Per Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, Google backed out of a debate on Google Books that was supposed to air on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour show yesterday.

The stated reason was that the Open Content Alliance changed their representative at the last minute from a professor to a lawyer. Google did not want to put an engineer up against a lawyer, and it was too late to find a Google lawyer to take the engineer’s place.

Naturally, each side is claiming the other’s behavior is ridiculous.


  1. This isn’t surprising. There have been a number of ‘informational’ public meetings with Google participation, but all that I’m aware of were relatively one-sided. No one with serious objections to the settlement was invited to speak, just those with various adjustments to recommend, such as librarians. I’ve been looking for a real debate since last May, so I could send people who query me to watch a video of it. I’ve yet to hear about one. What PBS tried to do is commendable.

    I fully agree will Paula that Google could have easily found a lawyer if they’d wanted. They liked the dynamics of a engineer going up against a professor. Since the settlement is 95% law and 5% technology, that engineer no doubt knew a lot about what Google claims copyright and class-action law says. But faced with a genuinely well-informed lawyer, anything that engineer said would have collapsed into rubble.

    Heck, I’m an engineer myself and not a lawyer, but I’m familiar with enough copyright law that with a little preparation I could make an on-the-air debate painful for any Google representative, whether he be an engineer or a lawyer.

    The Google settlement’s fatal flaw is that it violates every copyright law ever written, including international treaties signed by all but a handful of tiny nations. Copyright law simply doesn’t make the distinction Google wants to make between in-print and out-of-print. That would be nonsense. If it did, the most out-of-print works of all, those that have never been published, would have no copyright protection.

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