Monday, January 05, 2009

Technics: Google wants to become a corporate Pontiff of Books

A projected "Book Rights Registry" (which seems more like a proprietary "Google Books registry") is being orchestrated to control the registration of books worldwide, the English-language books being my keenest zone of interest (even to the point of longterm interest in orthography, semiotics > calligraphy, text design, text/imagery interlacements, perhaps intertwined with English or another/s language, perhaps random or novel alphabets like the Owlbirdbet). I love homemade books deploying graphic-imagery skills and text, even on interpenetrating aesthetic levels, nuancing from level to level, row by row (the perichoretic aesthetics of Vollenhoven [see Kuyvenhoven on the role that a trinitarian aesthetics had in V's thawt, and, I would add, in Seerveld's).

It matters if Google even nominally controls the books registry.
Indeed, "a registry can tell you who owns the content you found," in the first place.

Indeed, the finder has feelings of aborginality in this matter: s/he found! It! Perhaps, a ramifying sense of almost-creation of the found something, even as intangible as an insite mayhaps it be. But in the coming computer-driven age (that age is still in its youth, I would say) everything becomes totally paperized digitally (to coin an oxymoronic expression of my own). The thawt I am embellishing, as it may be expressed more clearly by Chris Castle, in the UK tech mag The Register, traceable back to his original post in the Music and Media section, Dec31,2k8: Castle's report is well worth the delve.
"As such a dominant player in the online world, Google will now occupy a unique gateway position that, if abused, could easily create a de facto monopoly. A situation where competition is removed from the market place by placing the keys in the hands of one company cannot, ultimately, be good for the consumer. This is a bridge too far," the British Booksellers Association noted.
Technotes, by Technowlb
The Castle article, apparently quite a newsbreaking report, dissect the Gooogle project:
If a competitor tried building a competing book registry by negotiating licenses for in-copyright works, that competitor would have to bear the startup costs — and the cost of licensing. If the competitor is rewarded for respecting authors’ rights by obtaining favorable terms, that advantage can be taken away by Google. Why? Because one of Google’s goodies from its dominant position in the settlement negotiation is “most favored nations” price protection.

The registry is contractually required to offer Google any better terms it would give to anyone using any data or resources that Google provides the registry, or that is of the type that Google provides. So even if a competitor wants to build a parallel infrastructure from scratch, and wasn’t using any of Google’s data—any reward for their legitimacy would be trumped by Google’s MFN. There is no advantage in “doing it right” except a clear conscience—an MFN inhibits competition.
I love Google, I blog on Blogger--nowadays owned by Google. I avail myself of other Google services and features, free! But, dear Sirs and Madames, Messiers et Mesdames toutes che`res, please Google take a more neutral stance than "Most Favored Nation" (MFV).

There's a juridics angle too.

There's also the market pressures of competition. Castle asks rhetorically and then answers:
"How about Yahoo!’s Open Content Alliance? Google leads OCA in scanning [books, other textual materials], and then there’s Google’s MFN. Now that may be kind of interesting to regulators. As one commentator noted, "[a]s a condition of settlement approval, the Registry should be required to negotiate and sign an antitrust consent decree with the Department of Justice.” Since ASCAP and BMI each already operate under consent decrees, there is a predicate for Justice Department scrutiny and "rate court" oversight of the registry, particularly given Google's market domination. Why should societies have to suffer the rate court burden when Google does not?
For this blog-entry, we have to leave the matter somewhat dangling, as we watch for further developments.