Digital Directions: The Google Settlement
The overarching value of Google’s technology and its information services is in their ability to scale. Google successfully has presented a framework for content to move into digital channels at massive scale.
The MO of the ‘Big G’
Why, then, the Sturm und Drang? Perhaps the outrage from publishers stems not just from Google’s programs and actions, but from the style with which these actions are executed.
In 2006, Google’s practice of copying the contents of Web sites it indexed onto Google’s servers and directly delivering this content via Google’s “cache” was contested in an oft-cited U.S. District Court case, Field v. Google. Google’s defense maintained that it had the right to cache Web site contents, and further, attorney and author Blake Field had the option to opt out of having his content cached in this way.
The court ruled in Google’s favor on a number of points of law. Among them: Since the delivery mechanism of the Web requires content to be cached or copied in some way from server to browser, content placed on the Web carries an implied license to be copied. Also, the court held that Google’s caching of content to support search represented fair use. There are similarities of Google’s modus operandi in the AAP and Field cases. This MO consists of a presumption to rights of access to information without prior license and the use of an opt-out mechanism, which places the onus of enforcement on the rights holder.
Google: Media Company
Google’s impact on our culture and daily lives almost makes it defy classification. The mission statement “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” is pretty broad, so that doesn’t help completely. However, the wake of the AAP settlement does help: Google is a media company, if not, indeed, a publishing company.