Yesterday, news broke of the rejection of the Google Books class action settlement. The opinion reads like a parental spanking of Google, and I am all the more happy for it. The basic point of the rejection? Google would get property rights which weren’t even part of the original claim(s) and which are the exclusive right of the IP owners to grant. In other words, it can’t be an Opt-Out system but might be able to be an Opt-In one. That makes sense. And the judge mentioned that, really, some of the issues in the case need to be decided through legislation, not the courts and certainly not through private, self-interested entities. Huzzah.
Bravo to all those who opposed the Books settlement, who wrote the court, and who fought for their rights. The judge in the actual opinion cited several of these “regular” people who asked for their rights to be preserved. Those folk, those regular people helped stop the anti-copright tide. We owe them all our gratitude.
This isn’t done yet, but it’s a good sign. I get the feeling that things are at least judicially swinging back in the pro-protection direction. Maybe even societally too.
One thing that lots of people haven’t understood is that Google was never interested in doing all this work (scanning, indexing, etc.) without knowing that in the end they would make money from it… and lots of it. The company is not some benevolent demi-deity who reaches out to benefit humanity. No, it’s a business, and a damn big one. It has a Board of Directors and stockholders to answer to. It’s a smart business, no question, but it is in business to do one thing and one thing only: make money. That’s not a bad thing–I’m not down on Google for that–but too many people seem to think making money is in second position to some other lofty goal for that company. Nope. Just like any (successful) business, making money is #1.
The books project is just another example of the company’s fantastic PR machine. People have bought into the idea that it was all about “sharing” information. Horse-hockey. Google doesn’t change a lightbulb without considering the fiscal implications of the act. By being the leader in the “all information should be free” movement, Google secures its financial future as the access point to that info.
Don’t forget, also, that Google is moving into media more and more each day. It wants content to be cheap so that it can provide it at a greater profit to itself. Whatever it can grab for free, it will, and not to benefit mankind but to make a buck.
I don’t fault the company for making money. I don’t fault it for being a huge corporation. And I don’t fault it for doing whatever it can (legally) to maximize its profits. I do fault those people who believe for a second that it does anything for any reason other than to make money.