Friday, November 24, 2006

Google Law...err...Google and...err...Laws

There is this post on the Google Blog that talks about giving more control to news organizations. The poster, Mr. Nathan Stoll, says that "they want greater control and visibility into the process by which their content gets included in Google News." We should acknowledge the fact that Mr. Stoll does an excellent job of avoiding the pitfall of ending such a sentence with a preposition. Yay for someone who follows the rules of grammar in this day and age when we don't even teach grammar anymore. But I digress.

It was interesting to read this post only to find an article in the Chicago Tribune about Google settling its copyright dispute with Belgium media groups. How curious Google is settling a case on one side of the world while proclaiming, on the other side of the world, to give the ability to control content served up on Google News. And if the robots.txt file is the simple solution, why does information that Google crawlers are not supposed to search, per the robots.txt file, appear in search results? An error in the robots.txt file? Or do Google crawlers just crawl everywhere first and later sift out the information it isn't supposed to find? After all, it does take more than five minutes for something to drop out of search listings, right?

And then there is this whole settling business. The Google way seems to be not to go to court. Google settles. One could argue that Google pushes the boundaries until it gets a slap on the wrist and then pays the punisher a handsome sum to stop. Sounds a little bit like a bribe, doesn't it? A backhanded way of striking a deal, as it were. And deals will be struck, especially with the acquisition of YouTube. YouTube was wise to start some before it got acquired, but it probably won't be enough. Many believe lawsuits will come out of the woodwork now that YouTube has the deep pockets of Google, and Google seems quite weary of that fact as well.

So what does all this settling do, really, in the end? Cases don't go to court. Law isn't set, except the law of how much Google is willing to pay and how often. At some point the law of averages needs to kick in, and it will be a drain on Google resources to keep fighting legal battles on so many fronts. Google News. Google Books. Google Book Search. Google Video.

And how will a Democratic Congress impact Google and the Internet industry. Will a Democratic Congress put Net Neutrality back on the table?

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