Survivor: Google Edition
In what has become almost frighteningly routine, the three parties to the disgraced and rejected Google Book Settlement were in court again today to update Judge Chin on the status of their case. The news coverage is focusing on a few interesting developments – “progress” between Google and the publishers, a seeming lack of progress between Google and the Authors Guild, and a schedule for a trial on the original litigation (which some observers doubt will ever occur).
Back in March, when Judge Chin sided with the U.S. Department of Justice and rejected the proposed settlement, there was an inclination to believe that Google’s audacious attempt to unilaterally rewrite public policy had been defeated.
But as this process unfolds, it becomes more like Survivor: Google Edition – outwit, outlast, outplay. Emphasis on outlast. Google continues to scan thousands of books per month – at least 15 million unauthorized scans so far. Google continues to exclusively crawl and index these scans – for untold benefit to its dominant search engine. Google continues to wield its nearly unlimited resources to exploit a deliberative legal process so that their efforts can continue. A deal with the publishers would give Google every incentive to continue an expensive litigation track with an Authors Guild ill-equipped to take on a company that makes $2 billion per quarter in the courtroom.
It’s kind of like those Survivor seasons where one of the tribes has a well-outfitted camp with plenty of food, water and shelter while the other is left uncovered in a desert. Except that the tribe in question is inhabiting the super camp illegally.
Even so, with the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General investigating every aspect of their business practices and the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee holding a hearing next week into their market power, there is hope for a fair resolution to these issues.
No offense to the producers or fans of Survivor.