Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Google and the Very Long Tail

Henri is never short on opinions!  Now, the Google settlement has given him a lot to think about.  Here's his take:  if you agree or disagree be sure to let him know.  He loves a good discussion!

Of all of the services that Google has done for mankind in the name of profit and good business practices this one may be the most important yet. I am talking about the recent settlement of its lawsuit related to putting a lot of copyrighted material online without first seeking rights from each individual owner. Google and everyone with any interest in the past won and the forces of darkness lost big.

Oh yes it cost Google an eighth of a billion dollars and some big lawyer’s fees. The project itself is also expensive and will take a long time. On the other hand the library at Alexandria is never going to burn again. The massive literary and knowledge base built in our past on paper will be safer from war and fire and the ravages of time than ever before in history. Even more important it will be accessible to innumerable scholars in the future.

The unprecedented access offered by this settlement is worth anything Google and all of the rest of us could pay for it. I have a serious love affair with the written word and a vast (And possibly useless) eclectic knowledge base derived from struggling with great libraries and depositories. They yield up their secrets reluctantly. I am definitely a biased observer.

That said, how else could anyone have penetrated the maze of laws and rights that buried so much merit in dusty treasure troves with no hope of release until Google came along? The laws governing use of once published and still copyrighted material made little sense in the digital age. Unless they allow for a much broader access path they are merely inhibitory, not protective in any meaningful sense of the word.

So Google ignored them and invited lawsuits as the most efficient way to sort out that mares nest of laws, regulations and garbage. It is a messy mélange of rules that we have assembled around protecting Disney and other huge companies against unreasonable use of their long lived intellectual property assets.

Google did not want those assets; they wanted the poor huddled masses of books and papers languishing in vast dusty depositories. And now they have them and are moving to free them for the fun and profit of all of us including of course Google. It is a story worthy of greater pens than mine and it will continue to be written for a very long time.

Money was not the only point of this action but it will flow back into Google’s coffers in plentitude over time. Those of us who could only dream of this day until now are living a dream of vast access brought on by smart young businessmen and women. clapping

If I could tell any young entrepreneur how to succeed here would be  the three things I would recommend. Have fun, do something good for people and the world they live in and make money doing it. Google is a good example of that ideal and this project shows what can be accomplished with the right people and the right level of access to capital. Bravo Fortissimo, Encore!!!!!!

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