For his New York column, John keys off the AAP lawsuit:
The signs are everywhere. In France, Jacques Chirac has ordered his minions to gin up a French and German search engine—on the grounds that Google is (wait for it) a tool of U.S. cultural imperialism. In Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart board members admit to keeping a wary eye on Google—whose capacity to alert shoppers to better bargains elsewhere is seen as a burgeoning threat. Even out in Silicon Valley, reproachful accusations are hurled that the once-beloved leader of the Internet resurgence has taken on a dark Microsoftian cast.
He quotes AAP Pat Schroeder:
“Alan Murray wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal that called Google’s business model a new kind of feudalism: The peasants produce the content; Google makes the profits,” she informs me, then ladles on an extra helping of ominous foreboding. “Do we really want one corporation controlling all the content in the world?”
Then explains how the case turns on interpretation of fair use:
Who’s right? Impossible to say. By all accounts, the law of fair use is mind-bendingly complex: “There are parts of it that I don’t understand, and I’ve been studying it for years,” says Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford intellectual-property guru. Like virtually everyone involved in the dispute—he’s a vocal Google backer—Lessig allows that there are precedents that point in each direction. But he also acknowledges that the legal issues are in some respects peripheral, for the battle is actually being fueled by factors at once more venal and more visceral.
And then gets into the real business at hand:
If Google were to stick to its pledges about how it would employ the megadatabase of books that it’s constructing, the book business would likely benefit. But publishers don’t believe that Google can be relied on to keep its word. They fear that the company, which has made a mint off a technology, the Internet, that publishers still only vaguely comprehend, will someday abandon its putative adherence to just-the-snippets fair use and screw the publishers with their pants on.
As usual, a fun and worthwhile read.