Google Book Search the new MP3.com?

by on January 30, 2007 · 8 comments

The New Yorker has a dispatch from Jefferey Toobin updating us on the Google Book Search case. It’s a good primer if you haven’t been following this issue, and also fills in some details if you have. Interesting tidbits include the fact that they haven’t started witness depositions yet, and the parties won’t be able to make motions for summary judgment for another year. More interesting is the fact that both Google and the plaintiffs (authors and publishers) are sure this will settle out of court.

“The suits that have been filed are a business negotiation that happens to be going on in the courts,” [Google's] Marissa Mayer told me. “We think of it as a business negotiation that has a large legal-system component to it.” According to Pat Schroeder, the former congresswoman, who is the president of the Association of American Publishers, “This is basically a business deal. Let’s find a way to work this out. It can be done. Google can license these rights, go to the rights holder of these books, and make a deal.”

Lawrence Lessig points out that while a settlement would be good for both parties, it could create a practical precedent that if one wanted to start a book-scanning project, one had to license the books–a lot like the precedent set by the MP3.com case that was ultimately settled out of court.

Another interesting bit about the technology itself is how Google plans to rely on linking from the wider web to give the information in books the context its search algorithms need to produce good results:

“Web sites are part of a network, and that’s a significant part of how we rank sites in our search—how much other sites refer to the others.” But, he added, “Books are not part of a network. There is a huge research challenge, to understand the relationship between books. … We just started, and we need to make these books networked, and we need people to help us do that,” [Google's Dan] Clancy said.

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