Lawrence Lessig makes some interesting points in his Wired piece on the Google suits. A 1909 law that gave copyright holders (and the publishers with whom they make agreements) “the exclusive right to control copies of their works” didn’t anticipate that the only way to index digital material (or, in fact, to read it) is by copying. He urges Google to stay the course.
A rich and rational (and publicly traded) company may be tempted to compromise – to pay for the “right” that it and others should get for free, just to avoid the insane cost of defending that right. Such a company is driven to do what’s best for its shareholders. But if Google gives in, the loss to the Internet will be far more than the amount it will pay publishers. It will be a bad compromise for everyone working to make the Internet more useful – and for everyone who will ultimately use it.
This truly is a tipping point because the implications – all of them – are enormous.