My presentation will trace the historical development of the author-centred copyright system, which has recently faced tremendous challenges from the fast-growing digital humanities (DH) community. It will unravel the significance of two recent rulings in Authors Guild v Google and Authors Guild v HathiTrust Digital Library, which are arguably the most important cases concerning the legality of the mass digitisation of scholarly materials for digital humanists. I argue that DH has provided a good opportunity to reimagine a new copyright system that could be more capacious to incorporate digital humanistic values. These values are essential to what I call a "Digital Relational Contract," which borrows insights from Relational Contract Theory as first developed by scholars such as Ian Macneil and Stewart Macauley in the 1960s.

The presentation will be assisted with a quick demonstration of two tailor-made bibliographical datasets containing all IP journal articles (courtesy of the British Library metadata service) in the past 10 years (1994-2013) displayed by a Linux-based Raspberry Pi computer.


Suggested documents for discussion:


  • CW Zhu, "Copyleft" Reconsidered: Why Software Licensing Jurisprudence Needs Insights from Relational Contract Theory (2013) 22(3) Social and Legal Studies pp.289-308 <>