October 23, 2006

The legal strategy of that expansive, ambitious defendant, Google.

The NYT has a terrific article about Google's approach to the law. It expects and perhaps even wants to be sued, and it will fight for new rules of law that fit with the new reality it has already created.
[P]otential legal problems seem to give the company little pause before it plunges into new ventures.

“I think Google is wanting to push the boundaries,” said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University.

“The Internet ethos of the 90’s, the expansionist ethos, was, ‘Just do it, make it cool, make it great and we’ll cut the rough edges off later,’ ” Professor Zittrain said. “They’re really trying to preserve a culture that says, ‘Just do it, and consult with the lawyers as you go so you don’t do anything flagrantly ill-advised.’ ”...

Professor Zittrain of Oxford said Google’s corporate mantra — “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” — gives some insight into its approach.

“They actually see that as Promethean,” Mr. Zittrain said. “They think of it as bringing fire to humankind. And it may even cause them to be bolder than other companies.”...

“We’ve got a formidable legal team, but obviously it’s nowhere near the unlimited resources of Google,” said David A. Milman, the chief executive of Rescuecom, a nationwide computer repair company that sued Google on trademark infringement grounds similar to Geico’s — and quickly lost. The company said that it would appeal the decision.

“People say you can’t fight the government,” Mr. Milman said. “Google, in this case, is very similar to the government. They’re the government of the Internet.”

This will be very exciting. I wish Google well!


Slac said...

Isn't their some information that shouldn't be organized by Google and/or universally accessible? I don't just mean privacy issues. I mean, should these two go together? :/

Slac said...

Just want to make sure you guys know, I do know the difference between "there" and "their." Just sometimes my hands don't.

Zeb Quinn said...

The only problem with Google is that they themselves have a very dark side of their own when it comes to filtering and even censoring.

altoids1306 said...

I agree. Go Google! Google is a simply a consequence of technology - it just so happens that the company which put the relevant technologies together first was called Google.

Technology changes society, and Google is just driving that change more quickly. As consumers increasingly discover the relevant information themselves, there will be less need for real estate agents, car salesmen, and middlemen of all sorts. Information asymmetry has allowed experts to extract extravagant fees from unsuspecting clients, and that power has been reduced. Google is tipping over a lot of feed bowls, and they'll be sued left and right.

IMO, all these websites suing Google need to take a hike. Google giveth, Google taketh away. They should be happy that they get any traffic at all from Google. Who the hell are they to tell a company what to do with it's own product?

Dave said...

Too many lawyers I speak to about Google seem too caught up with the "that's what the law is" derogation of Google, as opposed to "Google is presenting intellectual property law with some very significant challenges which need to be resolved."

Too many lawyers seem too concerned with how "the law" works, as if it were an immutable object unsullied by the changing demands that society puts upon it. Too few seem interested in addressing the thornier question of "does the law work?"

(I am not a lawyer, by the way.)

George said...

Yes, let us hope that the founders of Google are chained to a cliff-side boulder, so that an eagle may peck out their livers every day, only to have the organ grows back the next day, so that the cycle may be repeated.

That'll give them something to think about!

Henry said...

This reminds me of the real estate machinations in colonial america as many states and landowners (George Washington for one) attempted to establish claim to Western lands outside of the original colonial grants.

In the early days of the republic, William Cooper founded Cooperstown, New York, and turned over a vast amount of real estate by buying up claims to disputed land and reselling them as fast as possible.

Eventually he overreached himself and ended up ruined and in disgrace but his tactics made him a rich man for most of his life.

HaloJonesFan said...

"Too many lawyers seem too concerned with how "the law" works, as if it were an immutable object unsullied by the changing demands that society puts upon it."

And too many technophiles assume that anything new requires everything new; assuming that existing concepts of property rights somehow don't apply because we have computers now. They've gotten used to casually violating the law and are now arguing that de facto should be de jure.

Which kind of makes sense; nobody wants to admit that they did something criminal because they were lazy or ignorant. But there's a difference between that, and saying "oh well it was actually okay because what I did shouldn't have been wrong."

As for Google: It's the Scopes Monkey Trial all over again. They're trying to force the issue to establish a precedent, rather than dancing around the issue.

Cedarford said...

Information access to all can be good, bad, neutral - depending on what is presented to be at a person's fingertips for retrieval.

And it does matter for various nations laws and security to be able to screen out or trace back...what is the "bad".

Count me out if the libertarian dream of "total Internet Freedom" means dissemination entirely anonymously of an anthrax recipe book - how to grow, purify, weaponize, and disburse the deadly spores for under a 20,000 investment. Or the ability of Jihadis to run virtual cells devoted to recruiting then running terror ops without an ability of law enforcement to go back and track down the culprits..

And Atlantic Magazine ran a good article several months back [sorry I don't have time to look for it and link] about what is being censored, and Google's role in censoring it in places like China and KSA.

The #1 content being censored is porn. Not just child porn, any porn, in countries where it is not allowed by law.

Next come gambling sites.

Then political sites where reactionary, Nazi, counter-revolutionary, defamatory Internet content is not allowed. China leads by far in the extent of censorship imposed. The China-Google "deal" has been subject to considerable discussion. And the Chinese are pressed not so much on the abstract of "freedom of the press" which is fairly insular to the Anglosphere anyways, but International Conventions on Human Rights and norms that are intended to allow samdazit (underground dissidence) some voice.

An interesting topic.

I agree that Google is ready to wage some legal fights along with cronies like Cisco. For instance -To balance their groveling and willingness to go along with the Chicom Politburo to get the China market nailed, among other reasons. Even *hint* Google losing a global case that says international law requires China internet access to be more open and Google and China must end filtering "legitimate dissent". That would breal Google's heart to tell the Chicoms they and all other providers are blocked legally unless China relaxes it's undue restraints..

dave said...

This will be very exciting. I wish Google well!

Suck that corporate cock, baby! Suck it!!!

Or to paraphrase Kent Brockman, "I, for one, welcome my Google overlords!"

The Drill SGT said...

dave is ahead of Feder today in their never ending race to the bottom of the cess pool.

Elizabeth said...

Jesus, Dave. Grow up, willya?

Ann Althouse said...

I support Google because (and to the extent) that it's on the side of free expression. Google is Blogger and YouTube! I'm on that side. I want the law to unlock and adapt to the new technology, not because I want those people to make money, but because I like what they do.

Harkonnendog said...

“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible”

That's only the 1st part of the mantra. The second part is:

unless you live in China. In that case our mantra is 'To inform the Chinese government when Chinese nationals produce or access information the Chinese government doesn't want them to produce or access.'"

And it is a mistake to equate a company without the ability to use coercion to a government. What does Google do if somebody violates their rights? They go to the government.

Richard Fagin said...

Google structured its public stock offering to insulate the selling shareholders/mangement from the market. A pox on 'em! I'll invest elsewere, and the rest of the world is perfectly free to blow off this advice and buy their stock. Oh yeah, the New York Times has a similarly structured class of publicly traded stock.

Fatmouse said...

Well come on then, Google Developers, post the entire source code for your search engine!

No? Why, would that hurt your business if everyone knew exactly how it worked and could game it into oblivion?

Guess some information doesn't want to be free, and you guys get to define that.

Revenant said...

Suck that corporate cock, baby! Suck it!!!

It worries me a little that the only people I've actually met who act like dave are the crazy homeless guys around where I work -- who are, like dave, also prone to follow a woman around, yelling obscene insults about her every action. I forget if there's a specific name for that kind of mental illness or not.

jaed said...

Ann, it's your blog, but is there some reason why dave is still welcome to comment here? I'm not familiar with any actual contribution he's made, and reading around his posts is like stepping around little poodle-bombs left in the grass.

Anonymous said...

I assume that if you want to embrace freedom of expression you have to do it whole. Since dave is not defamatory why would he be banned?

What Google is doing about her source code is not double standard. I think there is something about releasing work and retain copyright (i.e. selective release), to not releasing something.

Comparing it to GNU Public License. (I hope I am understanding it correctly) It does not force you into releasing any work to public, but if you release it to anyone you cannot control how that person distributes your work.

Delonix Radar said...

Hey Zeb, can you expand? I've heard so many different opinions on that from both sides of the fence.


paul a'barge said...

"I wish Google well."

I hope they choke on a chicken bone.