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Google’s Bet-the-Company Case

At Conglomerate this morning, I posted a long meditation on the Authors Guild’s lawsuit against Google. A sample:

Should Google fight the case? Absolutely. From a litigator’s and trial lawyer’s point of view, this is a case worth fighting. There’s lots of money at stake, and both sides have lots of money to spend on fees. It’s very high profile stuff! And it doesn’t (yet) have a clear storyline. Right now, it’s good guys (“do no evil”) v. good guys (hard-working, creative “authors”). Moreover, it isn’t very often when a fair use argument gets raised by a big-time, well-financed corporate entity. Usually fair use is the province of the little guy, who has to rely on the legal kindness of strangers. Sometimes the little guy wins; usually the little guy loses. That’s not healthy for fair use. One of the partners at my old firm used to say that sometimes, you have to fight the close ones. Otherwise, you never win the close ones.

Since Google Print is in many copyright-related ways indistinguishable from Google’s core search functionality, Eric Goldman points out in a Comment at Conglomerate and in a note on his own blog that this may be a bet-the-company case — and that Google should stand down. I agree with Eric’s premise, but disagree with the conclusion. Not only do I believe that Google should bring it, so to speak (maybe that’s the latent litigator in me), but I have this suspicion that the “do no evil” gang have been itching for a (copy)fight. If Google caves, I’ll be disappointed.

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