Malley is one of the few who is both.'”

Tom Chatfield

Looking at AI from considerations of ethics, the second speaker on the bill for September 29 is author Tom Chatfield, whose work has included a non-executive directorship at the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and the Copyright Licensing Agency. Much of his work involves digital technology and how it affects policy, education, and engagement. That, of course, leads him to critical thinking—and/or the lack of it.

Tom Chatfield

Where it takes him on the topic of AI could prove controversial.

“There’s No Such Thing as ‘Ethical AI” is the title of an essay he produced on the issue for One Zero. In it, Chatfield wrote in January 2020, “When it comes to the ways in which AI codes of ethics are discussed, a troubling tendency is at work even as the world wakes up to the field’s significance. This is the belief that AI codes are recipes for automating ethics itself; and that once a broad consensus around such codes has been achieved, the problem of determining an ethically positive future direction for computer code will have begun to be solved.”

Chatfield looks at five principles that may be embedded in a concept of ethics in the field: transparency, justice, fairness, nonmaleficence, responsibility, and privacy.

And what he points out is that in the field, “Ethical codes are much less like computer code than their creators might wish. They are not so much sets of instructions as aspirations, couched in terms that beg more questions than they answer.”

One of Chatfield’s most recent books from SAGE Publications (June) is How To Think: Your Essential Guide to Clear, Critical Thought. The book includes chapters on:

  • “Working With Words: Close Reading and Clear Writing”
  • “Giving Good Reasons: The Importance of Arguing Your Case”
  • “Seeking Good Explanations: Investigating the Reasons Behind Things”
  • “Creative and Collaborative Thinking: Finding a Process That Works”
  • “Thinking About Numbers: How Not To Lie With Statistics”

Such points lead him in the book to point to how we think about AI now, and how we may think of it later, in the future.

“Human understanding,” he writes, “is always both provisional and belated. Many things that appear obvious in retrospect were anything but obvious at the time because the clarity we experience when looking back in time is utterly unlike the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds day-to-day existence.”

Registration is open for the Charles Clark Memorial Lecture.

In St. Petersburg, 2017. Image – Getty iStockphoto: GermanS62

More from Publishing Perspectives on London Book Fair is here, more on artificial intelligence is here, and more on copyright is here.

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More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.