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Samuelson v. Sergei

Smackdown!  Pam Samuelson has a new op-ed up at the Huffington Post that disassembles Sergei Brin’s recent New York Times defense of Google Book Search as a 21st century “library.”

Here’s a link to the piece, which has the hallmarks of what WWE fans would call a “finishing move.”

It is remarkable that over the course of the last year, Google has managed to alienate not only lots of scholars and analysts on the economic right, who objected to the company’s undertaking to scan millions of books with asking for copyright owners’ permission in advance, but also lots of scholars and analysts on the economic left, who are predisposed to argue that new institutions that provide access to knowledge are — or should be — encouraged by law and public policy, but who now advance serious concerns about monopolization, stewardship, and end-user privacy. Sergei Brin’s piece in the Times — here’s a link — struck me as particularly tone-deaf on the issue of Google’s sitting in the catbird seat.

Not everyone is hostile; Google maintains a helpful site that lists friends of the Book Search deal.

But when I hear information policy vets talk about the need to break up Google — as I have over the last few weeks — then I know that something has changed.  Google isn’t the new, new thing any longer.  It’s not an innovation darling.  It’s a 21st century media conglomerate.

2 thoughts on “Samuelson v. Sergei”

  1. Well, they’re not going to get broken up. So that leaves us with only one other option….a federal search commission!

    But Mike, actually I think the pro-Google sentiment is pretty strong among innovation academics still. I still get really skeptical questions about even the most minimalist proposals regarding *monitoring* of them–not even regulation.

    That’s one reason I’m focusing some current research on fusion centers and government collaboration with internet intermediaries for surveillance purposes. “Big gubmint” is already in your search engine–now let’s try to get it to vindicate some basic consumer protections and other public values.

  2. Pam won for sure. Re Brin’s hubris, it seems to be bugging folks, but is it really so uncommon to find celebrity billionaires with perspective problems?

    If this had been a fair use fight, I’d be 100% on Google’s side — well, maybe 99%. And despite grumbling about their missteps, I’m still a big Google fan.

    It’s just that when your company gets to be so big and you’re the 800-pound gorilla in the digital economy, every misstep you make is going to crush those around you.

    At some point, the baton will be passed: IBM–>Microsoft–>Google.
    I don’t think we’re *quite* there yet.

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