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Taking the Google Book Search Settlement to Another Level

Academic angst about the Google Book Search settlement is well on its way to reaching a fever pitch, with fora and conference galore scheduled between now and the October hearing on confirmation of the deal.

But if the stakes for books and knowledge are greater than that, then ways need to be found to bring the debate to a broader audience.

Pam Samuelson is blogging. Well, not blogging precisely, but she has a column up at the Huffington Post that introduces the settlement and the stakes to the HuffPo world, which is a lot larger than the world of academic lawyers. She makes one point right off the top that I think is right (and not just because it echoes what I wrote when the settlement was announced):

Sorry, Kindle. The Google Book Search settlement will be, if approved, the most significant book industry development in the modern era.

And there is more to come.  The next column will talk about the Justice Department’s looking at the settlement, and what that portends. 

Here’s what I think that it portends.   The Justice Department will, in the end, facilitate a deal that gives other book scanning projects a release regarding orphan works that is comparable to what Google is getting via the settlement.  (A deal may do much more than that, but that is where I believe the deal will start.)  A host of technical and conceptual obstacles lie in the path of that deal, not the least of which is the fact that only Google is a defendant in the lawsuit that prompted the settlement, and the fact that a hearing on the settlement comes up in only a few weeks.  But that’s where I think this is going.  And in the annals of IT/antitrust setttlements, it will take its place as an industry- and communications technology- defining event, along with antitrust pursuits of IBM in the 1960s (which, in part, gave us the modern software industry), AT&T in the 1970s (which, in part, gave us the Internet), and Microsoft in the 1990s (which, in part, gave us open source software).

We’ll see what Pam S. has to say.