At times, it looks like Google
But not even Big G gets everything, all the time. This week, a federal judge slapped down the proposed settlement between Google's book-scanning project and the gaggle of publishers who oppose it, and this was a treaty that Google very much wanted to happen.
Google Books is a pet project of founder and freshly re-anointed CEO Larry Page, who dreamed up the idea of digitizing every book in the world. The project fits perfectly with Google's mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," particularly since Google claims that most books in the world are out of print and thus inaccessible. After seven years in the works, the company has scanned some 15 million books already. In short, there's a whole lot of passion and invested effort at play here, so Google isn't likely to roll over and play dead.
Judge Denny Chin took issue with the mastodon role Google plays in the settlement at hand. Rather than setting books free, the agreement would give Google "a de facto monopoly over unclaimed works." There are other concerns, but this one looks like the biggie.
So it's back to the lab again for Google and publisher guilds alike. They could redraft the settlement to meet Judge Chin's exacting standards, or drop the peace pipe and go back to full-on courtroom wars, or even drop the entire thing and go pester Congress about suitable law changes instead.
Whatever route is taken, Google might be happy if it could only scan all those orphaned and out-of-print books that you can't just pick up at your closest bookstore or neighborhood library. That material has close to zero revenue value to publishers and copyright-holding authors, so that should be doable. Our lawmakers have considered copyright revisions in recent years but stopped short because of this very legal case.
The economic value to Google of this quixotic quest seems limited, but then Big G isn't always supremely focused on the almighty dollar. Amazon.com
Should Google just give this crazy idea up already and focus on, I don't know, monetizing YouTube? Discuss in the comments below.
Don't forget to add Google to your Foolish watchlist, if you haven't already. It's always entertaining in Mountain View, and the stakes can be high.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection and a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Amazon.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.