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Google kicked a hornets nest in Book Settlement -- What the angry swarm tells us about Google's future

With the German Government just the latest angry hornet joining the growing swarm of opposition stinging the Google Book Settlement, how did Google's book digitization initiative go so wrong? 

If one listened to Google, their problem is two-fold:

  • First, it is just a bunch of Luddite ingrates who are too small-minded to grasp Google's magnanimity to humankind and world knowledge.  
  • Second, without competitors spreading misinformation, there would only be a world chorus of gratitude.

As I have asserted many times before in this blog, Google is its own worst enemy.

  • Google reflexively looks everywhere but inward when determining the origin of its external problems. 

So how did such an angry swarm of opposition engulf the Book Settlement making it increasingly unlikely to be approved by the Court?  

  • First, Google brazenly and openly copied several million copyrighted books from around the world without the permission of the creators/owners.
  • Second, Google's public going-in position was that digitizing books was the "right thing to do" because the world's right to access the books is implicitly more important than copyright owners right to control and profit from their use.
  • Third, Google established the legal position that it wasn't doing anything wrong, and that they would meet and beat anyone who disagreed in court, (implicitly backstopped by deeper legal pockets than any content consortium could hope to muster.)  
  • Fourth, Google used its market power to extract the current book settlement from only a fraction of the affected parties and then tried to force the majority remainder of affected parties to abide by a permanent, transformative, and limiting agreement that they had no say in negotiating.
  • Fifth, Google chose the venue and process that theoretically was most efficient for Google -- a class action settlement approved by the court that would conveniently bypass the need for national legislation in dozens of countries around the world and conveniently bypass the need for a global trade agreement to harmonize copyright treatment. 

Let's recap. So why are there so many angry hornets stinging the Google Book Settlement?       

  1. Google kicked more hornet nests than one can count.
  2. Google expected the hornets to not be upset.
  3. Google implicitly threatened the hornets they'd get kicked worse if they fought back in court.
  4. Google presumed that a deal with least angry hornets could be forced on the most angry hornets.
  5. And finally Google is trying to force the angry hornets into an anger-management "class" that the angry hornets know will only make them angrier.  

Now it is easier to understand why this angry swarm is so quickly expanding.

  • If one is the Judge overseeing potential approval of this proposed book settlement, does the Judge really want to sign up to become the shield defending Google from all the hornets that Google has angered? 

In closing, what does this book situation tell us about Google's future?

  • It tells us that Google's mission -- "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" -- is going to get increasingly more difficult, incendiary and protracted, because the Book Settlement experience shows us that there are lots of people around the world that:
    • Don't want Google to organize their information without their permission, and 
    • Want their information accessible on their terms, not the terms dictated by the self-appointed and increasingly dominant world organizer of information. 

Simply, Google's grand problem here is that their mission assumes everyone is on the same page as Mr. Page's PageRank, and if not, can be forced onto the same page -- by hook or by crook.