John Battelle has a long and thoughtful post about Google’s place in the world:
Google was born of, by, and in the web, as an extremely clever algorithm which noticed the relationships between links, and exploited those relationships to create a ranking system which brought order and relevance to the web. Google’s job was not to build the web, its job was to organize it and make it accessible to us. . . . But [with Google Print], Google itself is adding content to the web, and is itself surfacing the content based on keywords we enter. This is a new role – one of active creator, rather than passive indexer.
Battelle is mostly interested in the implications of this development for Google’s business model. I’m interested in what it means for information and innovation law. A first thought: It’s one more example, and a pretty important one, of the fading of the lines separating copyright law from communications law. Is Google Print an information conduit? A massive, rogue P2P technology? Is it a contributory infringer? A publisher? From whom, if anyone, does it need licenses, and who, if anyone, should regulate it, and how, if at all?