Thursday 30 June 2011

Google settlements as a genre: an holistic approach and the hippo in the bath tub

"Online Distribution of Copyright Works: Judge Chin Rejects Google Books Settlement" is the title of an article just published in the CPI Antitrust Chronicle, 2 June 2011 (CPI stands for 'Competition Policy International,' by the way).  The authors, Isabel Davies (Consultant,Boyes Turner) and Holly Strube (a solicitor with the same firm), examine the rejected Amended Settlement Agreement which Google and its counterparts reached and conclude that
"The time has come to look afresh at copyright issues in particular, and IP issues in general, and agree on a structure to deal with these challenges on a holistic basis, perhaps by moving forward with multinational supplementary agreements. 
It is not suggested that multinational co-operation will be easily achieved but, in our view, this process must begin without delay. Certainly Google has served notice that it continues its interest in developing its business in this area and doesn’t intend to cease its activities ..."
I agree that a holistic approach is needed and feel that it should be able to encompass not merely the copyright and competition/antitrust issues but also, to the extent appropriate, the knock-on effect on hard copy and electronic publishing, the retail book sector, the information-supplying industries and -- perhaps most importantly in the long term -- the advertising sector.

To put it in terms of a metaphor, we should ask not just whether the hippopotamus will fit into the bath tub but what precisely happens to the water it displaces: whether the hippo fits or not is an entirely different issue from whether there's room in the tub for anyone else once the hippo's in it, whether there's any water left after the hippo gets out, who gets soaked or where the surplus water runs off to -- but all these effects need to be accounted for.  If the hippo's application to occupy the bath tub is judged solely by the criterion of whether it fits, these other issues remain troublesomely unaddressed.

No comments: